I am, at the moment, experiencing of the joy of British life, even though I left England six months ago: the debt collectors.
As a Frenchman who has always paid every single of his bills the second they arrived, I heard of it but I never knew what they were. Also, the companies who put themselves willingly in debt to blindly chase you later are strictly forbidden in France and many countries on the continent.
My issues? The usual with companies in England. Everyone has a story like this.
I called my mobile company in July to say I was moving back to France…forever! – They tried to put my account in sleep or offer me an international deal. Well I am leaving England forever, that’s for sure and I told them it had to be closed before I was closing my UK bank account on September 26th. The agent said okay, he had done it. I thought that was quick but frankly I was more used to deal with HSBC who have excellent customer service so I did not see anything into it. He told me I would get an email and a letter. I realised months later than I got none of it.
So one day, on late October, I get some news from my former landlord in England saying that they got a letter from Orange: I owed them more than £100 and something about debt collection which I knew nothing about. I called them, they say they have no record of the cancellation. Of course, they don’t. It went smoothly with BT, the gym, the RSPCA, the British Humanist Association, the GALA…I was stupid to believe everything would go fine, wasn’t I?
For this is quite a common practice with Internet and mobile companies, especially from the agents on the customer service who are disposable, even more so when they are cancelling contracts. I told them that they say they are recording phone calls so they find it back and they will have confirmation And Orange tells me they are not responsible for the mistake their agents are doing. And that I should have double-checked. Come again?! My job was teaching, not double-checking if Orange’s agents are working well. That’s the job of Orange’s management.
Then I am dropped out of nowhere into payment services where they ask for an account in England. I told them I don’t live there anymore , it’s like talking to a hole in the ground. At some point, she even asks me if I can just give a friend’s bank details and give them the money back. Are you fucking mad?!
I even go to an Orange boutique in France (Orange is what used to be France Télécomes) to ask for help and they tell me it might be the same name but it is not the same entity. I also discover that Orange actually disappeared when they merged with T-mobile into EE. Whatever…
So nothing. They ain’t gehin’ nofin’ from me!
Then in mid-December, a letter again in England from Buchanan Clark and Wells – or something, there are some loose Ns and Ss I don’t know where to put – and I discover the debt collectors. For those on the continent who don’t know, these people are the opposite of the debts collectors we have here who are buying the debts of people in difficulty to banks, merge them and come up with a relief payment plan. They help people. Not in England.
In the UK, these companies are willingly buying the debts from “struggling” companies to chase the everyday people. So that Buckman Church and Wollop thingy got a call from EE, they gave EE the money and now I actually don’t EE anything but I owe it to Butt Cleft and Waffles.
That’s a fantastic move from EE – completely supported by the government – because if they dealt with it directly, I would have a valid claim. The Internet is filled with lazy, dishonest people yes, but also people like me who have never missed a payment, never been overdraft in their entire life, who are doing everything right, in time, following proper procedures but suddenly find themselves forced to pay some money they don’t owe and don’t have because it turns the companies are useless at best.
With Buttocks, Cocks and Willies, EE would have to deal with the claim themselves and face the reality of their rogue practice. A common practice again. It happened to me with Virgin as well when I moved from London to Birmingham and they refused to change the name on the account. I called them two months in advance, twice then the landlady called them five times and everytime: “It’s okay, we’ve done it”. They never did and it took three extra months to finally get it done so I paid the phone and Internet for a place I was not living in anymore. I paid that time because I was afraid, just moved to England but swore to never deal with Virgin again and convinced countless friends to do the same.
This is time, no.
As far as EE is concerned, they literally gave the hot shit to someone else who was rogue enough to buy a debt. I called Bleak, Cancer and Wither to tell them that I was not living in England and explain why I did not owe that money but they cannot understand anything else that “What are you bank details?” and they don’t care, to be honest. All they see is that I owe them money. I don’t know who they are, I don’t know exactly what they did to get that negative balance, I do know that they couldn’t give a fuck about what happened. They just want the money and that’s an end of it.
EE did what all companies are doing in England, they flee their responsibility and liability by putting the fruits of their mistakes in the hands of others. When it comes to EE, they got the money they wanted, they got rid of the problem so they don’t have to be sharks and bastards, and they can keep their hands clean. Some company will do the job for them.
I would like to meet the people who found those debt collecting companies, to ask them lengthy questions about every aspect of their life, childhood and education. It must be a fantastic insight into the dark places of neo-capitalism.
In France, it is a forbidden. A company will have to be the bastard and go the justice system themselves. There is no being a coward and letting the bullies do your dirty work. They will have to get the bailiffs in themselves and they will have to sit and listen to their potential failings in risk of tarnishing their reputation.
Now I am waiting. I am anxious by nature so I am a bit worried sometimes. I think about it once/day but that’s what I do with money anyway. My family and friends do not seem fazed at all. They all told me to just let it go and ignore it. I didn’t and called various helplines and specialists in England and France but the maze of the justice system between countries, especially with the UK, has rendered them irrelevant. They don’t know what could happen. They know my landlords are protected because I don’t live there and it’s my name that is soiled, not theirs.
I left the UK months ago ensuring that when my bank account was closed, it was the end of everything, I could finally bring closure and it turns out UK’s rogue capitalism is like cancer, it comes back when you don’t expect it. Especially around Christmas.
PS: This is not a “Awww, please, commiserate!” post. I am not that kind!