How Does Alarm Company Send Former Customer To Collections 4 Times For A Bill She Never Owed?

(CBS Sacramento)

It’s bad enough when a company does such a bad job of keeping its books that it sends a customer to collections once for a bill she never owed. But it takes a special kind of stupid to pass that debt around like a hot potato until that customer has to prove her case four separate times.

Unfortunately, that describes the last year of a California woman’s life, as she has had her credit continually spoiled — and lost the opportunity to buy an investment property as a result — all because some alarm company is utterly incompetent.

Back in 2009, the woman cancelled her alarm service in writing. That should have been the end of it, but late last year she began getting collections notices for $449 the company claimed she owed.

Then she was contacted by a second collections agency for the same exact debt. Meanwhile, her credit score dropped a whopping 100 points. That’s when she first called CBS Sacramento’s Kurtis Ming, who was able to get the alarm folks to say they would erase it from their books and repair the woman’s credit.

But that was back in January. Since then, she’s been contacted by two more collections agents still trying to get the $449 she shouldn’t have owed in the first place and which the alarm company says she no longer owes.

“I’m stuck. I actually have no power in this, I feel powerless,” she tells Ming during their latest go-around with this story. “All of a sudden, I’m being punished for something I did not do.”

And before you blame it on the customer and say she’s just trying to get out a bill she should have paid, Ming found out that this alarm company is being sued by a State Attorney in Illinois for allegedly failing “to honor the valid cancellations of automatic renewal contracts by customers and continu[ing] to charge customers for alarm monitoring services.”

The best guess is that while the alarm company took back the debt it had sold to the initial collections agencies, it never actually erased the debt from its own books — and so she got sent back into the collections loop.

She finally got a letter from the alarm company with apology, stating, “[We] agree that it should not have happened… we consider your account closed and in good standing.”

Whenever you cancel a service, especially one with a monthly billing cycle, it’s always best to get a statement in writing that your account is closed and that you owe nothing more. It is illegal for companies to sell debt not actually owed by the customer, so this statement would be strong evidence in your favor if you chose to file a complaint with the courts.

Additionally, collections agencies are supposed to stop contacting you if you tell them to. After that, the only correspondence should be either that legal action is being taken or that the issue has been resolved. Of course, not every agency follows these rules and it can become hazy if the debt is passed from agency to agency.