June 17, 2010

Ranty Picks A Fight

We-ell, this is more about self-defence. It is a fight nevertheless.

Just to set the scene, (for those newer readers that may not know, I have just relocated Clan Ranty), this tale is about electricity providers, their ineptitude, and their unseemly haste in bringing in the bailiffs.

Sadly for them they picked the wrong dog to kick.

So, we've moved in, and thanks to a cock up by my telephony provider, (let's call them Bee Tee), I had no landline for two weeks. My cellphone provider, (let's call them Oh Too), have zero coverage in my new neighbourhood. I mention this because when you set up a new account with a utility company they pretty much insist on a number they can reach you on. So I delayed signing up with one until we had a usable number.

Once the phone line was in, the first call I made was to my (old) utility company asking them to provide service at Ranty Barracks. They were delighted and asked me for a meter reading, which I supplied. This was on April 14 of this year. (Two weeks after we had moved in).

Seven days later I get a letter from the last owners' utility company urging me to pay for the electricity I had used in the 14 days prior to the "switch-over" from one provider to another. They demanded £180.00. For 14 days. A little miffed, I called them and said I would be happy to pay for electricity used, but that it would be a cold day in hell before I sent them £180. They concurred, and promised to adjust the figure and send me a new demand.

The new demand arrived seven days later looking exactly like the first one. £180.00, or, (this was new and different), they would appoint a debt collection agency to recover the money I had "refused" (their words) to pay. Cue another phone call from me to them.

Same company, different operative. Same conversation, same outcome. "Leave it to us Captain, we will fix everything".

14 days later I get a new letter. This one, from a debt recovery company, says, "INTENTION OF COURT ACTION". The utility company, without a single word to me, had "instructed them to take the most appropriate action to recover the debt".

I think I was supposed to be terrified and immediately send off £180 to the debt recovery goons. I was not. And I didn't.

Instead, I (CR) called the utility company (UC) and here is an almost verbatim transcript of the conversation:

UC: Can I have your account number please?

CR: I don't have an account with you. BTW, is this being recorded?

UC: Yes it is. I will need an account number.

CR: There is an account number on the letter you sent, but I didn't ask for it, and I don't have a contract with you.

UC: Erm, what is the account number?

CR: [I give him the number]. Just to be clear, can you confirm that I do not have a contract with you?

UC: I, er, well, that is, I er, don't know. I suppose you do.

CR: No, I don't. Please make a note of that indisputable fact. I never asked you for anything. I simply moved into my new home and later learnt that you provided service for the last owner. No paperwork, and no verbal contract binds us, do you agree?

UC: Look, I really don't know about this stuff. I just work in collections. When are you going to send us the £180?

CR: Never.

UC: Oh! Well, the debt recovery company will be around to make erm, arrangements for you to pay it.

CR: Cool! I look forward to that. I just have a couple of questions.

UC: Ye-es.

CR: If I don't have a contract with you, what makes you think I have a contract with the debt recovery goons?

UC: Well, I don't, that is to say I'm not really.....[I never did find out what he wasn't]

CR: Never mind. Last question: did your company sell the "debt" to the debt recovery clowns?

UC: I don't know. I heard once in the canteen that that is how it works but I can't say for sure. What difference does that make?

CR: All the difference in the world. If this does go to court I want you to imagine my statement. It will be something like this:  "M'lud, a company I have no contract with, sold my "debt" to another company I don't have a contract with involving £180 for electricity that I could not possibly have used in the period claimed. One of the companies that I don't have a contract with bought the alleged debt from the other company that I don't have a contract with. In the eyes of the law this debt has been settled. I'm off, have a lovely day".

UC: Oh. Well, what can I do?

CR: For one thing, you can advise your legal team to make a copy of this recording and keep it safe. I will be demanding that the court listen to it. Bye bye now.

Yes, I know I was a little harsh with the collections person, but it reads worse than the actual conversation. I was stood up during the entire conversation (it's an old sales trick, it helps you think faster), and I deliberately put a smile on my face while talking. This comes through even on a phone call. It will be heard during playback, if we ever get that far.

