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Shameful cable company shames delinquent customers on public Facebook wall

How far would your business go to get money that was owed to you? One cable company in Canada started publicly shaming their customers who had bills past due.

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And you thought collection calls were bad

Businesses that extend credit to customers always run the risk of not getting paid. How they collect debt is open to interpretation. One Canadian cable provider turned to social media to post delinquent accounts in an attempt to get their customers to make good on their accounts.

Senga Services, in Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories posted a list of customers who were facing service cutoff to different community pages on Facebook. Fort Simpson is a small community with a population of about 1,200, which compounds the issue. It’s more likely that everyone knows the individuals that were publicly shamed.

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Completely legal under Canadian law

The company spokesperson says that the practice is completely legal under Canadian law. According to Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, personal information may be disclosed without consent if the disclosure is necessary to collect a debt. However, specific identifying information may not be disclosed, such as a birthdate, SIN number (the equivalent of the US SSN), or the address.

Senga Services is not the only organization which posts the names of people in arrears, as the City of Yellowknife and the Fort Simpson Town Council also use the practice.

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California and Georgia are already on board

Would this be legal in the United States? This is a complex issue. A cable company is prohibited from disclosing any personally identifiable information without consent. (Section 551(c) of the Cable Communications Policy Act) Other businesses have used this tactic with varying degrees of success. In California, the top 500 delinquent taxpayers who owe back taxes are posted online. Georgia has a searchable database for their delinquent taxpayers.

Your brand’s image could be poorly impacted

In the past, businesses have posted bounced checks at the register or on the wall of their business. Customers often take care of these issues quickly to have the check removed. Social media is just an electronic wall of that business.

However, depending on the industry or state, this may or not get a business into hot water in the United States. This may not be the best avenue to get a debt paid. It could hurt your brand’s image.

Debt-shaming might not be the solution

Senga Services may have meant well. Customers should pay their bills. But debt shaming isn’t the answer. Their Facebook page is no longer available for the general public. Because this story went viral, they’ve made their page private.

Is this the kind of publicity they anticipated? Probably not. Time will tell how it affects their business.

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#RudeCable

Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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