Makes you proud to be british
That is all :)
It's Friday, so we're sure the following heartwarming tale will cheer your final slog into the weekend: how Reg reader David Humpage is giving BT some serious grief with giant novelty cheques. David wrote to the El Reg consumer affairs department explaining that a couple of years back he noticed he was being charged £4.50 a …
At a guess, I'd say harassment, for siccing the debt collection agency on him, even though he'd paid.
That said, IANAL, so YMMV....
Oh for the days when they were only TLAs...
That said, good on him. Especially the bit about charging for his time if they need it resending...
Tempted to do that myself some time...
...in the US, I believe that it's actually a federal offense not to accept cash, as it represents the legal tender of the US government*. This may have come about after the Civil War, when there were a number of competing monetary systems, including private and state-sponsored ones. Fascinating stuff. I have an old coin from out West, which is "good for all night" at a brothel.
There may be similar legislation covering other forms of payment.
*Which, of course, means that all those businesses that refuse to accept cash -including some government bureaus- are actually in violation of federal law.
Well done, Dave.
Yes, I took advantage of that specific aspect of federal law once.
My local city likes to 'fine' people who don't cut their lawns when the city demands that they do so. So, when I went to pay that fine, I paid it in raggedy $1 bills. I had the exact amount in an envelope, and just tossed it at the cashier, while mumbling something about `fscking Nazi's`.
My opinion of my city government is simple:
FSCK them at $hitty Hall!!!
I believe companies are required to accept anything defined as legal tender, so cash and cheques (not credit cards). In theory I think you could pay them in pennies if you wanted to, although obviously that would be a bit pricey to ship.
Companies cannot claim you didn't pay them just because they refuse to accept your legal method of payment.
Although it is technically legal to pay for a large amount in pennies... I'm sure I remember reading somewhere that the recipient can refuse to accept a large amount of small denomination coins/bills.
I'm not sure how true this is though. Perhaps someone else could shed more light into this
There are defined limits to how much change vendors are forced to accept. From the Royal Mint :
£5 (Crown) - for any amount
£2 - for any amount
£1 - for any amount
50p - for any amount not exceeding £10
25p (Crown) - for any amount not exceeding £10
20p - for any amount not exceeding £10
10p - for any amount not exceeding £5
5p - for any amount not exceeding £5
2p - for any amount not exceeding 20p
1p - for any amount not exceeding 20p
Kicked 'em off there didn't I?
Apologies for the length, I'll try cover all in one.
Cheques aren't legal tender, legal tender is explained here:-
You will note that even coinage isn't legal tender for various amounts depending on the coins value.
Legal tender provides a defence in law for the accusation of failing to pay a debt, refusing it doesn't make you guilty of an offence, just unable to collect.
It is not automatically harassment to ask for a debt to be paid, although it depends on the exact correspondence between the two parties, and I suspect that BT aren't falling foul of that.
It is not harassment to take someone to court over a debt, a threat of legal proceedings is not normally "threatening behaviour" in law - it's an expected step.
Can any of you imagine what a court will be thinking when the prosecution claims they have been victimised over a debt where all that's happened is that they've been sent a handful of letters, and they've insisted on paying with a bloody great clown cheque rather than anything resembling legal tender?
>>Can any of you imagine what a court will be thinking when the prosecution claims they have been victimised over a debt where all that's happened is that they've been sent a handful of letters, and they've insisted on paying with a bloody great clown cheque rather than anything resembling legal tender?<<
I would hope the court takes into account the person being sent to debt collection. It's not just "a handful of letters", but an all-out attack on the persons credit record.
Not to be a pedant (oh go on then) but cheques can't be written on anything you like as suggested. They have to conform to C&CCC Standard 3.1 defining physical dimensions, weight and layout:
Still, bloody amusing and I for one am right behind this man's effort to p1ss off BT.
