Tim, Tina and the Telco dilemma
Account holder caught out by debt incurred by family member authorised on the account.
Tim* authorised his cousin Tina* to have full access to his telco account. Tim subsequently stopped using that particular account but did not change who was authorised or what their level of authority was. Unbeknownst to Tim, Tina used the account for mobile services and to purchase several expensive handsets. Tina also changed the email address and contact telephone number on the account so that only she would get the bills and any contact from the telco. Then, Tina fell behind on the account and stopped paying.
Tim had no idea anything had happened with the account until he received a letter from a debt collection agency for approximately $2,000 worth of unpaid charges that Tina had spent on the account. Tim explained to his telco what had happened, but according to the terms and conditions of Tim’s contract, he was responsible for whatever anyone authorised on the account did. Tim disputed that he should be responsible for what Tina did.
Tim contacted the TDR for help in sorting out the issue. Working with a TDR practitioner, Tim and his telco reached an agreed solution. The practitioner was able to help both Tim and Tim’s telco see each other’s perspectives. Tim’s telco agreed to waive most of the late charges on the account, leaving approximately $1,300, which Tim agreed to pay. Tim’s telco also set up a reasonable repayment plan for Tim and provided documents which Tim could use to pursue a separate claim against Tina.
This case study highlights the importance of understanding what it means when you authorise someone on your account. In most cases, this means that the person can charge hardware (new phones, etc.); enter into plans/use the services; change where bills are going; and, change passwords. However, there are different levels of authorisation and you can set different timeframes for authorisation. Talk to your telco first and understand what authorisation means before you authorise anyone on your account.
* Names have been changed