There have been further developments since. I have contacted my utility company and asked them why they never sent the meter readings to the company threatening me with legal action. I was told, and offered proof, that they had called them on April 15th. Within 24 hours of me telling them the meter readings they had sent them to the old provider. I missed it out of the transcript above but I also asked what the problem was and why they were chasing so hard and they claimed that my utility company had NOT sent the readings to them. So I have that lie on tape as well.

It was the bullying, the threats, and the engagement of the debt recovery gorillas that got me riled. They were way too soon. Too eager to use the cudgel. That, and they were all the way wrong.

I like to think that I surprised the shit out of them.

The goons were supposed to visit me last Friday. I watched my drive carefully. No show.

I freely confess that there is a part of me that wants them to show up.

So that I can tell them to fuck off.



Bucko said...

Captain - I had a similar problem with British Gas. Fortunately I was able to "Prove" I moved in 4 months after I did. Its a long story.
One guy on t'interweb (while I was researching my options) said his case got to court. The first question he asked was how the bill was calculated. The solicitor didnt have a clue and said that info comes under the data protection act. Apparently the case was instantly dismissed.

Makes you wonder how many folk just pay up though, doesnt it.

Captain Ranty said...


"Makes you wonder how many folk just pay up though, doesnt it."

Embarrassing to admit, but I would have done so myself just a few years ago.

Letters threatening court action used to scare me silly.

Not any more. Not ever again.

Cheeky bastards.


EG said...

Sir I applaud you and the ranty horse you ride upon!

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks EG!

This saying "No" business is a lot of fun at times.....


Catosays said...

I've been having the same problem with TalkTalk/Tiscali.

I've got letters etc. from them and still they're after me for money I don't owe.
I've handed it all to OTELO (Telecoms Ombudsman)

Dr Evil said...

Wonderful stuff! Sooooo.......if a company you do have some form of contract with sells you/your debt to another company that you have never heard of and certainly have no contract with, the debt is cancelled for the seller and you don't actually owe anything to the debt collection agency that bought the debt? A bit different to your story, but it this correct?

Captain Ranty said...

Good for you Cato.

I could have done the same with OfScam or whoever represents the utilities, but I thought I'd give it a go on my own, using what I have learnt.

My claims to be "fighting back" are worth nought unless I actually do fight now and then.

Like HMRC, this is another scrap I will win.


Captain Ranty said...


That is EXACTLY what the law says.

If they (the debt collection agency) offer you a chance to go to court over the imagined debt, take them up on it. It will be a short stint in the courtroom but the satisfaction will be fantastic.

The legal maxim has it that "a debt repaid is a debt settled".

It doesn't matter who settles the debt.


Indyanhat said...

Bang on Cap'n, nicely played, square bat and everything, I believe you knocked them straight for six!!!

Another weirdy verification, very apt to your post 'co quit us'LOL I just love these captcha things!!!

Bucko said...

Captain. Are you sure thats what the law says?
I've always beleived that a debt is still outstanding until you have paid it, no matter who is chasing you for it. I've never seen any evidence to the contrary on my many searches.

Captain Ranty said...


If someone else buys a debt off a company you owe money to, the debt is repaid.

The company that bought the debt has repaid it on your behalf. You didn't ask them to, nor did you enter a contract with them. It matters not. The debt is repaid.

No debt recovery company in the world wants you to know this.

Once everyone knows, the jig is up.

Look, here's a real example: my son (aged 21 and a party hound) runs up an overdraft to pay for his loopy juice. The amount is £200. Can we agree that he owes a debt to the bank? In steps Daddio and makes an electronic transfer from his account to Subaltern Ranty's account and the debt is now repaid. The bank is happy because the overdraft is cleared. They do not continue to chase young Ranty because he didn't repay the money himself. They don't care who repays.

So, to use my case above: the debt recovery agents (approached by the utility company) were offered my "debt". The DRC probably offered the utility company £100 which they accepted. The debt, from this moment forward, is considered to have been cleared. The DRC, now £100 out of pocket, come to me to repay them £180. (The original debt). Except I just say "Thank you for settling my debt. I didn't ask you to, now fuck off".

Again, it doesn't matter who paid the debt, nor how much they repaid. The debt is gone, gone, gone.


Dick Puddlecote said...

