Reporter Hannah Wallis
Young Jeff Watts tries to be responsible with his spending, his cellphone is on prepay and he tops the credit up each month, roughly $20 worth. About 4 months ago he bought a 3G phone off a friend and used it to connect to the internet, mostly downloading free songs. (You can use a cell- phone to do that if, say, your computer isn't wired into a phone system)
But earlier this month Jeff hit a snag with his pre-pay phone - he thought he had about $10 credit left - but that seemed to have disappeared. He rang Vodafone - they told him no, you've used up all your credit, in fact you owe us money. Why? Because although the stuff Jeff was downloading was free from the source, the use of Vodafone's technology to download them wasn't.
And Vodafone told Jeff that, for example, his last week of downloading alone - 1.6 gigabytes - had come to around $18,000! So what would it be for the whole four months? Vodafone said it was having difficulty working that out so Jeff did his own sums. He thought he'd used up to 30 gigabytes all up - so around $360,000! Chances of paying that off - zilch.
But when Fair Go got in touch about this debt Vodafone had this to say:
"This customer should not have accumulated a debt as he is on prepay. We apologise for the mistake and confusion it has caused and have made sure he now has the $10 credit he used to top up his mobile."
So - a huge mistake telling Jeff he had debt - Vodafone says it's unsure how that happened but it's now training its customer service reps. It seems to us that Vodafone hasn't worked out a way of monitoring and billing people who download stuff using pre-paid phones, as it happens. Bottom line is though, Vodafone says people on prepay cannot rack up a debt like this - and we'd like to hear from anyone on a Vodafone prepay who's either been told they have a large debt like Jeff's or have actually had money taken off their prepay phone credit. We'll chase it up for next year.
Reporter: Erica Wood
The first Simone Barclay says knew she had a debt with Blockbuster was when she was declined a new account with Kiwibank because of a bad credit rating. She was shocked by this, because as far as she knew, she had a very good credit rating and had paid all her bills on time. Simone tracked it back and found Blockbuster had lodged a debt of $34 with the collection agency Baycorp because of late return fees. But she says Blockbuster's Mt Eden franchise never contacted her to tell her she even owed the money, because if it had, she would gladly have paid.
Simone does admit she did move from the address the store had on its records, but she says that her mobile number never changed and it was even listed in the White Pages. Simone says she was flabbergasted at the debt, and despite clearing it up with Baycorp, a record of the default will still remain on her credit rating for another five years.
The Mt Eden franchise of Blockbuster has recently closed down, but Fair Go managed to track down its previous owner. When asked if he got in touch with Simone Barclay to tell her she had money owing before sending the debt to Baycorp, he could not tell us if she was contacted or not because he said he no longer had access to his customer database. But, he said, normal Blockbuster policy is that default customers would be called and have three warning letters sent to their address before debts are transferred to Baycorp. He said customers do have a clear obligation under their contract with Blockbuster to update address details when they change.
The former Blockbuster franchise owner has cooperated with Fair Go and asked for Baycorp to delete the debt, which means Simone Barclay no longer has to serve out a five year bad credit sentence. Kiwibank has also changed its mind and taken her on as a customer.
- There are no real rules or regulations on how much of effort companies have to make to find you if you owe them money. The onus really is on you, the customer, to make sure your contact details are up to date.
- Make sure you keep a list of all the companies you should update your details with when you shift addresses.
- To be extra certain, you can update your address details with Veda Advantage - www.vedaadvantage.co.nz - Veda Advantage is the new company that now holds all your credit history details - it used to be Baycorp, but Baycorp is now solely a debt collecting agency.
- If you're contacted by Baycorp because you have a debt, you have a grace period of 14 days. This means that if you pay the debt within that time frame, it will not affect your credit rating. After that, it will be noted on your credit history and last for five years. Please note, that not all debt collection agencies have a grace period.
