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. That said, whether you're late for a good reason or not, business is business, and your business with a service provider is generally intended to be kept private and not loosely for public knowledge.
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. As some of these late payments started at a mere $94 CDN, it seems there might not have been much leeway afforded to some customers.
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. "People who can't afford servicves shouldn't get them. Period.", she writes.
As blatantly wrong as this is, Simons claims that public shaming has proven to be the most successful method of getting customers to pay up. The company seems to have begun using the practice as a last resort, as other normal methods of nudging for a payment were clearly not working.
Exposing someone's name and amount owed might be a gross breach of ethics, but Simons claims that it's not illegal. Before going forward with this practice, she contacted lawyers to make sure it was advisable to do so.
Nonetheless, 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. It would seem, whether or not Simons' or Senga's legal team think their practices are legal, that the right lawyer(s) representing any one of their maligned clients might have a field day staking a claim that it could very well cross the line otherwise.