Mr S is credit defaulted for unpaid bills after moving house, following a divorce (February 2017)

Debt collection and credit default listings
Case Number 2016/27453
Outcome Conciliation

The issue

Mr J received contact from a debt collection agency requesting payment for $935.32 in unpaid gas bills from a property that he no longer lived at.

Mr J vacated the property several years earlier due to a marriage separation. The bills at the property had remained in his name as part of a marriage settlement agreement and he continued to pay them while his ex-wife continued to live at the property.

Mr J contacted the energy retailer to ask about the debt collection activity and the unpaid bills and was advised the gas account had been closed. He was concerned as he had not requested the closure of the account. The retailer advised him that in August 2015 the account had been closed and that the final gas bill, and several subsequent reminder notices and warnings of pending debt collection, had been sent to the property. The retailer told Mr J that the debt had since been sold to a debt collection agency and the matter would need to be discussed with it directly.

Concerned about the timeline of events, and the information he had received from the retailer, Mr J contacted EWOV for further assistance.

The investigation

After discussing the issue with Mr J, EWOV raised an Assisted Referral and requested that the retailer contact Mr J directly to attempt to resolve the matter. However, Mr J contacted EWOV again after receiving this call because he was still dissatisfied that his account had been closed without his consent, which resulted in the credit default being placed against his name.

EWOV escalated the matter to an Investigation where a more in-depth review of the circumstances was undertaken.

The retailer provided additional information to EWOV and confirmed that the account had initially been established in 2009 in Mr J’s name and was closed in August 2015.EWOV was advised that Mr S’s ex-wife had contacted the retailer to request a new account be established in her name, forcing the closure of the existing account. 

The retailer also provided dates on which the final bill, reminder notices and letters warning of pending debt collection activity were sent to the property. In addition, the retailer provided details about the phone calls and text messages that it had made notifying him of the unpaid bills and pending debt collection activity.  The retailer advised that it would not request the removal of the credit default as it had made sufficient attempts to contact Mr J before referring the unpaid debt to a debt collection agent in June 2016. 

The outcome

Mr J was dissatisfied that the account had been closed without his permission but understood that the retailer had been acting on the request of the new household customer (the ex-wife) to establish a new account for the property – which forces the ‘move out’ of the previous account holder.

Mr J also understood that the arrangement between him and his ex-wife around the payment of the bills at the property also had no bearing on the collection activities undertaken by the retailer, as it had followed the correct steps to collect payment for the unpaid bill in his name.

EWOV considered that the retailer had demonstrated that it had made considerable efforts to make contact with Mr J to recover payment for the unpaid gas bill, before selling the debt to a mercantile agent.

Mr J agreed to contact the mercantile agent to arrange payment of the debt and to discuss options for removing the credit default. He agreed that the retailer had followed all necessary steps when attempting to collect the debt. Satisfied with EWOV’s investigation into the matter, the case was closed.

You can find more information about this in our Credit Default Listings and Debt Collection factsheet [PDF, 260 KB].  

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