1.TELCO DEFAULT LISTED AFTER BANKRUPTCY
Ms. V was a single mother who was rejected for finance to buy a new washing machine because of a default listed by a telecommunications carrier for just $250.00. The default related to a debt that was over 7 years old and had been sold to Alliance Factoring a debt collection agency owned by the Baycorp Bureau. Despite the debt being statute barred (more than 6 years old) it was still published by Alliance Factoring against Ms. V’s credit file maintained by Alliances Factorings parent company, Baycorp Bureau.
The debt was listed as unpaid.
Ms. V was referred to Latham Moore who investigated the matter discovering the default related to an account that was due but had been taken up as part of her bankruptcy in 1997. As such the debt was a provable debt in bankruptcy and had been settled when she declared herself bankrupt in 1997. Whilst the bankruptcy is reportable for 7 years against a bankrupts credit file, more than seven years had elapsed and Ms V had already suffered the pain of not being able to obtain credit for the last 7 years.
Latham Moore contacted the Telco through their solicitors. The Telco after reviewing the case recalled the debt and instructed Baycorp Bureau to remove the default.
Ms. V reapplied for finance with GE Finance who approved her application to purchase the washing machine.
2.TELCO DEFAULTS WRONG PERSON
Mrs. Brown is a small business owner who applied with her local Westpac bank for a small loan of $10,000.00 in order to purchase a motor vehicle. However, Westpac rejected Mrs. Brown’s application because its automated processing system discovered a Telco default listed against her credit file. The fact that Mrs. Brown had been with the bank for over 10 years had no affect.
Mrs. Brown purchased a copy of her Baycorp Bureau credit report which showed a default listed by a Telco for $340.00. After making enquiries with the Telco she realized that the telephone service number and personal details of the account holder were not hers. Mrs. Brown contact Baycorp who claimed that they were unable to assist her as they only published the information its subscribers report to them. Baycorp Bureau suggested that they could mark her credit file as being in dispute and publish a note to that affect.
Even with her file marked as such, it would be highly unlikely that any credit provider would lend her money as 90% of finance organizations use automated processing application systems.
Several months passed without getting anywhere until she was referred to Latham Moore who assessed her case and quickly identified that the Telco had defaulted the wrong person. While the first name and surname were the same as Mrs. Brown her middle name, date of birth and address were totally different.
After notifying the Telco of this serious error the Telco removed the default listing immediately.
Mrs. Brown has reserved her rights in respect to seeking compensation from the Telco as privacy laws develop in Australia.
3.TELCO DEFAULTS WRONG PERSON
Dr. Smith is a long standing medical practitioner and is well respected by his peers.
In early 2003 he received a threatening letter demanding payment within 14 days of an amount of $415.00 allegedly owed by him in respect to an overdue telephone account. The notice threatened that he would be listed as a default with Baycorp Bureau.
Concerned, Dr. Smith rang the Telco claiming he did not know what they were talking about and could they send him a copy of the account for this alleged debt.
Several months went by without any further contact from the Telco and he thought they must have realized that he was not the person they were looking for until he made an application for finance to purchase a group of units which were being offered at a mortgagee auction. To Dr. Smith’s anger he discovered that he had in deed been default listed by the Telco who had published the $420 debt against Dr. Smiths personal credit file.
Dr. Smith immediately placed the matter in the hands of his solicitors who wrote to the Telco demanding the removal of the default and evidence that he owed them the money. Despite receiving several letters from the solicitor the Telco either ignored or refused to answer them and ignored requests for an account summary.
Dr. Smith contacted Latham Moore who identified several breaches of the Trade Practices Act 1974, Consumer Credit Code and Privacy Act 1988.
After contacting the Telco removed the default listing and has reserved his rights to seek compensation from the Telco to recover his loss and damage to his reputation.
4. FINAL TELCO BILL NOT SENT TO NEW ADDRESS BUT STILL DEFAULTED
Mr. D. obtained a short term home loan which required paying out in 12 months. With two months to go before the 12 month expiry, Mr. D contacted his mortgage broker and instructed them to commence the refinancing process.
However, the broker discovered that a Telco default had been published on Mr. D’s credit report since the original loan had been entered into 10 months previously. The broker made enquiries with the Telco to ascertain what the default was for as Mr. D maintained that he had received no notice of any overdue accounts from the Telco and to the contrary he was a current customer of the Telco and up-to-date with his accounts.
