Recently I got an email from a company that I hadn’t heard of with an invoice for a month of electronic fax services that I had supposedly signed up for.
Now normally these sort of emails go directly to my spam folder and never see the light of day. But this one rang a bell and also they claimed to have my credit card details and were going to debit automatically!
You see, I had signed up for a service similar to the one mentioned (the ability to send faxes via email) but I certainly hadn’t agreed on any sort of monthly service fee. What I had signed up for was a pay-per-use fax service. If I needed to send a fax, I sent an email, and the cost of sending the fax would be debited from my credit card. But that wasn’t this company, or the service I was being billed for.
A trawl through the unread emails in my inbox found another email from the company now trying to bill me. It seems that they had purchased the small Australian company that I had previously made an agreement with, and had “upgraded” my account to one with a monthly service fee.
So unilaterally they had changed the terms and conditions of my agreement, and only given me notice of this through an email (that very much looked like spam marketing.) It seems that they also had sent another email which came from the company I had an agreement with, but had spoofed the from address – so I had assumed it was spam.
The biggest problem – the company I had originally had an agreement with had passed on my credit card details to this mega-corporation ( just type email fax into your favourite search engine, they’ll be at the top – and probably own the other top ten results too, it seems they are pretty much cornering this business.) So now they had my credit card details and were going to bill me.
Fortunately for me, the credit card I had used for the original service has been cancelled for some time – somewhere along the line, its details were stolen and it was used fraudulently which HSBC thankfully informed me about and I cancelled the card.
So I’m now having a nice email exchange with mega-corp asking them kindly to stop invoicing me for services I did not sign up for and have no intention of paying for. Also asking them to immediately and retrospectively cancel any service that they believe I have signed up for. Whilst they keep asking me for new credit card details (like that’s ever going to happen!) I’ve read on other forums that they can get pretty nasty about this, bringing in debt collectors and the like whilst not cancelling the service and invoicing more and more. So we’ll see what happens.
This said, the nice lady I spoke to when I phoned their customer service department was quite helpful in apparently arranging cancellation of my account. We’ll see how this pans out.
This raises for me some concerns. How is it that a company can be purchased and the new owner is able to make unilateral changes to existing contracts? Surely that is illegal? If not – it should be!
How can an email sent from a different domain than the purported sender (in this case an email from firstname.lastname@example.org was sent from cpro30.com) 1) not automatically be assumed to be spam marketing/phishing 2) allow or justify unilateral contract modification.
Should it be legal that a company that purchases another automatically has access to all the purchased company’s records including customer credit card details? I guess to a certain extent that this has to be the case, but in the case where an Australian company is purchased by an international shouldn’t there be some protection about our personal details suddenly being transferred overseas?
I’m glad my credit card was already cancelled, but I’m sure there are many others out there right now in Australia who are trying to figure out whether or not to just pay a few dollars or fight this seriously dodgy business process.