Cable Company Publicly Shames, Lectures Overdue Customers On Facebook

from the punishment-in-the-public-square dept

Apparently bored by the traditional route of collection agencies and courtesy, one Canadian cable operator recently decided to try something different: it started posting the names and account balances of customers with overdue accounts on Facebook. After complaining that it “always get excuses from everybody,” Senga Services in Fort Simpson, Canada started posting the notices to all manner of local community Facebook pages. Not content with that, at least one of the company’s representatives thought it was a good idea to lecture locals on fiscal responsibility and living “within one’s means”:

Not too surprisingly, locals weren’t too impressed with the cable operator’s new bedside manner:

“Connor Gaule, an administrator of the popular Fort Simpson Bulletin Board page, took the post down immediately. “I thought that it was kind of illegal for her to be posting the people in arrears,” he said. “And there’s better ways to go about it. Especially on social media, where half the people on that list are elders that don’t have access to that.”

…Michelle L?ger, a Fort Simpson resident studying in Fort Smith, said the post “just wasn’t right.” “If I had been a person on that list, I would have been really embarrassed,” she said. “It’s publicly shaming people. That’s kind of abusive to your customer base.”

Except, as we all know, the cable company doesn’t have to care about whether or not it’s abusing its customers, because usually it’s the only game in town. Senga responded by insisting that not only was the practice effective, it’s legal under Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act for companies to disclose personal information without consent — if “the disclosure of the information is necessary in order to collect a debt owed to the organization.”

Not true, says the Canadian government. A few days after the original story broke, the CBC asked the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada whether Senga’s behavior crossed the line, and the agency stated the law doesn’t say what Senga thought it did:

” In an email response, Tobi Cohen, a senior communications adviser at the office, told CBC that Senga Services had been contacted and “the company has complied with our request to take down the post.” Cohen wrote that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act “allows organizations to use or disclose people’s personal information only for the purpose for which they gave consent.”

“There is also an over-arching clause that personal information may only be collected, used and disclosed for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances.” Cohen also wrote that were an individual to make a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the office “could look at investigating further.”

After a wrist slap from the Privacy Commissioner Senga has backed away from the practice, and returned to what cable companies historically do best: doing a piss poor job of providing an extremely expensive service.

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Companies: senga services

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Comments on “Cable Company Publicly Shames, Lectures Overdue Customers On Facebook”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, because companies never make a mistake, never falsely accuse customers, and definitely NEVER engage in deceptive billing practices.

Find me an honesty company first, then we can talk about it all being okay to publicly shame people that may not be paying as their own way to stick it back for getting screwed!

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

The thing about public shaming is, it can work surprisingly well, if done right.

Several years ago, I was part of a certain online community based around a game no one plays anymore today. One of the guys posted one day that he had upgraded his video card and he wondered if anyone wanted the old one. It was better than what I had, and he was offering a good price for it, so I took him up on the offer and sent him some money over PayPal.

After a few weeks, he still hadn’t sent it. And he continued to not send it, and not send it, despite repeated reminders from me. You know, a bunch of “Oh yeah, I just have to get around to it,” etc.

After about two months, I decided enough is enough, and I posted about my frustration with his failure to deliver the merchandise that I had paid him the agreed-upon price for, on the community forum.

Within less than a week, the video card arrived at my place.

Anonymous Coward says:

i dont know if Senga is the ‘only game in town’ but if it isn’t, i would be in the throws of changing broadband supplier now!

as for all things Canadian, they are more expensive and people more ripped off than even in the USA.

i was with a relation in Canada getting a new mobile phone. the price for a sim card is $20, then you have to get a plan or time added to that. when i spoke to the seller at the time, he said that the Canadian government voted that the phone companies were NOT ripping people off by charging for sim cards nor were the contract/call/ txt/data prices overly high. i would like to know how much was paid to the politicians to get that vote passed!

i pay nothing for a sim card and usually have money already on it, from the provider, to get things up and running. on top of that, the prices i pay for using the various options would give both Canadian and USA providers multiple heart attacks!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I wonder how many of those people were shills hired by the company to praise what a great idea their brainstorm was. Senga had to know they’d take flak from the public for this, so I would not be surprised if they paid some people to see to it that the comments weren’t entirely bashing them, and started with people praising what a great idea they’d had.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Actual, honest-to-deity, paid “shills” are generally superfluous — in most cases there’s a plentiful supply of “useful idiots” who will gladly do the job for free.

And of course, for some reason, these, ummmm… volunteers… somehow tend to have plenty of time for posting on random internet forums.

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