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back to article Orange strong-arming ex-customers for imagined debts

Debt-collector Moorcroft Debt Recovery has been sending out letters, on behalf of Orange, trying to collect on long-cancelled contracts and already-settled bills: at least according to their own support desk. One Register reader who received a demand from the company contacted us; he had left Orange almost a year ago and just …

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I've had similar problems in the past

I started a new contract with Orange then cancelled it within the 14 day money back guarantee period (Due to how rude a CSO was to me).

Anyway, they had already ported my number across and had decided to continue charging me for this period, so I had 2 months or so of line rental to pay, despite having the contract annulled under their guarantee, having no phone, no service and already having re-ported the number back to my next providor (thank you T-Mobile for being dull, but at least consistent).

In the end, after about a week of my having to make stronger and stronger phone calls, they cancelled the bills "Out of goodwill". Note that they never admitted they were at fault.

One can go off companies very easily.. I think I'll be heading to Vodagroan for a while.

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Anonymous Coward

They're not the only ones...

O2 pulled a similar trick on me a couple of years ago - but the debt collection agency they were using at the time actually sent the heavies round to hand-deliver the demand for payment - two gorillas in suits who didn't take that kindly to being told to "get stuffed". Fortunately it was in public (student halls of residence) suffice to say I didn't get the potential kicking I was dreading...

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been doing it for a while

They did pretty well exactly that to me about six years ago - three years after I cancelled my orange account I received a letter from Moorcroft demanding three years' line rental. Orange denied that I'd ever closed my account, couldn't explain why they'd not billed me for three years and only backed off when I faxed them a copy of the letter they sent three years previously to confirm my account closure.

Funnily, I've never been a customer again

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Brush away

"Paul" was clearly wrong, as were the other support staff our reader spoke to.

Bah a quick excuse of staff retraining should brush that nicely under the carpet.

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G2

orange is thieving from users in Romania too

On

http://www.orangefura.info/

(domain name translation: "orange is thieving")

users are complaining about phantom debts being claimed after someone canceled their subscription 5 years before. (To cancel a subscription you have to be up to date with the payments before they agree to the cancellation.)

and this is not the only screwup problem, also on

http://forum.computergames.ro/7-generalitati/308502-datorie-la-orange-de-9-ani.html

they are discussing that Orange is trying to collect on them for an alleged debt from 9 YEARS before, debt that is supposed to be of about 72,5 ron (about 15 pounds) and they claim that total owed including penalties is about 700 ron (about 145 pounds)

In addition that these debts are bogus, thrown up by weird database inconstancies, they are also illegal.

In Romanian common law legislation, any debt older than 3 years (5 years for fiscal debts) that is not acted upon by the party that is owed that sum, is considered void and null. Yet Orange is bullying customers for 9-year-old and already settled debts.

The civil extinctive prescription (in Romanian: "prescriptia extinctiva") is regulated by the decree number 167 of April 10th 1958:

http://www.cdep.ro/pls/legis/legis_pck.htp_act_text?idt=9005

This law is a bit old and antiquated in some parts, but nonetheless is still valid, yet Orange continues to bully unsavvy customers to pay up for their database screwups.

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Not new

My wife had a long running battle with Orange after being billed £30/month for several months - just for asking them to send a booklet describing the various contracts. Never had an orange contract, never had any phone contract....

Apparently we couldn't make them go away because we couldn't prove we owned the phone that she never bought, and there was no record of her actually buying a phone, just the bills, tied to a phone that was never sold, never turned on, and apparently never paid for. Orange blamed Carphone Warehouse (who had never heard of her either).

This doesn't suprise me at all.

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I've had a debt collection bill

I moved from contract to pay as you go 3 months ago. Orange have recently sent me a debt collection notice saying I owe them for 2 months rental (infact they own ME 1 month that I paid in advance before terminating the contract)

Orange are the worst run mobile operator I have come across (takes 45-90 minutes to get through to customer services) I will never be using them again

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Anonymous Coward

'Industry Standard' screwup

Reminds me a lot of when a cowboy telco called 'Reach Telecom' started billing me for calls on a line I didn't have.