It could be read that that standard applies only to cheques which are printed, to be submitted for automated processing, and includes such things as the format, size and spacing of the MICR line (the funny looking numbers printed in magnetic ink at the bottom). The CPAS standard, AFAIK applies to pre-printed cheques provided to you by your bank in the form of a cheque book, and cheques that are printed in bulk to be mailed out, such as payments or refunds from companies, etc.
I note that this would mean a user would have to be aware of a standard that isn't accessible other than by payment. I didn't see the "weight" bit, but I guess it stops people from sending cheques on slabs of marble. That is, of course, breaking compatibility with stone age cheques, but you have to draw a line somewhere.
On a crossed cheque, presumably.
Mine's the one with the chisels in the pocket..
A cheque is nothing more than a payment instruction to your bank. There are standards to ensure that cheques are easy to process but those arefor the convenience of the banks and are not a law.
BT is entitled to refuse to accept any form of payment excpet legal tender. (Note: what constitutes legal tender varies depending on the size of the debt being settled, e.g. pennies are only legal tender upto a debt of 20p)
If BT accpted his check, i.e. didn't return it then he's fine. I'm not sure if they have to treat all cheques the same regardless of size.
no they don’t...
If someone is having difficulties paying a bill and makes a reasonable offer of payment, then if the creditor does not accept that offer of payment and takes you to court to gain a county court judgement ordering you to honour the debit.
Once in the court, as the defendant, you have the opportunity to tell the court your circumstances and why the offer you made is the best you can offer. Or even why you don’t even owe the money in the first place. (demand for them to produce the credit /sale agreement in court. Without it they cannot prove you owe the money !!!**)
The court then can decide if that persons offer was reasonable. If the court agrees it was reasonable then the creditor is very unlikely to be successful in an plication for the cost of going to court.
For example, if Joe millionaire owes BT £500 and offers to pay them at the rate of £1 per week then the court will determine this is un-resonable. if however, joe skint, on the verge of loosing his house because he was made redundant last year and is currently of sate benefits, owes BT £500 and offered to pay £1 per week until his circumstances change. The court may see this as very reasonable as he also has to pay other creditors a £1 per week and he only gets state benefits (which is exactly how much the law says he needs to live on).
** If you are having difficulties paying a credit-card bill or mobile phone bill or anything that required you to sign a credit agreement. When the sharks start to circle and harass you on the phone. First thing, DO NOT ADMIT you owe the amount outstanding. First step is to tell them you have no record of the debit and can they send you a copy of the original agreement. Without that agreement, you owe them nothing. Second, if it is a debit collection agency calling, you are under no obligation to talk to them. Just ask who they are calling on behalf of, then say thank you, and tell them you will contact the company involved direct. Unless it is in the original agreement that you have to pay the costs of employing a debit collection agency if you default on payments, you do not have to pay any additional charges. Make any payments direct to the original company NOT THE AGENCY.. it pisses them off no end, because most only get paid on what they collect. If you pay direct, they have not collected, they get no fee !!!
"First step is to tell them you have no record of the debit and can they send you a copy of the original agreement. Without that agreement, you owe them nothing."
Very complicated basis to work on. You could do this, but it is up to the court. For example if it is a CC bill and they can show you have been getting bills for the last 5 years the court will probably find against you and won't take kindly to this kind of thing so will issue a judgement for the full amount with no payment plan or negotiation.
"Second, if it is a debit collection agency calling, you are under no obligation to talk to them. Just ask who they are calling on behalf of, then say thank you, and tell them you will contact the company involved direct."
Not a good idea. 1) The creditor will probably refuse to talk to you. 2) You may well end up a summons very very fast. You can get a judgment within 48h. If your debt has been passed to collection agents then the creditor wants rid of you.
Actually, if he's smart he gets a deal with the debt collector. If BT have indeed formally allocated the debt to a debt collector the normal expectation is to recover approx 10%. If he offers them more (say, £1) he could actually clear this debt if the debt collector is amenable to the arrangement.
In my opinion, that would be an even better result - can't imagine a better "up yours"..
