Fair Warning: This Story Will Make You EXHAUSTED

, , , , , , , | Working | April 30, 2020

When my two siblings and I first got phones, we were under our mother’s contract. Every month we would just pay via bank transfer into her account the amount each contract was for each sibling. For reference, we had been with the exact same provider for many years and we were happy with the services… until this happened.

With her first job, my older sister decided to treat herself to a new phone and have a new account set up. To do so, she had to take a new number. Our mother called up to have her old number removed and then passed things to my sister to set her new account up.

We were assured that this would be sorted and her contract would be sent within twenty-four hours via email. They also said our mother would receive an email in the same time span confirming the disconnection of the old number. Twenty-four hours passed and we received nothing, but it was the holiday season so we just assumed they were maybe backed up and we would give them another day. 

A few hours after this, I received an email — all our separate emails were attached to each separate number on the account — saying my number had been disconnected, but as I had not finished payments on my phone they would like to know how I would be paying the remaining balance. 

My mother called them, rather annoyed but assuming it was an honest mistake. The person she got seemed nice, reconnected my number then and there, and assured us that the correct number would be disconnected this time.

We thought nothing of this until twenty-four hours had passed again. My sister had still not received her confirmation email that her old number had been removed. Instead, it was my twin who then got the email I had gotten.

Mother called again, angrier, but still trying to remain patient because she hates being one of “those” customers. My twin received confirmation that his number was reconnected again and we were assured again that the issue was resolved. Another twenty-four hours passed, and my sister had still not received the email. Instead, it was our mother who received it. Immediately, she took my phone and called them. This time, she was rather irate.

“I don’t know who is screwing up on your end,” she said. “I have asked for my eldest daughter’s number to be disconnected as she has now taken out her own account. We were told to wait twenty-four hours for confirmation emails. Firstly, my other daughter’s number was cancelled but the eldest’s was not. We called and we were assured this would be rectified. Then, my eldest son received confirmation that his number was disconnected and still not my daughter’s.

I called again and was once again assured the issue had been resolved. Well, guess who has just received confirmation of a number being disconnected? Me! What is so difficult?!”

As she didn’t have it on speakerphone, we could not hear what the poor person in customer service was saying. 

“No, you listen,” my mother continued after a minute. “I explained multiple times which number was to be disconnected, so don’t hit me with that ‘the numbers are similar’ tactic. Three different people have cancelled the incorrect number despite actually confirming said number on all calls. Get the issue sorted and now.”

We all waited in silence for what was to be said.

“Thank you,” my mother said finally. “Now send that email as soon as possible, please.”

Mother huffed in annoyance once the call was disconnected and handed me my phone back. Once again, twenty-four hours passed. This time, my sister finally received confirmation that her old number had been disconnected and our mother’s was reconnected again. Thinking the issue was sorted, we left it at that… until the mother’s direct debit came out after my twin and I had done our normal monthly bank transfers into her account to cover the cost for the month.

“Are you serious? They’ve charged us all double what they’re supposed to!”

We were all furious, so once again, my mother called up. This time, though, she put it on speakerphone so we could all hear.

“I can see here that there was an issue with a disconnection,” said the customer service representative. “Unfortunately, disconnection charges cannot be reversed—”

“Listen,” my mother said sternly. “My eldest’s contract had run out; she was just paying a month-to-month tariff. According to your terms and conditions, no disconnection fees are charged. Anyway, your disconnection fees are £45 per number. My contract is £14.50 per month, and my twins are £42 and £35.50 per month. Why have I been debited £250? That’s an extra £23. Oh, and it was your screwup that incurred disconnection charges. You made the mistake; you remove the charges.”

“Disconnection charges cannot be removed,” the representative explained. “As for contracts, I can see here your twins’ contracts are valid for a further twenty-three months at those prices, but yours is now £40.50.”

My twin and I looked to one another, shocked. Last we’d checked, we only had four months until our contracts ended.

“Excuse me?” my mother said, incredulous. “At no point did I agree to pay £40.50 per month. And last I checked, which was only a couple of weeks ago, my twins had four months left. Why has this suddenly changed to twenty-three?”

“When a number is reconnected, you are automatically placed into a new two-year contract—”

“Well, cancel said contracts,” my mother instructed. “We will be taking our business elsewhere. Not at one point in any of my previous calls was I aware of this, nor did either of us receive any confirmation email saying so. We did not agree to new contracts. I will also be disputing the charge with our bank.”

“Would you like me to cancel your account, ma’am?”

“Indeed, I would, and do not offer me anything,” my mother said. “I have been a customer for over a decade, and my twins have never been with another provider, but that will be changing. Remove the disconnection fees, charge us what we agreed initially, and do not add any more fees.”