I initially signed up for the service (Cheaper line rental than BT), but then decided not to proceed (as I was moving house and decided to go with cable TV/Phone at the new address) and cancelled the order. Problem was, I foolishly gave them a new address to forward any final correspondence to ...

they actually managed to take over the phone number of another address in my new building and started billing me for the calls the other tenant was making.

It took over a year to clear up the mess, which was getting nastier by the week. I couldn't do anything about it myself because the number in question wasn't mine. The guy whose number got snatched couldn't do anything about it either because according to BT he had voluntarily changed provider. Reach wouldn't do anything about it because they refused to believe it wasn't me making the calls. The other guy did the obvious thing after trying his best to get his BT account back and gave up - enjoying several months worth of free calls.

Finally it took a call to OFCOM to sort it out ... which I had to resort to when debt collector letters started arriving.

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Virgin Mobile aren't nice either

I bought a phone from Carphone Warehouse on a £2.99 for 1st year deal. Seems that Carphone are supposed to send me a cheque every month while Virgin bill me full whack. Problem is they don't and Virgin cut up rough when I stopped the DD after I'd paid the full amount I signed up for. Virgin says it's nothing to do with them but the debt collection agents claim to be working for them and Carphone. End result they both skate out of it and I'm shafted.

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Pity

Orange used to be quite a decent company to deal with. I've been with them since 1995 but now I just cannot wait to get away. Their customer service is just so terrible. I only hope I don't have any problems before my contract runs out. Thank goodness I didn't take them up on the broadband offer, I'd be doubly stuck. Off to Vodafone as soon as I can...

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Anonymous Coward

Why do you let them waste your time?

I write three letters in response to this sort of thing. The second warns them that I will contact my solicitor if they don't sort it. The third letter says that I am now taking this matter to my solicitor. I then do. The next letter they get is from my solicitor. I don't think anything has then happened other than the matter being settled in a twinkling of an eye, and sometimes with a nice 'we're sorry' cheque. Yes, a solicitor costs me money, but a year's worth of my time costs something, too. I find bully companies back down swiftly when a lawyer appears on the scene.

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Anonymous Coward

Not for the first time

I was refused credit by my own bank due to a default on my account.... I paid Eqifax, they had nothing, I then paid Experian and found a debt outstanding on an account that had been closed 3 years earlier with orange! It took me hours of phone calls and emails, as well as the £7 per credit report to get it sorted out, only to find that the total marked as defaulted was less than £10 and was a clerical error on their part. Needless to say they didn't refund my credit report charges!

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Anonymous Coward

How about a Register survey on this?

Could El Reg create a user survey on this subject please? I would like to see a survey on the mobile operators which includes questions across various categories including mobile coverage, service availability, voice / data usability, customer service, queue waiting times, billing, account management, etc.

I have had so many past problems with Orange Customer Service incompetence that I would scarcely know where to begin. However I am still an Orange customer because I have had very poor customer service from O2, and found that Vodafone is let down by frequent technical glitches (very late voicemails, network busys, crap 3G consistency).

It would be interesting to see whether any operator really shines in any particular area or whether, as we suspect, they are all variously crap.

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Bronze badge

Stupid Debts

I used to work for one of the biggest debt collection companies; what often happens is they have a contract with firm "X" for lets say 1000 debts per month or else pay a penalty.

If towards the end of the month, or what ever the contract period is, firm "X" hasn't been sent enough debts they scour there files for ANYTHING they can add to avoid the penalty.

I used to manage collections for big household names like BT, GUS, Kays, British Gas, The Book Club etc, and at the end of each month I would get loads of "stupid" debts, someone owes £1 etc.

It sounds like Orange have a yearly contract for debts and had run out of genuine ones and sent out whatever crap they could find to make up the numbers' LOTS of numbers!!!

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Anyone else noticed ...

... the common theme in comments about mobile operators ? It seems that I'm not alone in choosing based on who I least expect to get shafted by !

Like other commentators, I too have a black mark on my credit file - must get around to dealing with that. The facts though are that I can prove that Orange broke the law (distance selling regulations for a start) by billing differently to the contract I entered into - and my local Trading Standards agreed with my interpretation. Like others have found, their Customers Disservice Fob-off department simply kept repating the script that says "we are Orange, We are correct, you are wrong, pay up".

