Three (3 Mobile) threaten debt collectors three years after cancelled contract.

Three Threatogram

Three threatogram 3 years after closing account.
Click for biggerness 🙂

Three may not be everyone’s first choice when it comes to choosing a mobile operator but for me they were a great choice. I had good coverage, free Skype, generous data allowance and more importantly, a decent monthly contract fee. I had been with Three for years and had always been happy with their service. However, whilst I was on a contract I noticed that I was paying for things I was not actually using much. My data usage was down, I didn’t send a lot of text messages or actually call that many people so I decided to cancel my contract and convert my sim card to “Pay as you go (PAYG)”.

This simple procedure itself was a challenge. Initially I gave them the 30 days notice of my intention to cancel as required in their terms and conditions and was told to call back 30 days later to have the account closed. Thirty days later I called back. I was connected to an Indian call centre where the  customer services (sales) operator was very reluctant to process my request. I would be stupid to think that the retention department were not earning commission on every customer they talked out of contract termination. In fact, the person I was connected to would not take no for an answer when offering me a discounted tariff with all the bells and whistles I was no longer using. After a good ten minutes of trying to persuade me to take out another contract he agreed to change my account to a pay as you go account. We were told that the final payment would be collected as normal via direct debit and would cover the days from the previous bill to the cancellation date. This payment was collected by Three as promised.

The above all happened in 2009.

Three years later in late 2012, still quite happily saving money using my PAYG sim I received a letter out of the blue. It notified me that my account had been closed and claimed that I still owed them £10.21 despite Three collecting the final balance by direct debit in 2009. I would have thought it would be company procedure to not close an account until any outstanding balance was paid in full. If this was the case then surely they would have continued to bill me monthly as my account would not have been officially closed.

The letter invited me to call an 0844 number (I couldn’t find an alternative on SayNoTo0870!). I was quite angry so my wife called while I listened in. Again, it seemed we were connected to India. My wife explained the situation and told the man in the collections department that the account was paid in full. The man said that £10.21 was still outstanding and if we did not pay it then it would be referred to a debt collection agency. We then asked them for 6 months worth of statements to prove the debt. Apparently they could not honour this request because, “the account is too old and we don’t have records“. Surely if they are claiming that we owe them money they should be able to back up their claims? It’s not up to me to prove that I do not owe the money, it’s up to them to prove that I do owe the money. It seems they cannot do this so any more threatening letters from Three or a debt collection agency (DCA) will result in formal complaints to OFCOM, OFT, Otelo, Cisas or any other relevant governing bodies. No doubt they have even registered this with the credit reference agencies.

As far as I am concerned, the final payment was taken by direct debit therefore I do not owe Three a penny. Unless they can provide conclusive proof backed up with itemised statements six months prior to cancellation then I will not be making a payment to Three or their slimy DCA’s.

Oh, for the record, the phone call to the 0844 number cost me £1.01. It troubles me that companies profit from talking to their customers (and ex customers!) As an estimate I would think that Three make around £0.04 per minute revenue on each call.

Interestingly enough, it seems like I am not the only person to fall foul of this billing incompetence. There are many similar stories on the internet if you Google the subject. Three was also featured on an episode of BBC Watchdog, ironically back in 2009.

It’s ridiculous how any company can claim that you owe them money three years later despite paying in full. We have not received a single piece of correspondence from Three regarding this matter until now, three years later. Crazy.

I shall update this post periodically to let you know how this is progressing.

16/10/2012 – 14:30 – Tweeted this blog and copied in @ThreeUK and @ThreeUKsupport. 

24/10/2012 – 18:17 – RESOLVED! I received an email from the Executive Office. See below

Hello ************

I’m writing following a recent escalation I received from our Social Media team. I’ve tried to call you a few times to discuss this but haven’t been able to reach you.

Having investigated your account, I can see that payment for the final bill on your account wasn’t attempted when your account closed. Due to the length of time that has passed, it’s hard for me to determine exactly why this happened. However, looking at our system I can’t see a failed payment attempt like I normally would if the payment was refused by your bank, so I think the problem may have been from our end.

Normally we would have contacted you much sooner about this debt, but for some reason it seems to have fallen through a gap in our collections process. This means that the debt never became active until October this year. Although we are still within our rights to request payment of a debt any time within six years of it becoming owed, I agree that this is an unreasonable amount of time to have never been notified of the outstanding balance.

Because of this I’ve cleared the balance on your account and requested that our Consumer Credit team remove any negative impact this may have had on your credit file. Please not that this may take up to 28 days to reflect on your credit file. I’d also like to apologise for any inconvenience this has caused. It seems to have been the result of a system error that unfortunately we weren’t able to pick up on until you had notified us of it.

I hope this has been of some help but if you’d like to talk about it further you can call me at the Executive Office on 0843**** **** (5p/min from BT land lines, other networks may vary). We’re open Monday to Friday, 9am until 6:30pm.

Thanks

Kyle Solway

Three Executive Office

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So, the stress and hassle is over with. I would disagree with the claim that the final payment was not taken but I thank Three for sorting this out. It’s only fair that I post their positive response. Case closed!

4 Responses

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  1. Written by Matt
    on 19/10/2012 at 2:28 pm
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    I’m glad it’s not just me that had trouble cancelling my three contract. Not only was it downright difficult, but I also found that the call centre operatives were bordering on the side of rude. Hope this all gets sorted for you.

  2. Written by Grumpy Git
    on 22/10/2012 at 11:49 am
    Permalink

    Yes, you’re right about the overseas customer services reps. They are quite rude. On the other hand, when I have talked to reps in the UK they have been helpful and polite.

    I did provoke a response from Three thanks to this post but they have not been back in touch yet to resolve this issue.

  3. Written by Grumpy Git
    on 24/10/2012 at 6:13 pm
    Permalink

    Reply from Three received and posted. Issue resolved!

  4. Written by emma
    on 18/04/2013 at 10:10 pm
    Permalink

    yes i have only gone to buy my home only to bc due to three saying i owe £459 when i payed it dont no whot to do as it was 4 years ago please help

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