- You can check your own credit history for free by logging onto www.mycreditfile.co.nz
It will take up to ten working days to get back to you, however, if you'd like it sooner than that - they do have a faster service, but there is a cost.
Reporter: Sandra Kailahi
Rachel Moloney paid $16 to park all day at the Tournament car park on K'Road but the machine didn't print out a ticket. She called the helpline and was told to try the other machine which she did and the same thing happened. Rachel called the helpline again and Tournament sent out a technician. She said the technician got her registration plate details and rang the office to put her on a 'no tow' list. Rachel got a witness to confirm this and then went off to work.
But at lunchtime she returned to find her car had been clamped and was about to be towed.
Rachel rang the Tournament office and questioned why she was being towed when she on the 'no tow' list. She said the woman on the phone called her a liar because the technician didn't have the authority to put Rachel on a 'no tow' list. Rachel was angry and complained to the office but after waiting five weeks for a reply she decided to come to Fair Go.
University student, Emma Gillespie thought she was on to a good thing when she paid $4.00 to park in a Tournament car park in Ngaoho Place, just out of the Auckland CBD. That was until her car was towed and she ended up with a bill, fifty times more expensive than her parking fee. Emma said she was towed because she used an Auckland City Council parking machine to pay her fee but parked in a Tournament car park.
The problem is the car park is not clearly signposted. When you enter it there is a Tournament sign on the road then as you drive into the car park, there is an Auckland City Council sign but as you drive towards the end of the area, it turns into a Tournament car park facility.
To make matters worse Tournament Parking had two signs opposite each other with arrows pointing to both the Tournament and Auckland City Council machines. Emma was confused and after getting nowhere came to Fair Go.
Tournament Parking told Fair Go that Rachel Moloney's name was put on a 'no tow' list but because of a communication breakdown with staff, that was not adhered to and she was clamped. They have apologised and will refund her the whole $182.
The company will also refund Emma's $200 towing fee and have since reworded its confusing signs at their carpark on Ngaoho Place. It's also got rid of the confusing arrows on both signs.
Reporter - Simon Mercep
Hamilton teenager Wei-Jin Wee loves rugby, and displayed his knowledge and analytical skills by beating more than 40 thousand other fans across the rugby world by winning a virtual rugby competition.
Wei-Jin scored most points in the FantasyRugby.com's Super 14 game, which ended in May. His prize was a Super 14 jersey of his choice. Wei-Jin already had a Chiefs' jersey, and opted for the Crusaders strip.
But several attempts by Wei-Jin and his parents to email the website to arrange collection of the prize proved fruitless. They said they got no reply at all. Wei-Jin's mother said the company's lack of response was a bad message to send to young people about following through with a promise.
After being approached by Fair Go the FantasyRugby.com apologised to Wei-Jin and his family. They said they ran the competition with few staff and resources were stretched. They undertook to do better in future competitions.
They arranged for Wei-Jin to get his jersey, which Fair Go presented to a happy and grateful Wei-Jin.
Reporter: Kevin Milne
A Dunedin couple, who are about to take on Tower Insurance in court, are outraged they weren't made aware of an undertaking Tower's CEO made in the Fair Go studio two years ago.
In 2005, the then CEO of Tower, Jim Minto, undertook to review all cases where insured's had been not been paid out after their rental properties had been damaged by fire in tenants suicide attempts.
This followed a u-turn by the insurer after a couple had complained to Fair Go they'd been battling for seven months to get compensation for a fire they didn't light. Until Fair Go's intervention, Tower wouldn't pay out saying they fire was deliberately lit by someone legally on the property.
But we've discovered that Tower has been using the same argument against another couple who've been trying to get a payout for a suicide-attempt fire in their rental property in 2001.
But Tower claims the circumstances of that fire are different, though it won't explain how, because the matter is now before the court. It also argues that the undertaking to review such cases didn't apply to a case back as far as 2001.
The words used by Tower's CEO were: "if there are any others that we find that have been treated in a similar way, we will go back and review those claims too."