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Canada Privacy The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

Canadian Cable Company Shames Non-Paying Customers Publicly On Facebook (hothardware.com) 149

MojoKid writes: If you've ever been late on paying a bill, it's unlikely that you ever thought that you were running the risk of being publicly shamed about your shortcomings. However, for a few unfortunate individuals, one Canadian cable TV provider doesn't see things quite the same way. Recently, Senga Services, which is located in Canada's Northwest Territories, decided to begin posting the names of customers that had overdue payments to its Facebook page. The initiative was spearheaded by company employee Jennifer Simons, who felt so strongly about her right to expose late bill payers, that she debated with those on a Facebook community page who thought she was in the wrong in doing so. Simons claims that public shaming has proven to be the most successful method of getting customers to pay up. Exposing someone's name and amount owed might be a gross breach of ethics, but Simons claims that it's not illegal. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada urged the company to pull the post outing these tardy customers, and the company has since obliged. The Privacy Commissioner is now mulling whether this issue is worth investigating further.
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Canadian Cable Company Shames Non-Paying Customers Publicly On Facebook

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  • by CurryCamel ( 2265886 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @09:35AM (#51062345) Journal

    I predict we see an article on slashdot in about two months, telling us how many customers ended their contract with said company.

    My guess is 2%.

    • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @10:35AM (#51062543)

      I predict we see an article on slashdot in about two months, telling us how many customers ended their contract with said company.

      My guess is 2%.

      This all seems so odd. Instead of public shaming, perhaps cutting off their service will get them to pay up? Jus' sayin'.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Maybe they can't. Some countries consider phone service to be essential (especially for older people, but also so anyone can call the emergency services). Some consider internet to be essential.

      • Instead of public shaming, perhaps cutting off their service will get them to pay up?

        Some droid figured out that people who are cut off aren't receiving services they will need to pay for. So by dropping the ethics, services continue, debt continues to build up and revenue is higher. Now the cool thing is, we find that shaming is a two edged sword, except when we do it it's ethical.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Silly cow thinking, this whole story. Pretty much real genuine public opinion, corporations suck balls. Silly corporations puts up a web site where customers who hate them can go for publicity by not paying. Hell, I would open an account, never pay them, use someone else and send them a big ole fuck you, embarrassed shiiet, why, just why the fuck why would I be embarrassed, screw em.

    • My guess is 0%.

      ISPs are like Banks in that they are the only companies which exist with the dichotomy of incredibly high customer dissatisfaction but incredibly low churn rate, and that doesn't even include the situation where they may be a monopoly.

      • My guess is 0%.

        ISPs are like Banks in that they are the only companies which exist with the dichotomy of incredibly high customer dissatisfaction but incredibly low churn rate

        You left out a few:
        Insurance companies
        Homeowners Associations
        HMOs

        All of these organizations provide a basic service, that people expect to "just work", so the only time you think about them is when they screw up, or when you pay the bill.

        • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @02:45PM (#51063333)

          I'm not sure about the last two since I've never heard of them (are they an American thing?) but insurance companies (at least in Australia) do not fall in that category as there is no incentive to stay and switching is just a phone call away. On top of that there are brokers who competitively bid them against each other.

          What was typical here is that insurance companies would not pass down savings on new plans to existing customers, so every year when the bill comes in the first thing you do is competitively bid. So far my car insurance was the only insurance that has lasted more than 2 years, and my current health care provider made me a nice offer last time round so they're approaching the 2 year mark as well.

          Compared to cable companies which will give you any combination of the following:
          - Cancellation fees
          - Cancellation delays
          - Service outage during switching providers
          - Aggressive discounting to make people stay.

          Or banks where you have things like:
          - Homeloan bundles and credit cards with fees waived.
          - Existing monthly debit transactions setup.
          - Friends who know your bank account number and may pay into the wrong one where you change.

          Swapping is non trivial for some services, but for insurance that's not been the case (at least not for me).

          • yeah, American 'thing'.

            Homeowners Associations (HOA) have been gaining ground in newer developments. I've lived without, with bad ones and with neutral ones. Without an HOA there's nothing really stopping your neighbor from painting their house polka-dotted...or putting in a chicken coup in the front yard. The downside is when it gets into what color your door knocker can be, or if you can even have one. When we replaced our windows, they had to be the exact same style.

