Debt collectors are using shadier tactics and chasing innocent customers due to blunders in their systems. Keep on reading and learn how to fight them back.
Take the example of Corketts, from Taunton in Somerset. They received a £525 bill from British Gas and they were sure something was wrong with their gas reading. Even though British Gas was in the wrong because they read their neighbour’s meter, 6ft away from their own, this simple misunderstanding took nine months to be solved.
They were demanded urgent payment in several letters. They wrote back twice and spoke countless times with the energy company. Each time there was a different customer services representative that needed to be explained the entire problem from scratch. They even received a home visit from a debt collector called Moorcroft Debt Recovery.
British Gas ended up apologising to the Corketts and calling off the debt collectors. They also sent a £250 “goodwill payment” to the couple after creating a situation in which Mr. Corkett had to visit a doctor to deal with his high stress levels.
This is not a single episode. This bullying is practiced by telecom and energy firms alike, and even government bodies like HM Revenue & Customs, councils, and the collectors for the BBC licence fee.
The customers are charged with debts they don’t owe, due to mistaken identities or issues during billing. Next, without warnings, they start receiving letters and calls from debt collector agencies threatening court action.
The complaints about these debt collection practices has more than doubled from the year before.
Take the case of Extra Energy. They are often in the news for chasing customers for money they are not owed. The Ofgem energy regulator is currently investigating them. A company spokesman says they have compensated the people who were affected by this issue, but shouldn’t they have avoided creating it in the first place?
It should be said that energy suppliers are far from being the only firms having been found guilty of harassing their own customers. Mr. and Mrs. Algar, from March in Cambridgeshire, switched to TalkTalk and were left without their internet connection for one month. They contacted TalkTalk on multiple occasions times to fix their issue.
After hearing so many excuses and suffering with the delays, they told they were done with the firm and communicated their switch to Sky. TalkTalk then started sending emails and letters demanding £353 for early contract cancellation. The Algars simply refused to pay.
Then, suddenly, their case was transferred to a debt collector — Debt & Revenue Services — which sent the couple even more demands. These threats are disgusting behaviour trying to blame the elderly couple after the company’s own failings in providing the very service they were selling.
TalkTalk has cleared the debt and apologised for the Algars’ poor experience. But that was only after blame shifting and treating their own customers as delinquents.
Virgin Media landline, TV, and internet packages are not offered everywhere. An elderly couple from Cardiff, the Bowens, had to move to nearby Porth due to family reasons, and Virgin said it would be unable to service them in their new address. Even though the reason for breaking the contract was Virgin’s inability to serve the couple in their new home, Virgin still threatened with debt collectors if the Bowens refused to pay the exit penalties.
These fees are currently under investigation by Ofcom. Virgin offered the Bowens a refund due to the unforeseeable and unfortunate circumstances brought to the couple due to the death of their own son. They also urged their customers to be aware of the length of contracts before signing them and that all the details concerning early disconnection fees can be seen on their website.
And if you think these practises are made only by private entities, you would be very wrong. The NHS also follows the same book and chases pensioners after debt.
A 69-year-old woman mistakenly believed she still had the right to free dental check-ups. It was an honest mistake from her part, and she would have simply paid the £58 original charge for the appointment.
However, the NHS directly sent her a ‘letter before action’ in which they also demanded a £146 late payment charge, bumping the total up to £204 due to NHS Dental Services. As with all other stories you have read so far, she was also threatened with debt collectors if she refused to pay.
She wasn’t even given the chance to pay for the original treatment amount.
The confusion happened when the pensioner received a pre-filled form which stated she had the right for free treatment. In the meantime, her husband had managed to return to work, which made her lose this right due to the increase in their joint income.
All the NHS has said is that she can appeal using its website.
HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) is also hauling customers to court even over BBC licence fees that are unpaid. These cases are being thrown out. HMRC is also setting debt collectors on taxpayers.
Debt collection agencies operate by pressuring consumers and intimidating them into paying the debt. Most people believe filing complaints will only worsen their situation and avoid fighting back.
If you are being chased for money you don’t owe, you should do something about it as fast as possible. Contact the company immediately and inform them your reasons for disputing the bill.