Well done David on giving it to BT, probably my least favourite company, but I think you may come unstuck in the end. The tales of people writing cheques on cows etc are all apocryphal. BT are also within their rights to reject any non-standard payment from customers. I expect BT fell silent because the amount they could recoup after a legal battle wasn't sufficient for the outlay and they're considering their options. Careful though because debt agencies will charge for every letter, every visit and that debt quickly grows and if BT are in a litigious mood they will take it to court.
Cheques can be written on anything so long as all the requisite parts of the cheque are correctly included. If you look on the bill from BT you will see that they accept cheques, but you won't see the wording that they, "Conform to C&CCC Standard 3" which would limit you to standard cheques. The only problem that this guy has is that a bank is within it's rights to charge extra for cashing a non-standard cheque; and they could pass this charge on.
Passing a debt on to a debt collector is actually a classic way for a company to handle a debt that is too small for them to bother chasing themselves. The debt collector charges their fee to the customer on a no-win no-fee basis, so the company itself is never more out of pocket than if they do nothing.
For more information on outsize cheques (albeit in the US market) have a look at http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/chk/20010320a.asp?prodtype=bank
"More Misleading Cases in the Common Law" by A P Herbert (1930).
No machine readable characters presumably, and a giant wooden cheque won't go through the cheque handling machinery.
Even if BT banked it, and it goes through the clearing system, how much will his bank charge for processing it?
I've spent 2 hours on the phone over the past 2 days, and lost a day off work thanks to BT's incompetence who couldn't even send an engineer out within a 5 hour appointment slot that they booked over 3 weeks ago.
They have since dispatched an engineer to my property this morning without informing me, only to find there's no-one in - had they sent him at the correct date and time, there would have been.
Well done Dave. Have one on me, a fellow BT-incompetence sufferer.
BT then claimed the cheque rubbered "because it was non-standard" - something David nicely describes as "clearly bollocks".
David splendidly concludes: "I've had my solicitor write them several letters, pointing out that they've been paid with a legal cheque, and it's up to them to cash it. I've even offered to replace the cheque, though stipulating that there'll be a £25 admin charge and the replacement will be on plywood."
LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!! I love this mans way with words and approach. Top marks!! If more people did this these people would likely stop their own stupid games! :)
"Top marks!! If more people did this these people would likely stop their own stupid games! :)"
Sorry, but if enough people were to do this, the big corps would just instruct their puppet lawmakers to pass a law making it illegal.
You would then be free to find a new way to express your righteous civil disobedience until they passed a law blocking that as well.
I have to try this - but the robbing lazy bastards aka "Factors" of my housing estate would be the recipient...BT following a close 2nd.
But printed on something very biodegradeable like a banana, or something infeasbily small - maybe pop into Fujisti down the road, and get them to carve me a cheque a hundred molecules high onto one of my old toenails or something. Or print a full-sized one onto a sheet of glass 0.0001mm thick.
If those count as valid cheques of course.
Stick it to the 'man'!
Now I'm remembering why I rightly haven't been with BT (and not paid them a penny in line rental) in about five years!
I'd have been a little more reasonable to correct the huge cardboard cheque administrative error, and offered them a genuine normal sized bank printed cheque for the outstanding amount, however the Admin fee for providing them such a cheque will have cost them the outstanding debt amount, plus one penny, and I would have ensured this was provided up front.
If they'd have accepted the offer, it would be boring and spoilsportey, so I might have gone a little further, and instead sent them a cheque engraved in a twenty kilo lump of rock, or something, then charge them another admin fee for correcting my error.
Its not like I'd be making them jump thru any more hoops some companies have made me jump thru. The next earliest opportunity, I'm doing it! I don't even own a cheque book!
Poor British Telecom. Years after privatisation, still stuffed with indolent Post Office people and new boys they've cultivated into the same spirit.
BT claims to love "paper-free" communication, but the bill download system broke weeks ago (and still isn't fixed), so affected customers like me now have to ask them to send the bill by e-mail. This week they have a new user interface (and a page full of apologies), but I still can't download my bill.