Good work CR. I envy you actually as I seriously enjoy arguments like yours with companies, councils, banks, you name it. Quite a few friends have said they just don't understand how I could possibly do so, but it's a right buzz as you're almost invariably arguing against someone not used to people answering back. I suppose it also helps that I've never lost yet. ;-)

"I was stood up during the entire conversation"

I do that too, and walk back and forth, though I wasn't aware that doing so was an aid to thinking. Interesting, that.

Captain Ranty said...


It's where the old adage "Thinking on your feet" comes from.

Just after I left the army I ended up as the general manager of a small cellphone company in Manchester. My team had had a bad week and between the four of them, they had sold nothing.

I called my MD and he said "Take all their chairs away".

"What?", says I.

"Really. Just do it. Lock the chairs in a store-room and tell them that they can all have their chairs back as soon as they make a sale".

Every single salesman made a sale by 2 o'clock that day. Some, however, chose in future to stand when talking to reluctant customers on the phone. Those guys were also my top sellers.

Odd, but true.


Dick Puddlecote said...

CR: I was typing as you posted that explanation of debt repayment.

I have always used the trick of telling debt collectors to take me to court as I will fight it all the way (or that I know I will win). The always back down, or I never hear from them again. I've always believed it was because they have bought the debt, as you describe, and are only interested in those who wish to pay without fuss. That the cost of fighting a court case would render the debt unprofitable for them.

I hadn't realised that the debt is actually legally unenforceable.

So it seems I have been using the correct tactic ... although fcor an incorrect reason. :)

Dr Evil said...

Thank you, Captain. I appreciate that answer.

Best Regards

Captain Ranty said...


Looks like you signed up to the Just Say No campaign long before I started wittering on about it.

You are right. Some of these vermin pay only 10% for your debt, so they have some wiggle room, but as you say, the battle never ends in a courtroom.


Captain Ranty said...

My pleasure Mr C.

Just remember to use the scribblings here FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

I could never have been a lawyer. I would be too busy pointing out all these scams to people. Ye Olde Lawe Society would not have liked that one jotteth.


Bucko said...

Thanks for that Captain. It may prove useful.

Angry Exile said...

Capt and DP, interesting stuff about the debt recovery mob and how to deal with them. I only had any experience with one of them over a debt to Sky left by the previous owner of a house I'd bought and would have had no clue about how to deal with it except that I wasn't a Sky customer and wasn't going to pay someone else's debt. Fortunately when I rang I spoke to someone with a brain who was happy to take a few easily verifiable details to confirm the person they wanted was gone and I wasn't him. This was about 12 years ago. It sounds like brains are optional now.

Old Person said...

The claims that there is no contract with the supplier is untrue. A deemed contract exists (especially in the case of Landlords and absconding tenants. See the Gas Act 1986 c44.
So, if you switch on a light, or use agas hob, a deemed contract exists.
The smart thing to do: Always take a photograph of the meter with meter reading, meter reference numbers, AND a radio-controlled clock in the picture.
Just pass on the meter readings and the date taken, and ask for a new bill.
Remember that the Data Protection Act is often quoted at you, but there is a facility to make a Data Protection Request (to the meter reading company) to supply you with meter readings. They don't like this especially if they claim to have read an internal meter when the property was empty.

Captain Ranty said...


Thanks for your comment.

I can't wait for a court to tell me I had entered into a contract with an unknown company, one that I did not even know existed.

They got many things wrong so I will be out of the court before we get around to implied contracts.

That's if we ever get into court, which I seriously doubt.


Katabasis said...

Brilliant and inspiring CR.

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks K!


RantinRab said...

Excellent stuff CR!

I am currently enjoying ignoring a 'parking ticket' from a private company which has now risen to nearly £200 with a big scary 'imminent court action' threat.

Every one goes in the shredder.


Captain Ranty said...


To be fair, the first bloke I spoke to was on the ball. He said that their average bills were just over £1 per day. He opined that I would be asked for no more than £20 for the 14 days. I said I'd be glad to pay it.

That's another thing that I should have mentioned in the main post. I have never once said to the provider that I would not pay what I owed, just that it wouldn't be £180 for two weeks.