Since Orange actually owe me money, I'm tempted to take them to the small claims court and see what happens - or alternatively see what Moorcroft charge to collect it for me ! The only reason I haven't is that although it should be cheap, quick, and simple, there are still tricks they can use to drag out the process and make it thoroughly a pain in the posterior.

NB - Yes ElReg, you really should do a survey on this.

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@Peter Johnston

Sorry, Virgin are correct. You need to get the cashback from Carphone Warehouse. I had a similar deal with Three. It took a few phone calls/emails, but Carphone Warehouse did stump up the cheques.

I also had Orange owe me when I cancelled my contract. After I emailed the directors they paid me back the month I gave upfront.

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This is scary reading....

So we all know that T-Mobile and Virgin just suck generally with their coverage and their price plan.

Vodafone im not too sure of but last I heard they weren't that amazing and some people are complaining about them.

Many people seem to be commenting on the very poor service available with Orange too.

I am on 3, and I would never recommend anyone to their network. I signed up to a contract whereby it was £50 a month but after 6 months I could drop down to the minimum tariff of £20. So 6 months passes and I phone them and they say you have to go down in steps OR pay a one time fee of £25. When I took the contract up this was not the case, however in those 6 months they altered the terms and conditions and apparently because they posted these new terms on their website I automatically have to abide by them. So I understand by this they could change their terms to anything they like and get away with it without directly informing the customer.

I am now concerned they will add the condition "By agreeing to this contract you will allow us to screw you in the ass".....although it seems they are already practising this.

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Anonymous Coward

Orange

A few years ago I was with Orange and got chased for a debt that I didn't owe. In my case again it was where I had cancelled my account (and subsequently DD) and then several months later they sent me a letter telling me I had cancelled my DD and they were unable to claim their money. Needless to say I told them to get stuffed, as I had a letter confirming my account closure.

I then got "persuasive" (see threatening) letters from their debt collection people and politely advised them to go and fornicate with themselves. I didn't see any collectors but then I'm never at home. Eventually after several more calls (Orange refused to deal with me because it had been passed over for collection, and the debt collectors refused to deal with me as they said I had to agree closure with Orange) I managed to persuade them that they weren't getting any money out of me. As in other cases here though, they never admitted fault but tried to make it sound like a favour that they cancelled the "debt".

Of course, I was quite willing to take it to court, and I think it was the point that they realised this that they backed down.

I just pity people who are afraid of standing up for themselves against companies like this, as they must get ripped off all of the time.

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Anonymous Coward

@Michael Wood

If 3 have changed their T&Cs, especially without notifying you, that releases you from the contract... just say that you don't agree to the new T&Cs and they have to release you... that should encourage them to honour your original agreement or lose a customer!

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The world we live in

I think the bottom line for any provider is what they can get away with - the old car industry horror stories about the price of potential claims for defect fatalities Vs the cost to put things right. What can be dont to these organisations realistically - not much - they get fined and this is simply passed to the customer.

I think holistically this is more of a problem accross organisations of all types as compared to only phone companies although I was shafted by Orange myself.

Vodafone also changed my plan from a monthly (12 payments a year) to 4 weekly (13 payments a year) and I didn't find this out until the direct debit date started to change although I think they did notify customers by putting a notice up in some post office in the south of France to advise of this.

Anyway - perfect example of oversight in companies "The Register" (yes this page) - you need to supply login credentials to submit a comment - the page is unsecured - will this be addressed by The Register (Who knows?)

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Dan

Surveys

As stated already, a Reg survey on this would be very welcome.

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Mine was with O2

O2 spent ages charging me for stuff that I should get free - eventually I got it cancelled and got back all the money they owed me...or so I thought. A good few months later I didn't get an invoice or anything - just a debt collection agency letter for just over £10 - this was money O2 still owed me that they had forgotten to refund me - but were now trying to collect from me. I contact O2 - they said they'd sort it out. Told the debtors - they said no worries. A little while later I get my second warning from the debtors - I rand them to find out they had heard nothing and I was still "in debt" - it took months to finally sort out and get the rest of my money back. Ridiculous.

