1. Jurisdiction decision
The dispute in this case relates to the question of whether late payment charges were correctly applied to the Customer’s account. This is a complaint that relates to a telecommunication service, and one that falls within TDR’s jurisdiction to consider.
The Customer is disputing the late payment fees of $36.80 on two of his accounts.
3. Dispute outcome
The Customer’s complaint is upheld.
4. Final determination
In making this determination I have considered the information provided by the Customer and the Scheme Member and
- Fairness in all the circumstances
- Any relevant legal requirements
- The Code and its service standards, including position statements; and
- Any other relevant telecommunications code.
Having discussed this with the Customer by email and telephone on 27th January 2023 and 3rd February 2023, and the Scheme Member on 26 January 2023, 27th January 2023, 2nd February 2023 and 3rd February 2023 I am satisfied that there is no settlement of the dispute. Therefore, I make the following determination:
5. The Dispute
The Customer did not pay his July and August 2022 accounts until August and September 2022. His reason for delaying payment was that he was waiting for the outcome of a previous TDR adjudication regarding the method of payment.
6. Positions of the respective parties
The Customer had two accounts that were debited with late payment fees for the months of July and August 2022. The Customer did not make payment for these accounts while waiting for the outcome of a previous adjudication on the matter involving cash payments and the issue of a printed receipt instore. When the matter was determined by adjudication the Customer made up the late payments over the following month.
Scheme member’s position
The Customer did not provide any details of charges that he believed to be incorrect or in dispute. Rather, he advised the Scheme Member that he would not be paying late payment fees. The Scheme Member applied late payment fees in line with its General Terms.
7. Reasons for the decision
The reason for the final determination has been made after discussion with the parties and taking the overall situation into account.
The Scheme Member has correctly applied the late payment fees to the Customer’s two accounts for the months of July and August 2022 in line with its General Terms below:
- .. Each bill will tell you the due date for payment. You must pay the bill by that date. Ask us about the different ways you can pay. Our bills are based on records. Let us know before the due date for payment if you think there is a mistake in your bill. We will investigate the matter straight away. While we are doing this, you do not need to pay the queried part of the bill by the due date for payment. However, if you have already paid your bill you may still query your bill within three months of the due date if you think there is a mistake. You must not set-off or deduct any amount in any other circumstances.
- .. If there is a mistake we will adjust your next bill or, if appropriate provide a refund.
- If there is no mistake, and if the due date for payment has already passed, you must pay the amount outstanding straight away or as otherwise agreed with us. If you do not pay a bill by the due date for payment:
- we may either charge you a late payment fee (which reflects the costs to us of recovering money owed to us) or interest on the unpaid amount from that date until you pay it; the current late payment fee and interest rate are set out on our website
It is clear from the above that the Scheme Member has carried out its billing procedures strictly in accordance with its General Terms. The matter in the previous dispute was not the quantum of the account but the method of payment.
The Customer did not pay his two accounts in July and August because of an incorrect assumption of consequentiality, below:
- “if you have an account or bill under dispute an make a payment that means you accept the account or bill and since there payment method was under dispute if I had paid by any other method, it would’ve made my dispute null and void as it would’ve been said that I could and accepted other form of payment that they had which I did not”
The Customer and the Scheme Member are bound by the Scheme Member’s General Terms as well as the CCC. The CCC under Billing states:
- 10.1 The Scheme Members terms and conditions should set out that the Customer is liable for the charges for all the services provided, no matter who uses them. If an account is overdue Customers may be charged a late payment fee.
- 10.5 If there is a query with a bill the Customer may dispute the bill with the Scheme Member. Customers do not need to pay the disputed part of the bill while their Scheme Member investigates and confirms whether there has been an error.
Although the quantum of the bill was not in dispute, there was nevertheless a query with the bill that the Customer was attempting to resolve through TDRS. The Customer made no payment during the period of the investigation deciding, on incorrect grounds, that this put him in a vulnerable position. It could be argued, however, that the Customer’s situation falls within the above category.
In any event, it would have been prudent for the Customer, when making contact with the Scheme Member regarding late payment fees, to have discussed the matter rather than making the unilateral decision to withhold payment. The call notes from the Scheme Member say:
- “…He adv me he will not be paying LPF..”
When making a call to the Scheme Member it is possible that the person taking the call was not aware of the full situation at the time.
The Scheme Member’s late payment annotations relate to covering the cost of money owed and it ought to be noted that in this case there would have been no such cost other than the referral to TDR.
The Scheme Member, during the course of this referral to TDR, has given consideration to the above situation and has credited the Customer’s account with fifty percent of the outstanding late payment fees. The Customer was not willing to accept this as a means of settling the dispute.
In making my determination I have relied on section 34.6.1 of the CCC which relates to fairness in all the circumstances. The dispute has an unusual set of circumstances that, in my opinion, fit under this provision.
8. Future actions
The Scheme Member has already credited the Customer’s accounts with $18.40 each.
The Scheme Member is to credit the Customer’s two accounts with $18.40 (being $36.80 in total) within 14 days of the date of this adjudication.