Telecommunications firm discloses individual’s personal information without consent when it merged two household accounts that shared an address

Early resolved case summary #2

Complaint summary

An individual landlord lived in his home and rented out the basement suite to tenants. The landlord and tenants therefore had the same address. The landlord subscribed to several different telephone and cable services from a major telecommunications provider.

A new tenant, who was also a customer of the same telecommunications firm, moved into the basement suite and opened his own account and ordered certain services. Soon after, the telecommunications firm (“the firm”) phoned the tenant and demanded payment from him for several different products and services that he had not ordered, including account arrears going back three months. The new tenant immediately disputed all the charges.

The firm then continued to try to contact the tenant and collect on the alleged debt. During these discussions, the firm disclosed certain of the upstairs landlord’s personal account information to the tenant. The tenant then approached the landlord and accused him of forcing the tenant to cover the landlord’s debts with the telecommunications firm. The tenant indicated that he planned to vacate the dwelling as a result.

In following up with the firm, the landlord was surprised to learn that when the tenant had opened an account, the firm had merged the landlord’s existing account with the tenant’s new account to create a single account in the tenant’s name.

The landlord was upset that his personal information from his account, including debt information, had been disclosed by the firm without his knowledge and consent. Consequently, he contacted our Office to file a complaint.

Outcome

After being contacted by our Office, the firm accepted responsibility for this occurrence, re-created separate accounts for each individual and made amends with the landlord. As no further action was necessary, the file was deemed early resolved.

Lesson Learned

  • Absent an applicable exemption, personal information of an individual should not be disclosed to a third party without the individual’s consent. 

October 2012

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