The Telco provided a copy of the overdue account and demanded payment. Mr. D paid the account but the Telco refused to remove the default. Mr. D was referred to Latham Moore who discovered an error in the Telco’s billing services which resulted in them failing to forward a final account summary to Mr. D’s new address.
The Telco maintained that they would not remove the default listing despite connecting a phone service at his new house. A complaint was made to the Telecommunications Ombudsman who reviewed the matter and ordered the removal of the default.
Mr. D has reserved his rights.
5.DEFAULTED FOR OVERDUE BILL THAT WASN’T OVERDUE
Mr. S. was the sole director of a company which operated a chain of retail shops that had multiple telephone lines coming into the shop premises. In September 2003 the company merged two of its retail stores, disconnecting two of the lines and diverted the main landline to the remaining store.
Despite Mr. S requesting the services disconnection the Telco continued to charge line rental for all of the disconnected services. This continued for several months until the company received a demand for payment for the unpaid line rentals.
After performing a credit check, Mr. S discovered the Telco had also listed his company as a defaulter.
After getting no where with the Telco’s customer service operators, Mr. S contacted Latham Moore for an evaluation.
Latham Moore had previously identified several systemic faults within the Telco’s internal controls and procedures and was able to apply this to the case in hand. The Telco entered into a confidential terms of settlement and removed the default listing.
6. TELCO DEFAULTS WRONG PERSON FOR AN INTERNET ACCOUNT AND SUSSPENDS OTHER SERVICES
In 1999 Mr. L a Chinese businessman lived in a rented house with his older brother. The landline at the house was connected in his name and his brother contributed each month towards the bill 50/50. This arrangement continued until Mr. L moved out of the house in 2001 and had his phone service disconnected.
In 2003 Mr. L was operating a successful city based travel agency which catered exclusively to the Chinese community. Mr. L employed 3 staff providing them with their own mobile phones and over the years had built up a good reputation. In order to advertise his companies services Mr. Liu handed out business cards around the Chinese community and placed ads in the monthly Chinese newspapers always using his mobile phone number as the only point of contact for the business.
In November 2003 Mr. L received a demand from the Telco who had provided his telephone service at the house he had shared with his brother in 1999 – 2001. The demand alleged that Mr. L had an outstanding internet account totaling several hundred dollars. Mr. L was surprised because he had never had an internet account with the Telco although all his mobile services were with them. As far as he knew he was a good customer always paying his bills on or before their due date.
Mr. L’s wrote to the Telco disputing the debt. Despite this the Telco gave Mr. L an ultimatum to “pay up or we will cut your other services off”. Mr. L would not be pressured and refused to pay a debt that was not his.
The Telco provided evidence of the default byway of pages of unpaid bills in Mr. L’s name which made no sense at all. Then the Telco made good their threat and cut off all of Mr. L’s services at the beginning of December and published a default on his consumer credit report.
This could not have come at a worse time as December is the peak for the holiday season and very busy time for his business. To make things worse Mr. L had increased his advertising in the Chinese papers for the month of December in order to maximize sales. Mr. L rang the Telco explained that they had made a mistake but they just wouldn’t listen, all they said was pay up.
Several weeks passed until finally Mr. L gave in and paid the bill rather than face ruining. Mr. L wrote to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (“TIO”) lodging a formal complaint with them. The TIO wrote to the Telco and asked them to support their case. When the Telco wrote back they said Mr. L had been identified as the defaulting party by matching his details with that of the person who opened the account. The Telco included several pages of evidence which included a copy of a cheque used to pay the account back in 1999 and the initial account opening details for the individual. These were passed on to the TIO with a detailed response.
Faced with this overwhelming evidence the TIO had no option other than to write back to Mr. L enclosing the Telco’s findings and closing the file.
At this point Mr. L was referred to Latham Moore who reviewed all of the documentation. After carefully examining the documents supplied by the Telco in support of their case, Latham Moore identified multiple breaches of the Privacy act 1988 and Trade Practices Act 1974. Latham Moore had discovered a very obvious mistake in that the Internet account actually belonged to Mr. L’s brother. This was a case of mistaken identity that could easily have been avoided if the Telco had reviewed the documents carefully as Latham Moore had done.
As the Telco had incorrectly matched Mr. L with his older brother the Telco removed the default an apologised for the mistake.