I was careful to remain in honour. That was the other thing that struck me: throughout this minor kerfuffle I was ultra careful to remove any controversy. The only reason things end up in court is because controversy exists. Not in this case. I have it all documented. Which is why I am keen to trot along to the local sheriffs court to play the game.

So they aren't all braindead. Just most of them.


Captain Ranty said...

Thanks Rab!

I knew I could count on you to be a rebellious bastard!

If you get anywhere near a court action, let me know. I helped my mate walk away from a £60 FPN and three points. I can give you some tips!


Anonymous said...

I don't think you were harsh whatsoever on the person on the other end of the telephone. Look at it this way:

1. You've just educated a person working on the other end of the phone. They may not think so but you have. You've just lodged something into their subconscious. If they are "awake" then it will be lodged firmly in their conscious and they may actually have thought it over sometime afterwards.

2. These people work for the companies and thus are not part of the solution but part of the problem. Seeing as they do the "dirty work" the tosser CEO's won't do - relate to the public, then they will automatically be the target of the public's anger. Choice and consequence - they 'chose' the job thus must suffer the 'consequences' of doing the job.

3. The sooner people in these companies receive more and more complaints from the likes of you, I and other "awake" people, then the sooner they may start questioning their job and the world around them, more so that they actually do have choice to do what they want. Trust me, I've worked on phonelines and it's a horrible job. There is a large amount of stress and eventually you think "why should I take the sh*t for a company that doesn't give a sh*t about me?"

Companies such as these bully people and of course, it's always the the big "we will take court action" in bright red lettering to scare the bJesus out of your average Joe. Therefore the average Joe has two options:

i.) Continue to be ignorant and allow the bullies to bully him.
ii) Educate himself on the law, that means dragging his sorry arse away from the indoctrination of TV and the MSM and give the bullies a psychological broken nose.

I'm in the process of learning all about this and it's interesting. I think the "let's take back our society from the see you next tuesdays" brigade is certainly growing.

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks Harbinger, I appreeciate the angle you are looking at this from.

I am usually aware that the person on the other end of the phone must think I am speaking Mandarin with a hint of Arabic and a smattering of Sumerian so I do try to take it slowly and carefully. I know that they are 9-5'ers just trying to make some money.

They are most often the wrong "targets" for me because they just end up being/feeling confused. That is not my intent. I suppose in some subliminal ways I am trying to gently educate them but what I should do is ask to speak to their supervisor and if he/she doesn't understand me, I should keep aiming higher until I find myself talking with someone who is clued in.

The "gatekeepers" will stop that attempt dead in its tracks because they will feel a need to protect their boss(es).

As you say, one awakening at a time. We will get there in the end.

I read, and re-read your articles on the NWO and I must applaud you. Your approach is calm, logical and sensible.

For anyone else reading this, please do visit Harbingers new blog and have a read. It will be time well spent and you will understand the world around you a great deal better.


Captain Ranty said...

I forgot to add that Harbingers Journal is now in my list of Awkward Sods on the r/h side.

Get over there already!


Smoking Hot said...

Hah ... l stand up and pace too when on the phone against assholes.

Well done Cap'n :)

Had 23 parking tickets here ... beat them all.

Captain Ranty said...

Sounds like you're a Freeman by default SH.

Good work fella!

We need more like you.

Around 61.8 million more.


Dioclese said...

I had a debt collection agent knock on my door and demand money or goods to the value of.

I explained to him that I was not the person in question who had moved out six months before. He refused to believe me and forced his way in. I knocked him to the floor and physically restrained him while my wife telephoned the police. They arrived swiftly (she told them I was restraining a burglar and that violence was currently taking place - a slight but not too much of an exaggeration)

I was forced to produce my passport to prove I was not the person in question and everyone left.

I should add that prior to this I hade recieved several letters from various debt collectors and had explained to all of them that I was not the person they were after and he had moved. I even told them where to and who he worked for - so not too difficult to track him down, I thought.

The man who knocked on the door represented the agency that bought the debt from the agency that bought the debt from the agency that bought the debt from the agency that bought the debt from the agency that bought the debt from the agency that bought the debt from American Express - and no I'm not exaggerating this time!

