Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/04/demon_billing/

Demon chases overdue accounts

Admits some bills may have been sent in error

By Tim Richardson

Posted in Broadband, 4th April 2006 14:19 GMT

Demon has admitted that a "very small number" of its customers might have been invoiced incorrectly, after it carried out a sweep on overdue accounts recently. It seems some invoices may have been sent out in error and, as a result, it's set up an email address for people to contact if they think they may be affected by the snafu.

The ISP's admission follows a story last week which told how one Demon punter was billed £1,200 after it failed to collect cash for four years. At the time, a spokeswoman for the firm, which is owned by Scottish telco Thus, said this was an isolated case and that any repetition was "unlikely".

Not according to the sack full of emails received by El Reg over the weekend:

"I am one of those 'unlikely' customers who Demon forgot to bill," wrote one customer, who said she was unaware that Demon had stopped collecting cash from her account in February 2005.

"Imagine my surprise about a week ago when I received a letter from Demon's debt collection agency telling me that I owed £240 and threatening to cut off my service. The letter said that an earlier letter had been sent, but I had never received any such letter. I immediately paid the debt, embarrassed by the whole situation, but it took some time to get the matter straightened out with Demon's outsourced call centre.

"Eventually, Demon established a new direct debit for me, because it said that 'somehow' it had entered the old number in incorrectly. When I spoke to my bank, though, I was told that no one had tried to collect that amount for an erroneous bank account number or any other bank account; Demon had simply stopped collecting the money."

And then there's this one: "I have just had to pay my last 16 months bills, nearly £400. My card expired and I entered in new details to the site in 2004 and left it at that. Each month I received the regular invoice which only ever stated £24.99 owing. All of a sudden out of the blue I got my line disconnected. I then discovered that I owed this money to them. Needing access, I paid the money. To add insult to injury, the following week I received nine letters on the same day (two weeks ago), all dated the same asking for the £400."

And this: "At the beginning of March I received a letter from Demon Customer Services, the gist of which was: 'We haven't been able to collect your payment for a long time, you now owe us £300 pay up in five days or we will pass this matter on to a third party collection agency'. When I rang the customer services number on the letter, the contact in the Indian call centre I got through to informed me that the bill was outstanding because for the past two years or so they hadn't been able to charge my debit card.

"OK, I'll put my hand up at this point. About two years ago my card was cancelled and a new card issued after my bank intercepted (and prevented) some suspicious activity on the old card. I forgot to inform Demon of the change of card, hence the failure of the debits. However, for Demon not to notify me of the payment problems for over two years (while still providing the services and an occasional snail mail-delivered magazine) and to then jump on me out of the blue with a threat of debt collection is hardly good customer service."

And how about this: "I have just gone through exactly the same situation. I received a bill from Demon about a month ago, for £850-odd quid, for 17 months of Demon access. I had also provided them with correct credit card details, but they failed to take any money. The problem only came to light because I cancelled my account, having moved to another ISP. I have agreed terms to pay back the debt, but was annoyed to find out that Demon was very unwilling to admit any fault on their part for failing to take the money.

"When I first got my ADSL from Demon, I paid each bill as it came in, and they were very quick to send me letters when my payment was late. Then I switched to pay by credit card, and that seems to be when they started failing to take payment. I would urge all Demon customers to check their credit card bills to check that payments are being taken."

In a statement, Demon told us it "regularly reviews overdue payments" as part of its "ongoing business processes". As a result, it identified "a small number of customers with outstanding balances".

"As with all businesses, not all of our customers pay their bills on time and it is necessary for us to then attempt to collect these outstanding monies," it said.

It went on: "Similarly, as with all businesses, administrative errors occasionally occur. In this instance, a very small number of our customers may have been invoiced incorrectly. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused and should customers believe that this applies to them, they should contact: demoncustomerrelations@demon.net." ®