Sky calls in debt collectors after deep-sea diver attempts to close account

Company apologises for customer’s experience and refunds €58

 

A reader called Rory Golden, a well-known explorer and diver, got in touch last week and made it clear that Sky was the limit of his patience and his endurance.

“In early April this year, in accordance with Sky terms and conditions, I wrote and sent a letter to their offices in Burlington Road, Dublin 4, giving 30 days’ notice to terminate my account,” says Golden, the first Irish diver to visit the site of the Titanic in August 2000.

His email explained he had been having problems with his Sky box and was frustrated “trying to get anywhere on their helpline, so decided to close [the account]”. He had been with the company for 30 years.

“The April payment was due to go through, so I allowed the May 10th payment go through also and terminated the direct debit from that date on,” he says. “I assumed that this would be more than sufficient. I then went off to sea for the next five weeks in the North Atlantic.”

By way of further explanation he tells us that there is no 3 Ireland mobile phone service in the North Atlantic, where he was on another deep-sea expedition. And no, neither us nor Rory are going to give the mobile operator a hard time about that.

We should, however, explain, that Rory is a deep sea diver of some considerable note and has been on the Titanic on more than one occasion. Many of the artefacts he has rescued from the ship are in museums around the world. He has also appeared on television and documentaries and runs a diving operation in south county Dublin. He is, in short, well used to dealing with challenging and high-pressure situations – at least underwater, dealing with Sky was a whole other matter.

“When I returned, there were two letters from Sky dated June 12th and 25th advising that my June payment had not gone through and could I rectify it. The second letter from Sky was threatening penalties and cutting off my account. Funny that, considering that’s what I wanted them to do. Terminate my account that is.”

So, Rory rang Sky as there was a local number to contact. “I explained that I had been away for five weeks at sea, and that what I had done was in accordance with their terms and conditions, but the agent wasn’t having any of it. He acknowledged that they had received my written letter, and that someone had rung my mobile phone but got no answer. I pointed out again that I was at sea in the North Atlantic and had no phone service. His response was they expected me to call them back. Even though I had no record of a missed call from them. Because I had no coverage. In the North Atlantic.”

Quite reasonably, we think, Rory responded that if Sky was trying to contact me, “then it was up to them to follow up. That as far as I was concerned I had given the correct amount of notice according to their terms and conditions and that was the end of it. He insisted that I had to pay the €41.50, and a late payment fee”.

Rory was having none of it. He told the man from Sky “that I wasn’t going to pay any more, and that was the end of the matter as far as I was concerned. He more or less said that it wasn’t the end of it. I disagreed with him, complained about the Sky policy, politely but firmly said that I wasn’t getting at him personally, but rather the company, said goodbye and terminated the call”.

Credit rating

A few weeks later Rory received another letter, dated August 15th but received it on the 20th, “this time threatening me with a debt collection agency, and that this could affect my credit rating. Naturally, this got my back up”.

By way of an aside he tells us that “all these letters appear to have been posted in the UK, so they take more than the usual time to be delivered as well. I rang Sky again on the 20th and went through the same process with another agent. I told them that if they wanted to take this further by threatening my credit rating then I was prepared to contest this to defend myself and my reputation. I then suggested once again that they were wrong, that I had followed procedures, and that this was a waste of all our time over €41.50”.

A week later Rory got another call from Sky in the UK. “A Trevor and a Victoria spoke to me at length, and once again I refused to pay any money. The call lasted nearly 10 minutes. On Wednesday, September 1st, I received a call from a UK number on my mobile. I answered it and was asked if I was Rory Golden by a male with a Scottish accent. When I confirmed who I was, I asked who was calling and was told that it was about credit rating/control. I told the person never to call me again and hung up. I re-dialed the number on my office line, and got an engaged number, so I presumed that it was a scam call.”

A day later he got a text: “This is an important message from Resolvecall. Please call us on 0818****** quoting reference 5*** to discuss. Thank you.”

Resolvecall is a debt collection agency based in the UK. “They have no jurisdiction here I presume,” he says.

Later the same day, he got another call from a UK phone. And the following day another one. And then another one. And then another one.

“Does Resolvecall have any jurisdiction in the Republic of Ireland? What ombudsman can I make a complaint to about this? I’m quite prepared to go further with this on a point of principle, even if it costs me more than the sums involved. How many vulnerable persons out there could handle this type of harassment? I have advised my solicitor on the situation to date and I am considering my options. Maybe a public airing from you might resolve this ludicrous matter.”

We contacted Sky to see if it could explain what had happened and a couple of hours later it got in touch with Golden. The company apologised for the experience he had when trying to process the cancellation. The account was cancelled retrospectively from the date of his first correspondence which was on April 28th and a credit on his account of €58.10 was refunded to him.

FCA

Golden got in touch with us again to say that he had not expected or even wanted the refund and added that he planned to donate it to the RNLI.

In a statement, Sky said that “attempts were made to contact the customer upon receiving the letter, in order to process the cancellation. As per our Sky TV contract, customers can write to us or email us to cancel their account, but notice given by these means will not be effective until we have spoken to the customer and verified their account”.

It added that once “the account is verified, the notice will be effective from the date the original notice was given. Unfortunately, in this instance, the customer was uncontactable and, therefore, we were unable to verify the account to process the cancellation request”.

We also asked about the manner in which Golden was dealt with by UK debt collectors. “When an account is in arrears, system-generated letters are issued for a certain period of time, which is common industry practice. The company we work with are regulated by the FCA and strictly adhere to the stringent regulatory obligations under its FCA licence.”

And in case you are wondering, that is not the Irish FCA but the UK Financial Conduct Authority.