The saddest reflection of their incompetence and disinterest is that the quickest way to find a business phone number is not to navigate BT Directory Enquiries but to Google it.
Google: enter name / get answer.
BT: Find link to their DE page. Do you want a business or a residential number? What is the name of the business? Where is it? Is that the London in south-east England or the village in Lincolnshire...etc. etc.
from the web site linked to above
"Even today, if you owe someone money they are not obliged to accept a cheque. Instead a creditor is entitled to be paid in legal tender and can refuse payment in any other form."
still good way of buggering them about for a while, well done that man.
... to call my home phone then do a 1471 + 3 to dial me back so that BT don't charge me this month for NOT putting any billable traffic over their phone network.
Apparently it costs them around 9 quid to not carry my calls which they pass on to me every month. Check your bills, people, if your line is BT but your calls go through your ISP or other provider.
I always feel that companies go to extreme lengths to address individiual non-standard issues in the most inconvenient way possible (e.g threaten debt collectors / court action to scare off the customer) instead of actually listening to the customer base.
As I always say to myself from time to time when faced with contentious issues, "I can either be a dick or I can address the problem and find a solution" In this case, BT is being a dick.
While one shouldn't rely on the story, A.P. Herbert did train as a lawyer, and many of his stories did have a point to them as a mockery of some specific element of the law at the time.
My own father was once paid by a cheque written on a sugar bag. The rules have, from time-to-time, changed. Back then, there was some sort of stamp duty, and a postage stamp had to be affixed to the cheque. And banks didn't have computers.
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Seems he's relying on a common law definition of cheque, but not one that will clear the cheque clearing systems. Arguably IF BT presents the cheque for payment, to their bank, the cheque won't clear, and therefore will bounce.
Under the common law though, they can present it to his bank, or to him specifically for payment, and it probably could be honoured.
They're probably ultimately right, but it's not worth anyone's time to enforce it. Well, maybe it is to the lawyer.
He'd probably be seeking a declaration from the court that it was valid satiation of the debt. Basically the court saying to BT, you've been validly paid, now go away.
Really creative and entertaining though, and I hope BT backs off because their "Bill payment" fee is probably deserving of some kind of a consumer protection law smack upside the head.
Cheques are not legal tender and BT are not legally obliged to accept anything except cash.
However, I'm not sure if this changes as BT accepts on its bills that cheques are a legitimate payment method, and this may therefore result in the contract being deemed as satisfied if a valid cheque of any size is offered as payment.
As long as it has all the components i.e. name, account number, signature etc, banks will accept cheques of any size, although they may charge a fee for non-standard versions.
I agree this is a good stunt and I'll be first to join if anyone founds the BT eradication society (I use the phone coop) but I cant help thinking the only real winner out of this is his blood sucking solictior (a vile breed they are) who is no doubt charging him 25 quid+ per letter whereas it'll cost Bollocks Telecom next to bugger all.
Stu had the right idea but I would have stuck to the £25 admin charge.
We need someone to do this to the mobile phone networks now as they've been at this crap of ccharging for anything bar DD for years.
Well done Dave but I think the point has now been made mate.
This is hilarious. Usually these stories go the other way. There's a famous story about a guy who repeatedly tried to collect a debt, the debtor refused to open the door whenever the collector knocked. One day the debtor got fed up and took action, but he was ignorant of the law. He wrote a check onto a wooden door and dropped it from a second floor window onto the collector's head. The debt collector took the door to the bank and they cashed it.
Incompetent, idle, dishonest ... I could go on and on from direct personal experience of this sad and profoundly dishonest excuse for an organisation. Their standards of service are woeful, and they have no qualms about being rude or lying to customers - they'll tell you anything to get rid of you. And every new service or idea they come up with is a reaction to the market - they've long forgotten how to lead, if they ever knew.
