When does it become 'harassment'?

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
When does it become 'harassment'?
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 12:53am
I apologize for the length of this...didn't know how else to go about it:

Hi all...I'm so upset right now I could scream. I had a rather big cell phone bill this month (I switched phones, and they charged me up the wazoo for the switch. Although the charge is in the fine print of the paperwork, the guy at the store failed to tell me this when I asked him what ALL the charges were.) Anyway, I've learned another lesson...

My budget is tight, but I did pay $60 towards the bill this month, still owe $50. Ick. I can't pay anymore until the 31st. I was told by customer service that I could initiate a promise to pay the remainder (it's only 10 days) and my service would stay on. Well, it didn't. They turned it off yesterday morning.

I called them right away to inquire. Yes, there were notes that I was told the service would remain on, however, they told me I was misinformed. They said that I had to pay the past due (the remainder is 2 weeks late) before my phone would be turned back on. Fine, I decide I'll just go without for the next week and a half. I took names down (learning my lesson about THAT one!) and was told that it was just a temporary suspension, that the phone would come right back on when they received payment. The woman said she would put that in the notes on my account, and that all was well.

Well, I guess not! Yesterday, I received 5 (FIVE) phone calls from them requesting payment. I was not home to answer the calls, but the messages are on my machine. Well, I'm home today...and this morning I got ANOTHER call. The woman I spke to then was an idiot who kept laughing at me because I was getting upset with her. She kept on trying ot giver her speech, and I kept trying to tell her I'd already made an arrangement. Her supervisor came on, and he told me that he was sorry about all the calls, and that he would 'zero out' my home phone number from my account so I won't get any more calls. I gues they use an auto dialer.

So, I think...fine, no more calls. OH NO!! I missed one call, an hour later. They left a message. I also missed the next call about 2 hours after that. I then called them back and went over the whole thing all over again. This time they tell me that it take 4 days for my home number to clear out of their auto dialer system. The only way to get my number out right away is to pay the bill (which, I simply can't do until the 31st.) I was so fed up that I just hung up. I've been kind of ill lately, and this just wasn't helping matters.

I then missed two more calls later in the afternoon when I was alseep. The last call (call #6) came at 8:15pm tonight. By this time I was fit to be tied and when the girl on the phone started her speech. I interupted her and asked her to simply read the notes on my account before going any further. She paused....then started her speech all over again! Then she said, "Just a moment." Her supervisor came on and explained that she was in training and wasn't familiar with how to read the notes on the account. OH GOOD GRIEF! Turns out my call was being broadcast to entire classroom of trainees, so I went bolistic.

I explained the situation to him (as nice as I could considering) and informed him that I absolutely did not want any more phone calls being made. He told me that my phone records did indicate I called in yesterday morning, but that (shocker here) there were no notes on the account to indicate what had transpired. He had the guts to tell me that for all he knew I was lying to him. He also said that according to HIS logs, only FOUR calls had been placed today. Oh, whoopdidoo...only 4! Well, four MESSAGES were left, but he was the third live person I'd spoken to that day.

He told me that, yes, my number had been "zeroed out" but that it takes 48 hours (not 4 days like I was told earlier in the day) to get out of their "system". I informed him that the number of calls they were making to me were beyond harassment. He then told me that Federal law allowed them to call as many times as they wanted in order to collect any money owed to them. I informed him he was ill informed, because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors were not allowed to repeatedly contact or harass a debtor - and this is ESPECIALLY true since I had already intiated contact myself immediately upon my phone being turned off and was told that it would be acceptable for me to pay the bill on the 31st. As far as I was concerned, arrangments had been made. Any further contact about it was harassing, especially if they were calling me 5 and 6 times a day.

He insisted that everything they were doing was legal. I asked him to tell me where in the law it says this was legal, and he changed the subject. I finally just told him that I was NOT to be called again regaring this, and that I was sending a letter to inform the company of this.

The thing is, by the time the letter actually arrives and is seen by the person who can take care fo things, I will be able to pay the bill. The caller ID shows the number when they call, so I know I can simply ignore the call, but I just HATE having the phone ring like that all day. It doesn't really matter if I answer the phone or not, but the very fact that they are even calling makes me mad.

Am I over reacting here?

Avatar for zaboz
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 7:44am
No, I don't think you're overreacting. I'd be pretty annoyed with

the situation too. You do have an obligation to pay your bill but they should

treat you in a reasonable way.

In fact if you are not locked in (and check it yourself), then I would switch companies and tell them why.

OR you could try to do without a cell phone and save yourself the hassle and

the bill.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 9:33am
Well...yeah, I have a contract, and the phone is actually part of my work. I have a small web hosting business, and if anything goes wrong my husband and I are the only ones avaiable. Any downtime alerts go to our phones if we are out and about, that way we can get things handled. DH also has a full-time job, so I am often the one responsible. For this time, we just decided that I would use his phone and no big deal.

I know I have to pay my bill, I never disputed that. I just wasn't prepared for the extra $50 in charges in this month's budget is all. I also thought that when I called THEM, arrangements were made and as far as I knew everyone was satisfied. Now, if I didn't pay them AFTER I told them I would, then I might understand a call a day to remind me...but not 5 or 6 a day after arrangements had already been made. I mean, really...what can I do? I've been their customer for 3 years and I've never been late paying them. You'd think they'd be nice about it...

I dunno...if I had the extra funds in my business account, I would simply pay for it now, but this month I simply cannot do it because we've already borrowed from the business funds to help pay for some health stuff for me lately.

All is well...at the end of the month, we'll be in fine shape...back on budget and the business account fully paid back. This has just been a really bad month for us. I've suffered from headaches for a long time, and my eye doctor found a problem with my optic nerve that has had me on a whirlwind of docotr visits and medications. We have great health insurance (thankfully...) but we are still forking out a lot of money. Seems I'll hit the co-pay deductible in nothing flat the way I'm going.

I don't mind waiting the ten days...its annoying but I was willing to go with it since I did owe the money. My problem is the sheer number of times that they are calling me insisting on payment even after arrangements were made.

It also seems silly the amount of money and time they are spending trying to get $50 out of me. I mean, if any of my customers don't pay their $20 bills, I won't be calling them incessently after they contact me to make arrangements. Its just dumb business sense, not to mention harassing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2003
Fri, 05-23-2003 - 9:56am
Oh sweetie. I'm so sorry things are so rough right now. We have to be very careful to read everything we're agreeing to. It doesn't matter what anyone tells us the paperwork says, if it's not in the paperwork, it was never said. :o(

Now, about the phone calls, I too would be miffed if I got that many calls in one day about a debt I'd made arrangements on. But, citing the Fair Debt Collections isn't going to help you here. That covers the behavior of third-party collectors. The phone company hasn't written off your debt as uncollectable and sold it to an outside agency. The collector calling you is the original creditor. The original creditor can do almost anything short of threats of phyical violence to get you to pay your obligation. Sorry.

Please remember that these types of questions are much better suited to our Debt Q&A board.

CM Ms Joe Cool

Senior Community Moderator


Ms Joe
CM Ms Joe Cool
Senior Community Moderator