I'm with T-Mobile and its been almost 18 months with no problems - touch wood.

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Better check my credit rating...

Orange has changed. After a lengthy period of more than satisfactory service, they pretty much blew all my accumulated goodwill last year, over a single incident in which they started charging me for a new service without authorisation. That in itself I could have lived with - accidents happen. What got my goat was a combination of factors including lengthy hold times, failure to cancel and refund the first time I asked, complete unhelpfulness when I tried to bypass the hold 'music' by contacting them via e-mail, a faulty web interface, the needless beauraucracy required to escalate the call beyond the front-line reps and finally the non-appearance of the apology in writing which I was moved to require of them before it was all over.

It all added up to an impression of utter contempt for me as a customer and I jumped ship for Virgin Mobile the moment my contract ended. So far, they've been a massive improvement.

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Anonymous Coward

S.13 Data Protection Act 1998

... entitles you to sue for losses and/or damages arising out of a data controller failing to observe the Data Protection Principles.

I've had judgement against both Orange ("Orange Personal Communications Services Limited") and T-Mobile in recent years, £50 in each case as nominal damages [Douglas and Zeta Jones et al v Hello! Ltd et al [2003] EWHC 786] because they had failed to provide written assurances that they had not passed details of the "debt" to a credit reference agency, necessitating expense by me (£2) to obtain statutory copies of the credit record in each case to determine whether or not they had.

In each case, they tried to defend the claims (under the Small Claims Track, no legal costs are payable for either side) but failed to turn up on the day, and judgement was awarded against them in each case.

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Similar thing with O2

I got overcharged around £200 by O2, which they convenienty withdrew from my bank account by direct debit. They quickly conceded their error and credited my O2 account. I wanted the money back in the bank account, as I hadn't been expecting the outgoing and was remarkably close to my overdraft limit. O2 told me to put in an indemnity claim with my bank, which I did, and I got the money back. I assumed that would be an end to the matter.

Some time later I started getting nasty letters demanding the £200, which I never owed, had taken from my bank account against my will, and had to go to the trouble of claiming back. It ended up taking several months to sort out.

I'm now back with T-mobile, who I was with for some years before O2 seduced me a shiny new phone. Their service is less than thrilling, but they have never threatened me with legal action for money I didn't owe.

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Silver badge

Sign of Things to Come

I switched from Orange a couple of months ago, does this mean I've got all the fun and games to look forward to?

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Simple

Bin your contract pay as you go and dump the chip if they mess you around. It may be a little more to run but I for one don't like to let companies use DD etc. I pay for the service as I use and they can't take my money unless I give it to them.

They don't give a monkey's ass about customers only sales and profit. It is a closed market and if you can't live without being able to say " I AM ON THE TRAIN" at every opportunity you pays yer money ...

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Not suprised

Can't say I'm suprised to hear such horror stories. While I myself haven't yet had the joys of being threatened with debt collectors, I HAVE been subjected to Oranges insulting and rude "customer support/service". I won't go into details, only that they've pretty much refused to do anything to rectify several problems I've had with my phone over the past few months.

In short, they are an awful company, whom I will be leaving as soon as is humanly possible.

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Anonymous Coward

Orange woes

I upgraded my phone on my current Orange contract in March this year only to find out 3 months later that Orange had actually given me a brand new contract as well as my original one - without me asking for it. After 2 months of toing and froing with Customer Services (being told I was wrong, there was nothing they could do, that i had to keep paying for both contracts!) I received a debt collection letter after I cancelled my Direct Debit because I refused to pay for something I had not requested. Prior to this I had not received any correspondence from Orange indicating what their action would be. Many calls to CS later (one guy called 'Mark' in Disconnections actually said 'Its gonna cost you £200 to disconnect and £455 to get out of your contract"!) I managed to contact the directors office and I complained to OFCOM and it finally got resolved. I got £150 in compensation and my £155 back that I'd already paid them. As soon as my current contract expires I am leaving Orange. I agree, they used to be good. So whats happened? France Telecom possibly??