            Insurance is worse. I'm su
            • Most people get their insurance through their employer - so switching insurance really means having to quit your job. Bigger employers sometimes have a few options to choose from but you can only choose them once a year.

              Ahhh thanks for the background. Yes in that case that makes perfect sense.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is 10x better than having "black lists" for the same thing. They'd make you pay tons for these lists. I'm sure most people have heard of them. Credit reports. Why pay $5/customer to know if someone will pay your bill when you can just browse around on Facebook like this and scrape the info for free?

  • Wrong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2015 @09:35AM (#51062347)

    Am I the only one who thinks it's wrong to shame people as a form of punishment?

    • Re:Wrong? (Score:4, Funny)

      by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @09:37AM (#51062349) Journal
      You should be embarrassed for even thinking such a thing. Shame on you.
    • Re: Wrong? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 05, 2015 @09:48AM (#51062387)

      I'd go one step further...breach of contract. She disclosed client information to the public. That could get her fired, sued, and possibly arrested. Keep in mind the stories of hacked data that has been posted to the public....

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Ignoring of course, the person not paying their bill broke contract first. Don't want to be known as a douche, don't act like a douche. No pity from me for deadbeats.

        • Re: Wrong? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by whopis ( 465819 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @10:16AM (#51062485)

          Actually, failing to pay on time is probably a condition covered in the contract and therefor not a breach of contract. My guess is that they have clauses that allow them to charge late fees and interest on past due balances. There is likely an upper limit on how long that continues before it is a breach of contract, but I am certain there is a time period where the contract would still be in effect. And it sounds like she posted everyone who was late on bills.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          So you never had a misfortune that resulted in you suddenly having to pay for something quickly(house/car repair or health related) and not having the money to pay for something else?
          Must be great living your life.

          • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

            You know, a lot depends on how you handle things. I've been late several times but strangely, since I call and tell people I'm going to be late as well as why I'm having to be late and when I plan to pay I have never had a problem. Often I've even gotten the late fee waived. Most of the time they thank me for letting them know.

            • by mitgib ( 1156957 )
              This is a key to properly handling a bad situation. I sell monthly service, and anyone who contacts me before the due date asking for an extension, no problem, and no questions asked, ask me after the service auto suspends for non-payment, I don't want to hear it until the balance due it settled.
            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              This is a cable company, where "your call is very important to us" so you'll only be on hold for an hour before someone who almost speaks english answers your call and has no idea what to do with the information you wish to provide them.

    • Am I the only one who thinks it's wrong to shame people as a form of punishment?

      We had even less luck rewarding people with shaming.

      • Re:Wrong? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KGIII ( 973947 ) <uninvolved@outlook.com> on Saturday December 05, 2015 @10:21AM (#51062505) Journal

        Back home, in the village (maybe 1000 people that live in the village proper and year-round), there's a small store that's slightly more than a convenience store but less than a supermarket or the likes. It's a single floor, single room, affair with a potbelly stove where the old men eat donuts and drink coffee before going off to do what they do. They're joined there, in the morning, by the occasional woman and lots of men who work their trade jobs but stop in for a cup of Joe and a Sinker before going off to their trade jobs.

        The men, they gossip and prattle on like old women while, of course, thinking it is the ladies that gossip most. They stop in, often times, in the afternoon as well. Usually, it's later in the day when they come in off the ice from fishing or they stop there as it is a registered game station and they'll get their deer weighed and tagged. They keep a running total on the old chalk board that keeps count of the pounds taken and the number of "points." They have one for moose and bear and those too are tallied at the end of each season with a couple of side bets and maybe an official(ish) award handed out to the youngest child to get a buck that year or similar things.

        At this store, perhaps your quintessential store in such a place - I think many places have them, there's two counters. One is for food ordering where you can order hot and cold foods made in the "deli." They also have a variety of deli meats and cheeses in a display and a scale to weigh those products out. The counter, set aside for checking out and purchasing cigarettes and the porno magazines (as well as quick access for those getting gasoline) sits near the door and is not yet so modernized as to be out of place.

        Predominately, behind that checkout counter, is a board that displays any one of a few things. Affixed to that board, with old-style thumbtacks, are checks from a variety of customers. On these checks, facing frontwards, is a stamp that says Insufficient Funds or NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds). The name of the party is prominently displayed on the front of the check. More often than not, these checks don't stay on the board for very long and there are few repeats.