Seems that if the debt can't be collected, they just keep selling it on until one day a man arrives with a baseball bat and breaks your legs.....

Scarey or what ????

Captain Ranty said...

Good God!

Calling Dibble was the smart thing to do. According to the police blogs I have visited in the past it appears to be a given that the first person to call and lodge a complaint is in the lead by default.

Having to tussle with a thug is out of order. And that string of sales on the original debt is amazing.

I saw a recent court case where a homeowner (in the US) was being foreclosed. He went to court and demanded that his bank (who instigated the action) produce the "note" (mortgage/deeds) on the property. They could not do so. It turned out that there were 13 separate "owners" of the property spread all over the globe. 13 names on the "note". The banks name was not one of them. They lost the right to demand the monthly mortgage payments the instant their name left the deeds.

The judge pondered for a short time, gave the man his deeds and said "The house is yours. Stop all payments to this fraudulent outfit (the guys bank) immediately".

The shenanigans they get up to are jaw-dropping.


Anonymous said...


".....but what I should do is ask to speak to their supervisor and if he/she doesn't understand me, I should keep aiming higher until I find myself talking with someone who is clued in."

Not going to happen. The job of the grunts is to take the heat from the public and at the last resort, are they put through to the supervisors. Imagine how many people there are like you, with the same problems who wish to speak to the supervisors? You've got it - EVERYONE!
As stated, I did a telephone job and it was bog awful. It's the kind of job that can seriously turn a saint into a sinner. You can go in in the morning feeling on top of the world and by lunchtime, ready to start WW3! Because I've done the jobs of those on the other end, I'm always polite but firm. I always state that I've done their job and know what it's like, to break the ice and reassure them, but when they start playing silly games, I repeat to them that I know all the escape routes.

You do feel sorry for them, but then feeling sorry for them isn't going to make them feel sorry for you and you're the one with the problem with their organisation not the other way around. They're loyal to the firm. They know the rules. They're not going to give away company secrets and break company policy. As you rightly said, it's a 9-5 for them.

You handled the situation pefectly and your manner on the phone was polite, educational and firm. You never went into a tirade of expletives as you knew that this would get you nowhere and most likely a dead line.

The problem is CR, there are many people around the UK who are in the same position as the telephone operator you spoke to. They are of coruse not all telephone operators, but they are doing jobs, they almost don't really want to do, but they have the rent and bills to pay, not forgetting basic living costs. It's going up and up and no doubt homelessness, house repossession terrifies them and so they'll duly obey. Thus, they will continue to work for "the man" and thus the wheel keeps turning and nothing changes.
It's about how much you're prepared to sacrifice in life.

Thank you for your kind words on the blog and the 'advertising' lol. It's in it's early stages and there's much I still have to add as 'decoration' around the edges.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

A bit windy....

Buy dead pub (complete with beer coolers, all electric kitchen 2 * deep fat fryers, extractor, griddle etc, etc.)

Move in, change planning use to domestic, send "movein" reading to utility (who say OK, thank you)

Utility sends first bill estimated on pub = £££, you ring up say hold on! ,not pub - private house OK? they say OK, will send meter man.

Weeks - no meter man.

You say telephone halooo... not pub is house, here is present reading which is consistent with house OK? Will be happy to pay for what is used - you take payment now? - NO...

V. shitty letter from utility - court will bury you - take everything unless you pay - big red font used.

Shitty phone call house >> utility (woman cries in call centre) supervisor calls back - you brute! you made make my lady unhappy. Explain to utility - grudging OK - understand meter reader on way.

No meter reader for another 3 months. Phone in and web register reading (got an online account!) New bill arrives = ££££.99

Call utility - told yes, it is another 'stimated bill which has been set dramatically higher "to get your attention" recipient of said nugget of info splutters "I have done everything properly and you have my full attention, however from now on until this is resolved for each and every communication I will be making an administration charge at my full comercial charged out rate of £60/hr in minimum 30 minute chunks"

Utlity - you can't do that! reply - "You are wasting my time and that actually costs me money - so I'm simply passing on the cost you've caused me"

10 letters @ £30 each
5 phone calls @£30 each
1 morning spent waiting for no-show meter man £240

Invoice by recorded delivery.