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Ian

Vodafone as well

I have had pretty much the same problem with vodfone passing on a non existant debt to a debt collector 4 years after i ended my contract with them. Fortunatley the debt collecter only needed one letter informin them of this before they backed off.

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Not surprising

Wonder if Orange still does their Customer service out of Vertex (owned by North West WArter) in the Kirkby area of Merseyside (by the M57/A580). Years ago, I worked there, although for NPower direct. I was working in the 'service excellence' department, dealing with all the complaints that came in from the regulator. We had a big batch of just these kinds of debt collection letters.

Guess who was in the next call-room over, on the way to the canteen... Orange (Bet Direct, and JD williams were handled there as well) No wonder we all used to get s**t-faced in the boffin over the road come lunchtime. I'd rather work at Initech. Got to say, was the worst job I ever had, worse than McDs, Worse than being on a horseradish/curry powder bottling plant, even worse than being in copyight enforcement.

Thanks to them, I made it a point to never work in an office setting like that ever again. I will prostitute myself at truck stops first.

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3 have done similar

3 mobile have done a similar thing with scouring old accounts for possible cash. Out of the blue I received a 17mth old bill demanding I pay £48. Turns out they cancelled my DD too early when I closed my account with them.

Anyways, a quick letter of complaint to their CEO and the mention of OFCOM and Otello soon had a letter of apology winging it's way to me.

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O2 weren't much better

I was with vodaphone and wanted a particular model they did. Took 8 weeks and PAC codes to tell me I can't get it so I went to O2.

I wanted a new phone - they sent me a reconditioned one then lied when I said it wasn't new. Even thought the memory card provided had photo's already of some guy and his family.

The battery didn't take charge. The replacement was in a dpot 40 miles away on a "we tried twice come and get it" card drop. (which they never attempted delivery.)

When trying to get things sorted I had 5 phone calls, one they put down on me and two were to wrong departments because repairs didn't do anything within 14 days.

I cancelled within my 14 days as their customer services sucked. For the next 3 months they were collecting money from my account. Only when I cancelled my DD did they call me and ask why.

Because of the grief they credited my account with £10 (bear in mind I had cancelled 3 months previous and didn't have an account.) and then it took another two months to have the funds returned and the money for buying the phone in the first place took a few emails to get back.

I am on T mobile and their coverage sucks, but at least I got the phone I wanted on a better tarrif.

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Anonymous Coward

Orange strong arm tactics

In February 2006 when I was transferring from Orange to Vodafone, Orange messed about for so long that my initial PAC expired after 30 days. They charged me £19.16 for a second PAC. When I protested they said they would credit it, and that is the last I heard until I received a snotty letter from Moorcroft on 17 August 2007.

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RE: Changing T&C's

Trust me, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to get out of my contract when they altered the T&C's. I even phoned the Telecom Ombudsman or whoever is in charge and they informed me they are allowed to change them so long as it is a legal term and they inform me, which apparently they did by posting it on a website I never visit. Why would I scour the website when I have a functioning phone? It baffles me...but I'm stuck with it. (Well actually I passed the contract onto my loving Dad)

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De Ja Vu

Just for amusement what have I experienced which others have with Orange:

1) Given a contract I did not know about

2) PAC expired as Orange took too long

3) I was charged by Orange for PAC expiring

4) Phantom billing

5) Constant loss of coverage

6) Sent second hand phone which Orange denied

7) Charged £5 for returning second hand phone

8) Sent to debt agency by accident

9) Promised a refund I never got

Oh the list is endless - I think we are seeing the benifits of governments ill equiped to manage our global commerce although they do somehow manage to manage their tax on such services.

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Moved to Vodafone

Looks like I jumped the Orange ship before the rot really set in. I now just keep an Orange Pay-As-You-Go SIM in an old phone for the Orange Wednesdays offer.

Moved to Vodafone a couple of years ago and it's generally been good. Any time they've been incompetent, it's either been in my favour or they've sorted it out with a fairly brief call to customer services. I even managed to wangle a phone I shouldn't have been able to get on upgrade on a tariff that no longer exists to new customers!

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