        Once in a while and when all is quiet, some theoretically anonymous person will meander in and notice the checks on the board and will simply pay them off. They've done this multiple times and without fanfare nor wanting of accolades. However, a few times, it seems that some noticed a trend and their names suddenly appeared on the board. This theoretically anonymous person has taken note and made it a point to exclude them and their checks remain posted. Eventually, those checks too disappear as, presumably, they were paid for by the original debtor.

        Conclude what you will but that is my observation on a very small scale where, I think, it's more pronounced and personal.

        • Re:Wrong? (Score:5, Funny)

          by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @11:32AM (#51062741) Journal

          The men, they gossip and prattle on like old women while, of course, thinking it is the ladies that gossip most

          I had to read until the end of your post, but then this line finally made sense. What else would you expect in a town where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above-average?

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            That was kind of how I was going for the retelling. ;-) Only it's Maine but similar in many ways. I also figured that I'd practice my writing skills and make it more interesting to read. My giant novellas serve a purpose and all that.

            Being, "from away" or "an import" has given me an outsider's view of things in rural NW Maine. I attracted quite a bit of attention when I moved in and, while I live quite a ways outside the village, it meant there were lots of rumors shared to me by my neighbor. Today they no

            • Only it's Maine but similar in many ways. I also figured that I'd practice my writing skills and make it more interesting to read.

              Should have thrown in some "ayuh" like that Stephen King writter fella.

              Now if I could just get them to stop asking me damned computer questions. One of the stupidest things I did was say, "Oh, sure, I can fix that for you. No, no I won't charge you a dime - it'll give me something to do!" But, live and learn..

              NEVER admit to knowing anything about computers! Luckily, I can always use the excuse that I don't know Windows.

              • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                Actually, I've always done some accents well and I have nearly perfected the Maine accent and the Down East accent (they're not the same). There's a few blends that I can pull of as well. As amusing as it is, I also speak Ebonics to some degree - enough to actually communicate and not sound out of place but I'm absolutely positive that it must look amusing. No, the current crop of "gang language" isn't really Ebonics so much but I have taken the time to learn some of the MS13 signs and whatnot. I have even

        • Another store near me prominently displays prints from the surveillance cameras of shoplifting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bzipitidoo ( 647217 )

        Depends on the creditor. Some debts I regard as a badge of honor. Anyone who manages to obtain vital medicinal pills that can be produced for under $1 but which have been priced at $750 each, on a "bill me later" basis, and then stiffs the pharmaceutical business by paying only $1 per pill, is a hero.

        Don't pay tolls of a private road that was public but which was sold far too cheaply to a private company in a sweetheart deal? Hero. Bonus points if you find out the license plate numbers of the offendin

        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          And, ISPs? Well, let's see. Is Comcast a reputable business? How about AOL? I don't know of any US ISP or telecoms company that have not pulled some underhanded stunt to bilk the public. Maybe it's different in Canada, and this poor, poor ISP really is being cheated by the public.

          The big Canadian ISPs and telecoms are just as bad as the American ones though the government keeps slightly more control on them, eg all the big ISPs are considered common carriers here.
          Generally the small ISPs are better and I'd assume that this being in the NWT, it is a small ISP, probably connected by satellite. The territories are very sparsely populated and also living costs can be very high, with the price of a cucumber being well over $10 from what someone recently mentioned. Many of the towns are d

  • I guess the privacy laws are much more lax in Canada.
    Here in Norway you can't even say publicly who is a customer.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      AFAIK, the laws in Canada allow you to disclose certain customer information if they owe you a debt for a certain period of time. I don't know if this case falls within those statutes, but TFA seems to indicate that the cable company consulted legal counsel before the disclosure.

    • I guess the privacy laws are much more lax in Canada.
      Here in Norway you can't even say publicly who is a customer.

      In the United States we don't even have a privacy commissioner. In Canada they had the federal one and state commissioners.

      There are only a few reasons we have any privacy at all. For example, companies not wanting to risk losing business. Also, any time a big company has a data breach, a few lawyers sue them in a class action.

      It turns out neither of these has consequences serious enough to be especially helpful to the average consumer.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @09:48AM (#51062381) Journal
    There was a corner store near here who placed hot check writers' names up on a wall of shame. Prior to posting a name, the store offered multiple chances to settle up

    I don't know if it helped recover any money from the deadbeats, but I recall pretty much everyone looking to see if they recognized any of the names.