Invoice £690 paid.

REPEAT pretty much all the above again.............. with more and shoutier phone conversations and nastier letters and no meter readers and looney estimated bills.

The utility finally decided to throw in towel, "reset the clock" at the start of the next financial year at meter reader visit. Net result 1 year+ gratis leccy + some money to girlfriend's charity. And some telephone sport.

As Mastercard like to say - priceless.

Not me, but a pal who's a fully paid up member of the awkward squad

Anonymous said...

I moved into a new house three years ago - it took me eight weeks and threats of court action, letters to Ofcom and more to get control of the telephone line that was being held to ransom by a firm called Tiscali ( now talk talk) who were the previous providers. Some of these firms see the transfer of property as easy meat.

Magna Carta Society Blog said...

How about this from Show of Hands!


Regardsm John H.

TheFatBigot said...

I'm a bit late on this, sorry.

Four points:

(1) Not all debt collection is done by way of selling the debt. Some is fee-paid work in which the debt collector acts as agent of the utility company. Typically: "we'll pay you £20 to chase this chap and another £50 if he coughs up the cash". It's no different from the salary they might pay an employee to chase a debt.

(2) When a debt is "sold" the debt is not repaid. What is sold is the right to collect the debt. When you bail-out Ranty Junior the money is tendered and accepted as a discharge of his debt. When a debt is assigned to a collection agency the money the agency pays is not tendered or accepted in discharge of your debt. That debt remains in place.

(3) If they make a balls of the paperwork the assignment can have the effect of discharging the debt, but that is not necessarily the end of the matter ... linking to ...

(4) If you use leccy / gas / phone / anything you will usually be required to pay for it because of the law of restitution. You didn't have to use it but you chose to do so knowing it was supplied by a commercial supplier. The old explanation was that an implied contract arose (and by statute it still can) but these days it is simply an obligation to pay because of the circumstances in which the use arose. This obligation can survive a bungling discharge of a contractual debt when an assignment is not drafted carefully.

There, that's cheered you up hasn't it?

Captain Ranty said...


Thanks for your comments.

1. I agree.

2. I disagree. (the example I gave is a poor one. It doesn't match the claims I make about a "sold" debt). A sold debt, is, in law, considered to be paid. Just because 99.99% of the population don't know a thing, doesn't make it untrue.

3. We assume debts can only be discharged by a) paying them back with cash or b) declaring bankruptcy. In truth, there are at least two other ways of settling a debt without any money physically leaving your account/wallet/purse.

4. I should have been clearer. I am absolutely prepared to pay the "incumbent" supplier whatever I owe them. I am disputing the amount. I will pay them a fair amount for the period in question. I do, however, have a lot more to say on implied contracts but I will save it for another post. Having said that I pretty much agree with the points you made.

I am always cheered up when someone points out potential errors FB, and I genuinely thank you for doing so.

But I have now read about dozens and dozens of cases where the DCA's have left empty handed for the reasons I give. The law is very clear on this: a debt settled is considered to complete the transaction. The fact that the DCA paid it, or even a portion of it, but satisfied the original creditor, is neither here nor there. In reality, the story ends there, but the DCA knows that most people are ignorant and will use force, threats, and intimidation to collect monies. Sadly, most people fork over the cash, or part company with their goods in lieu of payment.

There is an obscure law (based on privacy) that says if the debt is spoken in public (i.e the pavement in front of your home) the debt is cancelled. Once I learnt this I determined that if the goons ever show up I will get them off my property and chat about the reason for their visit and get them to mention the amount they are claiming. Job done, debt settled.

As a final point, I need to assure people who read my stuff that I am not a freeloader. If I have incurred a debt I will always settle it. If I think something is unfair, unjust, illegal or unlawful, then I will use everything I have learnt, including ancient law, to put things right. All taxes are illegal and unlawful, and that is why I fight. The argument that "everyone else has to pay them" cuts no ice with me. I have discovered that we don't "have" to pay them so I will do all that I can to set a precedent. Once I have done so I will pass on the details so that others can follow. (If they wish).

There is a world of difference between freeloading and using lawful excuse. Every law has embedded within it a remedy.

That's all I am doing: finding remedies.