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On Thursday, 24 January 2002, Derek Guille broadcast
> this story on his afternoon program on ABC Radio.
> In March 1999, a man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in
> NSW) received a bill for his as yet unused gas line
> stating that he owed $0.00. He ignored it and threw it
> away.
> In April he received another bill for the same amount
> and threw that one away too. The following month the
> gas company sent him a very nasty note stating that
> they were going to cancel his gas line if he didn't
> send them $0.00 by return mail. He called them, talked
> to them, they apologised and said it was a computer
> error and they would take care of it.
> The following month he decided that it was about time
> that he tried out the troublesome gas line figuring
> that if there was usage on the account it would put an
> end to this ridiculous predicament. However, when he
> went to use the gas, it had been cut off. He called
> the gas company who apologised again for the computer
> error yet again and said that they would take care of
> it.
> The next day he got a bill for $0.00 stating that
> payment was now overdue.
> Assuming that having spoken to them the previous day
> the latest bill was yet another mistake, he ignored
> it, trusting that the company would be as good as
> their word and sort the problem out. The next month he
> got a bill for $0.00. This bill also stated that he
> had 10 days to pay his account or the company would
> have to take steps to recover the debt.
> Finally, giving in, he thought he would beat the gas
> company at their own game and mailed them a cheque for
> $0.00. The computer duly processed his account and
> returned a statement to the effect that he now owed
> the gas company nothing at all.
> A week later, the manager of the Mudgee branch of the
> Westpac Banking Corporation called our hapless friend
> and asked him what he was doing writing cheque for
> $0.00. After a lengthy explanation the bank
> manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had caused all
> their cheque processing software to fail. The bank
> could therefore not process ANY cheques they had
> received from ANY of their customers that day because
> the cheque for $0.00 had caused the computer to crash.
> The following month the man received a letter from the
> gas company claiming that his cheque had bounced and
> that he now owed them $0.00 ~ and unless he sent a
> cheque by return mail they would take immediate steps
> to recover the debt. At this point, the man decided to
> file a debt-harassment claim against the gas company.
> It took him nearly two hours to convince the clerks at
> the local courthouse that he was not joking.
> They subsequently helped him in the drafting of
> statements which were considered substantive evidence
> of the aggravation and difficulties he had been forced
> to endure during this debacle.
> The matter was heard in the Magistrate's Court in
> Mudgee and this was the outcome :
> The gas company was ordered to:
> [1] Immediately rectify their computerised accounts
> system or Show Cause, within 10 days, why the matter
> should not be referred to a higher court for
> consideration under Company Law.
> [2] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by the man.
> [3] Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred by all the
> Westpac clients whose cheques had been bounced on the
> day our friend's had been processed.
> [4] Pay the claimant's court costs; and
> [5] Pay the claimant a total of $1500 per month for
> the 5 month period March to July inclusive as
> compensation for the aggravation they had caused their
> client to suffer.
> And all this over an amount of $0.00........... Who
> employed these idiots??
> This story can also be viewed on the ABC website.
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