    • Where I live, the government prints a page in the newspaper every year listing everyone who is late on their property taxes. Nobody has ever complained about it.
      As far as this company losing customers, I suspect the only "customers" they will lose are the ones who make the list - the ones who were not paying. I doubt they will care.
      My guess is the only reason this even made it onto the front page of /. is because it involved a cable company.
    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      I've seen the same here. If the person was notified first and offered a chance to fix it then I see no problem with it.

    • Re:Wall of Shame (Score:4, Informative)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @11:58AM (#51062795) Journal
      There is a huge difference between naming an shaming someone on a bulletin board in a small local store, and doing so online for the whole world to see until the end of time. In terms of more traditional punishments, it's the difference between a thief being put in the stocks for a day, or being branded.
    • There was a corner store near here who placed hot check writers' names up on a wall of shame.

      You still use checks? Is it 1980 where you live?

      • There was a corner store near here who placed hot check writers' names up on a wall of shame.

        You still use checks? Is it 1980 where you live?

        You appear to have overlooked the word "was" in OP's post. He may well have been talking about the 1980s.

    • There was a corner store near here who placed hot check writers' names up on a wall of shame. Prior to posting a name, the store offered multiple chances to settle up

      I don't know if it helped recover any money from the deadbeats, but I recall pretty much everyone looking to see if they recognized any of the names.

      You don't get customer service like that any more!

  • I predict that this employee will not be working for the company soon. I mean, what could possibly go wrong....... teehee
    • by iLag U ( 4361741 )
      Oh look! It was already taken down. Publicly shaming your customers... that's a great idea!
  • by jma05 ( 897351 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @10:07AM (#51062457)

    Seriously, how is this better than simply disconnecting or throttling down to say, 256 kbps (with perhaps intermittent redirects to pay-your-bill reminder pages) until the bill is paid? It shows more respect to customers. Is there a law in Canada that disallows this by classification as an essential service?

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      You're suggesting upping their speed to 256kbps? Guessing I'd say the whole community shares a crappy satellite link and it may well be considered an essential service there as it may well be the only connection to the outside world. The NWT is huge and almost unpopulated with hundreds of miles separating small communities and only a couple of actual roads.

  • Hmmm . . . will banks in Canada start doing this with folks who have loans that are in arrears . . . ?

    Oh, no! Imagine if the EU Eurozone did this for Greece ?!?!

    There are ~10 million people in Greece who owe them money, so that would be a gargantuan list!

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

      There are ~10 million people in Greece who owe them money, so that would be a gargantuan list!

      They'd just hand you a phone book.

  • Nobody should ever have to pay a cent just watch TV. In the end all you do is pay them to force feed you commercials. And the idea that any broadcaster expects to be paid to have their advertising delivered to cable subscribers is absolutely absurd. The more viewers you have, the more you can charge for your ads. Why in the world would you expect a company that delivers more viewers to pay you to do so? Logic would dictate that cable and satellite companies should be being paid for bringing in more viewers.

    • Nobody should ever have to pay a cent just watch TV.

      Somebody has to pay to watch it, otherwise nobody would be able to watch it, with or without paying.

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I believe he's postulating that the onus of payment should either be on the viewer or the advertiser, but certainly not both.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @10:33AM (#51062537)
    Yelp and Trip Advisor are occasional targets of lawsuits by unhappy businesses. But the businesses have to prove both falsehood and harm and tend to lose most of these suits.
  • Do they also shame any of their own salesmen caught telling a lie to a potential customer, any support person having been unable to help a customer with something they should have been able to and all technical staff whenever there's an issue with the service?

  • We should publicly shame the cable companies for charging over $250 for the $99 plan. We should shame them for upcharging us for "commercial free" content, and then adding commercials. We should shame them for increasing the cost of cable TV from $20 including Pay Channels in the 1980s to over $250 including pay channels to day, outpacing inflation almost as fast as healthcare and education.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Well, to be fair, you just have publicly shamed them. I'd suggest making a slightly better effort if you want a greater impact but, well, I noticed! So you've impacted one person. I can promise you - I'll never, ever, buy internet service from this company. I not only swear to it in public, I will further state that I'll incur a voluntary payment, to you, of $500 USD if I ever give this company so much as one red cent of my money willingly.