“I apologise for everything that’s happened,” said the representative. “I will get that processed right now for you.”

Our mother hung up and immediately made a call to another company. They were appalled when they found out the circumstances of our switching. They were able to offer us very similar tariffs to what we’d had previously, we could keep the same numbers, and they were cheaper. Immediately, we signed up and thought that was now the end of it. 

After the chargeback was reissued to our mother’s account, she immediately cancelled the direct debit so the previous company could take no more payments from us.

One day, I came home from classes to find a bulky letter from a debt collection agency. Furious, mother called them.

“Hello, I have just received a letter saying I owe this amount for unpaid bills,” my mother explained. “I cancelled all contracts with [Phone Company] for multiple screwups and I have been with another company for weeks now. This is the first I’m hearing of this being owed.”

Once again, she didn’t have it on speakerphone so we only heard her side of things.

What?!” my mother suddenly exclaimed. “I was assured that they had cancelled all our contracts weeks ago and I was told that all disconnection fees would be removed. I was also told I’d get a refund of the extra they charged me for a contract they signed us up for without making us aware it was happening!”

This went back and forth for nearly an hour, our mother getting more irate as time went on. From reading in between lines, we figured out what had happened. The phone company did not remove the charges, did not refund the £36 extra they charged our mother, added three more disconnection charges for the three cancelled contracts, and did not even process the cancellation in the first place. Therefore, they were still trying to charge us. 

Once our mother was off the line, she immediately let out a scream and got on the line to the phone company. The poor representative didn’t even get out a hello before she let rip.

“Listen here!” my mother started in. “I don’t know what is going on here but I am getting nowhere. I called to disconnect my eldest daughter’s account but you cancelled the wrong number. You then reconnected hers and again you cancelled the wrong number. I was assured that this would be resolved and again the wrong number got cancelled. After this, it seemed like it had been resolved, but then my direct debit came out, which included three disconnection charges which should not have been on there because you screwed up.

“Also, without our knowledge, you put us on to new contracts which we did not agree to, nor did we sign. I called up to cancel and I was told that all disconnection fees would be removed, as well as the difference of the cost on my phone which almost tripled due to your screwup, and no other disconnection fees would be added.

“I just received a debt collection letter and I called them. You guys never cancelled the contracts and did not remove the charges! We have been with another provider for weeks now, so you will cancel the accounts with immediate effect, all charges will be refunded, and you will let the debt collectors know it was your mistake.”

My mother listened for a moment and then launched back in.

“What do you mean, there are no notes about calls I have made? Are you telling me none of the people I spoke to left any trace so they wouldn’t get in trouble?”

When my twin and I hear this, our jaws drop in astonishment. They’d made it look like we were the ones at fault.

“I understand that on your side it looks like we screwed up, but you record all your calls, correct?” my mom asked. “Because, if so, I don’t delete call records from my phone. I will find exact dates and times for each and you can listen in on them all.”

The representative agreed to do so and to call us back once he had finished. Two hours later, we received the call back, which we were surprised about as we didn’t expect it.

“I am so sorry this happened,” the representative told us. “It’s not enough and I completely understand why you switched because I would’ve done so, as well, if that were me on your end. Two of the representatives you dealt with are in my building, so I have sent an email to their manager with the dates and times you gave me. As for the third, I’ve done an employee search and they no longer work for us.

“I have gone on myself, after receiving approval from my manager, to make sure that all charges will be removed. I have sent an email to you which you should receive within a couple of hours. I have also filled out a request to the team who directly deals with debt collection agencies to make them aware. Once they receive this, they will give you a courtesy call confirming that everything has been dropped.”

We all breathed audible sighs of relief at hearing this. It was obvious from the representative’s tone of voice that he was extremely annoyed with everything. A little over an hour later, we received the email he’d sent us which confirmed that every charge had been reversed. Logging into the account confirmed that this was the case. The next day, we received the courtesy call from the debt collection agency and we thought nothing of it until months later.

After my twin and I turned eighteen and our contracts were up with our new provider, we followed in our sister’s footsteps and made a separate account. Unfortunately, their system rejected it due to us failing a credit check. Neither of us had ever missed a payment for anything, so we asked where it had come from. You guessed it: our original provider. 

We all sent scathing reviews to their corporate offices at this, to which we were told the most they could do was to add a note to the report that there was not a missed payment and it was an error, but it would remain on the account for the whole five years it takes where we live for these to disappear from a report. Luckily, this small change allowed my twin and me to make new accounts, but now we can’t get cars, mortgages, etc., for at least five years.

All this because my sister got a new number.

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