Mr Humpage should get a medal for doing what we all dream of but never stir ourselves to do. His name should become a new verb.
And BT proves yet again they're not only useless, but humourless too - any competent organisation would realise that humour is best fought with humour. The sheer PR gain of actually cashing that cheque (whatever effort or cost that involved) has clearly eluded them. But "you ain't allowed to do that, mate!" is their over-riding PR technique.
BT do nothing - NOTHING - unless the end aim is to screw the public. You can take a business out of the public sector, but unfortunately it's not so easy to take jobsworth public sector attitudes out of a business. I don't even pay for my calls via BT - but every month they find new and exciting ways of surcharging me. If I didn't need them for broadband (Moon Base will be cabled before our rural area) they'd be history, with 3 mobile phones in the house.
The only way forward for BT in my view (and it should have been done at the outset) is to fire 100% - starting at the very top - and start selectively re-hiring. I'm not holding my breath.
... is not as simple as "cash please!" either. It's a specific term and doesn't even touch paper money (banknotes, etc); it details the amounts upto which someone is obliged to accept payment in certain coin denominations. For example, I do NOT have to accept your payment of twenty quid in pennies.
I've always wondered about direct debits after a run-in I had with a financial institution about the date they submitted a direct-debit wandered up to 5 days behind, and a few days before the draw date.
If BT or whoever decide to consistently draw direct debits one day early, how many people would notice. But how much would it be worth to them to get the interest on tens of thousands of bill's worth of money for a day!
At the start of this year I noticed that BT were charging £2.50 a month for me not using the line enough! They call the fee: "BT Caller Display low use charge"
I actually use the line for incoming calls only but otherwise pay a full rental on the line.
A sharp phone conversation with BT soon encouraged them to refund all such charges and to cancel the Caller Display (which had previously been free).
Needless to say if they continue to annoy me I'll pay their bills in one pound coins. Those coins are legal tender in any amount..
... and Mr Humpage. But ultimately, while I applaud action like this, it's ultimately wasted.
BT simply DON'T CARE.
They are never going to care. They're not even remotely interested in your opinion of them - they come up with glib justifications for everything they do - or more often fail to do. They're not interested in the standards of service they give. The top echelons live in over-salaried ivory towers - if they were fired tomorrow they'd exit with golden handshakes you and I could only match with a Lottery win. The people at the bottom are so badly managed, poor standards and misbehaviour are inevitable.
BT do respond - occasionally - when their managerial quiet life is threatened. But only on an individual basis and it takes a hell of a lot of effort - they aren't ever going to change their ways.
Why should they?
BT have something called, "The Bench" where an employee can choose to go of their own volition, to be redeployed within the company.
Managers can't be too hard on their staff, 'cause they know that if they do, the staff will just opt to go to the bench and that'll leave the managers low on staff, have to go through more internal recruitment interviews, retraining and all the ballyhoo that goes with it.
Let's face it ... the whole organisation is in a mess.
I also pay the £4.50 fee as the last 4 bills have been wrong and had I paid by DD I wouldnt have noticed.
The latest BT Scam is to drop on the odd 15p to 60p direct dialled call even though I have a different call provider.
Its clearly labelled a direct dialled call and not a ring back service or whatever and they agree its a "billing error" but if they are doing it to everyone who uses a third party call provider its a very lucrative "error".
I think to get the full value from the £4.50 charge it would be appropriate to write the cheque in blood on parchment, vampires like that!