      See? You're having an effect AND it's better than their shaming beca

  • Why anyone would in the future want to be associated or paying customers of a company that behaves is such an uncivilized, childish and unprofessional manner is beyond me. These were your customers.... I am all but lost for words Do you think they will think kindly of you in the future ? Do you think they in any way are going to stay loyal to you and your brutish ways ? The fact that the person spearheading the initiative has not been canned immediately after this insane breach of trust is unbelievable.
  • Yeah, seeing my name on a Facebook shaming ad would definitely make me pay....NOT!

    I'd call up, cancel my service, and also let them know that I'll be posting my own version of Facebook shaming ads, featuring them and their toxic, anti-customer attitude. And I bet mine would get waaaaaaaaaaaay more visibility than theirs would.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If you canceled your service, you wouldn't be posting anything, since they're the only ISP in the region.

  • So, when has this ever worked when we tried to shame any of our favorite ISPs here? Oh right, it never made a difference.
  • A Cable Company? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @11:06AM (#51062663)

    In my experience, people do not respect cable companies enough to be ashamed at being late paying them.

    • Yeah lol. I read that and thought, "not paying their bills, but haven't been disconnected? How do I get in on that??"
    • If you could pay based on a percentage of their advertised speed, I could save a bundle. 25 meg, but still buffering with 2 Netflix streams. Pay the fill for 3 Meg instead of 30. Cable companies should and sometimes are shamed for their poor peering with the internet..

  • i swear, it's like they were trying to invite the wrath of Anonymous to fall upon their servers.

  • and efficiency. This looks to me like some middle manager's desperate attempt to meet an arbitrary metric to make their bonus that year. I could get angry at that but from what I can tell Canada is starting to have the sort of wage stagnation that the US has had for the last 40 years or so. You'll see more and more of this as companies use metrics to wring every last dime out of their workers while pitting them against other workers on the global stage. I know a lot of people who complain about how ineffici
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you endorse public shaming it's only a matter of time before the elite begin to use it too.

  • I wonder how the cable company will feel when it's suppliers start to "name and shame" it for outstanding invoices?
  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Saturday December 05, 2015 @12:17PM (#51062843)
    I'm guessing she's going to get a very hard lesson in how internet justice works.
  • It is illegal. Canada's privacy law explicitly allows organizations to use or disclose people's personal information only for the purpose for which they gave consent. If the list hasn't been taken down yet, it will be shortly, if anyone on it files a complaint with Canada's privacy commissioner.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      hmm.... perhaps it would be prudent to read the *entire* story before posting.... apparently the privacy commissioner was already informed, and they did already take it down. I expect the only reason the privacy commission did already not do anything more than request that the post be taken offline is because the company complied, probably without reservation. But they have still broken the law, and there would be legitimate grounds for further action against them if the privacy commission so decides.
  • Just cut them off. The shame of not being able to discuss the latest episode of That's My Elk with their neighbours is more than punishment enough.

    • Not necessarily a good idea. Keep in mind that the company likely has only a few hundred customers in total. If you cut off a couple dozen, say, some of them may decide that they don't miss the service and like keeping their money. Potentially, they only need to convince a few friends or family members to do likewise and the company has a financial problem. And people in NWT might actually be more open to that idea than, say, people in more urban areas.
  • Nothing might be technically illegal about posting names of non-paying customers, assuming the list of names is correct. But cable companies are notoriously bad at keeping accounts in order themselves, and the moment they try the name-and-shame on someone who actually is a paying customer, they'll be on the hook for libel.
  • At one point my phone company thought I had missed a payment. After a long dispute they finally admitted that they had made a mistake and that nothing was owed. If they had publicly slandered incorrectly for failing to pay my debts, they would have been facing a large lawsuit.

    This seems like an extremely unwise approach for a company.

  • is what allowed that bitch to get away with that shit. In a place like that it is not teeming with providers. Hope some of those people get together and kick her ass.
  • Maybe cable companies learned from all those 'comcastsucks' websites that rail against cable companies they figured turn-about is fair-play... They don't pay their bill, cut service. If cutting service isn't an option, publicly shame them... Can't afford your cable bill and don't want to be shamed? Cancel cable service and work out a payment schedule for any outstanding balance.

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