Not only in Britain

A man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in NSW, Australia) received a bill in March for his as yet unused gas line stating that he owed $0.00.

He ignored it and threw it away.

In April he received another bill and threw that one away too.

The following month the gas company sent him a very nasty note stating that they were going to cancel his gas line if he didn’t send them $0.00 by return mail.

He called them, talked to them, and they said it was a computer error and they would take care of it.

The following month he decided that it was about time that he tried out the troublesome gas line figuring that if there was usage on the account it would put an end to this ridiculous predicament.

However, when he went to use the gas, it had been cut off.

He called the gas company who apologized for the computer error once again and said that they would take care of it.

The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that payment was now overdue.

Assuming that having spoken to them the previous day the latest bill was yet another mistake, he ignored it, trusting that the company would be as good as their word and sort the problem out.

The next month he got a bill for $0.00.

This bill also stated that he had 10 days to pay his account or the company would have to take steps to recover the debt.

Finally, giving in, he thought he would beat the gas company at their own game and mailed them a cheque for $0.00.

The computer duly processed his account and returned a statement to the effect that he now owed the gas company nothing at all.

A week later, the manager of the Mudgee branch of the Westpac Banking Corporation called our hapless friend and asked him what he was doing writing cheque for $0.00.

After a lengthy explanation the bank manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had caused their cheque processing software to fail.

The bank could therefore not process ANY cheques they had received from ANY of their customers that day because the cheque for $0.00 had caused the computer to crash.

The following month the man received a letter from the gas company claiming that his cheque had bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless he sent a cheque by return mail they would take immediate steps to recover the debt.

At this point, the man decided to file a debt harassment claim against the gas company. It took him nearly two hours to convince the clerks at the local courthouse that he was not joking.

They subsequently helped him in the drafting of statements which were considered substantive evidence of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced to endure during this debacle.

The matter was heard in the Magistrate’s Court in Mudgee and the outcome was this:

The gas company was ordered to:

[1] Immediately rectify their computerized accounts system or Show Cause, within 10 days,
why the matter should not be referred to a higher court for consideration under Company Law.
[2] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by the man.
[3] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by all the Westpac clients whose cheques had been bounced on the day our friend’s had been processed.
[4] Pay the claimant’s court costs; and
[5] Pay the claimant a total of $1500 per month for the 5 month period March to July inclusive as compensation for the aggravation they had caused their client to suffer.

7 comments for “Not only in Britain

  1. amfortas
    April 21, 2013 at 9:27 am

    It all sounds very ‘today’ with a splendid outcome, but nothing seems to have appeared in the News here about this. I suspect it is someone’s dream. They probably ate a spam sandwich for supper.

    I hope I am wrong.

    (By the way, such complaints are not ‘lodged at the courthouse’ here. The Ombudsman is the place to call, or the Small Claims Tribunal or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.)

  2. John
    April 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    If true, I expect he probably owed the gas company $0.004 or something which got rounded down.

  3. JG
    April 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm
  4. Greg Tingey
    April 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I wonder …

    I’m having fun [NOT] with a mobile phone/”service” provider …
    Sold me a BLackBerry that has never worked properly, back in November …..
    I finally tried to return it (Sale of Goods Act) on April 2nd – after it started to eat its new battery as well as the old one …
    So far, it’s round & round & round … – we’ll give you a replacement / it’s down to the manufacturer’s warranty / “I can’t do that, it’s above my pay grade” – all in spite of a statement in writing that: “Your rights are not affected in any way”.
    The method seems to be to drag it out, so that the private customer gets so pissed off they write the (in my case – £119.99) off in disgust.
    So, it is not only in Britain, it’s private/corporate companies as well ….
    They have been warned that if bnothing has been done by “nd May, I’ll be off to Small Claims COurt, but they obvioulsy don’t believe me.
    [ Oh, Orange/EE by the way, in case you were wondering ]

  5. Greg Tingey
    April 22, 2013 at 9:01 am

    Not just there, & not just state, but also private/corprate, too …

    Back in November I bought a new BlackBerry phone, that has never worked fully or satisfactorily – been back to the shop many times ….
    Finally tried to return it under Sale of Gods Act, on 2nd April, after it started eating the new replacement battery as well …
    “No we can’t do that” – we’ll send it for repair & you can have temproaryt replacement”
    ME: “Not of Merchantable Quality”
    “Our company rules … effectively stuff the Sale of Goods Act” ….

    Round & round & round … manufacturers’ warranty / above my pay grade / can’t (meaning bloody won’t) replace it with value for a new (different) one of my choosing / our company rules …
    Anything AT ALL rather than comply with the law.
    It is obvious that the deliberate tactic is to drag it out so that the customer writes off ( £119.99 in my case ) the money in disgust, rather than give in gracefully & comply with the law ….
    Oh well, if I haven’t had satisfaction by 2nd May, I’m off to Small Claims Court.
    [ Oh, Orange / EE, in case you were wondering. ]

  6. April 22, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I looked through the article at the end of that link and there was no evidence whatever for the debunking. Lots of postulation about some Massachusetts original but zero evidence for it. The Australian version still stands until someone does a better job than this guy at debunking.

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