Paris - better customer service than BT
if BT say they accept payments by cheque then a cheque they must accept. if they say a cheque that conforms to a particular standard then it must conform to that standard or they can and should reject it. if they say they set out in the t&c that they will charge an additional handling fee for non standard cheques they must define how much. if they don’t say anything, then they cant charge for it.
in this case, it makes no difference if they accept non standard cheques or not. when they said they tried to cash the cheque and that it bounced, they had then accepted the cheque as an acceptable method of payment. Also, if they did say in the T&C that they only accept standard cheques as method of payment then because they had accepted the non standard cheque, the rest of the T&C are null and void until they provide you with an amended set of T&C.. (in my opinion the best way to get out of a contract is to get them to alter the T&C without providing a printed copy of the amendment)
at this point, they then say they "lost" the cheque and requested a replacement. At this point, you should reply using recoded delivery, stating that you will replace the cheque but at the expense of a processing fee. also include a list of charges* for each time you have to write to them, each time you call them, each time they call you....State in the letter a reasonable length of time for then to respond to you. say 21 days, to ether agree to the fees or reject them. state in the letter if they do not respond in this time you will assume the the matter to be ended and the closing balance on your account to be nil.
*you can charge what you like, but if it eventually goes to the courts, if your charges have been reasonable the courts will look favourably on you.
well done, I paid a disputed parking fine on a paving stone
it was reported on the front page of our local newspaper
needles to say the council threatened me with legal action for non payment
so i told them any further payments would be made on a cast Iron bath
eventually they gave in,
more power to the people.....
PS, when they missed out my dustbins, i wrapped the rubbish in gift wrapping
and delivered it by hand to the chief clerk at the town hall.....
never missed collection again.
If they have admitted it costs them little or nothing to pay online (or indeed by BACS), can they legally charge for doing so?
I won't pay them by DD, they overcharge me on almost every bill. (And for many years, my cheques have been made out to British TelecoN, and never been queried!)
My mum does not have a CC or a cheque book and refuses to pay the exorbitant fees for a bank cheque or money order, which made paying for her TAFE (trade college) course difficult. Until I advised her to point out that the "Cash not accepted" sign at the counter was in violation of the Australian Federal Treasures Act. They accepted her cash payment, and I noticed a few weeks later the "Cash not accepted" sign was also suddenly absent from the counter window at my own TAFE college.
Bills of Exchange Act 1882 (still in force with some amendmends, included if necessary below) defines a cheque :
"A cheque is a bill of exchange drawn on a banker payable on demand."
And a bill of exchange is (quoting in full - it can give you some nice ideas ;) )
"A bill of exchange is an unconditional order in writing, addressed by one person to another, signed by the person giving it, requiring the person to whom it is addressed to pay on demand or at a fixed or determinable future time a sum certain in money to or to the order of a specified person, or to bearer.
(2)An instrument which does not comply with these conditions, or which orders any act to be done in addition to the payment of money, is not a bill of exchange.
(3)An order to pay out a particular fund is not unconditional within the meaning of this section; but an unqualified order to pay, coupled with (a) an indication of a particular fund out of which the drawee is to re-imburse himself or a particular account to be debited with the amount, or (b) a statement of the transaction which gives rise to the bill, is unconditional.
(4)A bill is not invalid by reason—
(a)That it is not dated;
(b)That it does not specify the value given, or that any value has been given therefor;
(c)That it does not specify the place where it is drawn or the place where it is payable."
My telco started charging $1.00 U.S. to pay bills online, so I wrote to their customer service folks that if they want to sway people to mail in checks for payment -- meaning that people on the telco payroll will have to enter all the payment info -- instead of letting us customers enter all the information ourselves at no cost to the company, so be it. A few weeks later I got an email joyously proclaiming that the "convenience fee" is being rescinded. Wanna bet the dope who thought of the "convenience fee" is probably still on the job?
"In Great Britain, all cheques must be printed according to C&CCC Standard 3.1"
More than that, such as what the standard is or what legal basis it has, I can't tell you, since it costs over a hundred quid to purchase the publicly-available standard... Still, I'm willing to bet it excludes paving stones and two-by-fours!
On the other hand, if you can screw over the crooks at BT so that it costs them more to debate their case than your bill is worth, all power to you.
I think these are internal industry standards for banks, and other institutions that print cheques, aimed at reducing fraud and speeding up processing, therefore they probably don't apply to your average punter. Are previously noted a cheque can legally be printed or written on anything as far as I can make out.