I, only minutes ago, ended a phone call terminating an over six year relationship with energy providers, Genesis.
Having been slave to at least two different utility companies for the majority of my adult life, I shall now be a slave to just one…
Since first hearing about it a few months’ ago, as a fearsome advocator of efficiency, the concept of allowing one provider to take care of all my utility needs appealed greatly to my yearning for utmost simplicity.
…I contacted Slingshot a month ago and invited them to take over my power, broadband, and – in fact as all I ever seem to receive nowadays in the way of phone calls on my landline are surveys and scams – I saw no need to continue paying for use of a landline telephone.
Slingshot were good; while they could not quite match Genesis on electricity rates – understandable, given that I’d always found Genesis to be brilliant electricity providers – I would now finally be rid of that awful, deceitful, unscrupulous, duplicitous, loathsome (and, as it turns out, Australian-owned anyway) company, Spark…
Spark had years ago used the allure and outright duress of a sweet-voiced Indian woman to effectively trick me into taking on a new contracted ‘Smartphone’ which, when it turned up, as well as not having even one tenth of the cleverness, features, or abilities it was promised to have, I was then charged a (previously undisclosed) ‘one time, up-front fee’ for this infernal, piece-of-crap Alcatel; a phone which, despite once feeling trapped by its contractual obligations, thanks to Slingshot’s cheaper and indeed superior mobile phone plan (adding to this was my ‘accidental’ destruction-by-flattening of the stupidest Smartphone I’d ever known), as well as the rapid delivery of a Slingshot SIM card (to install in my recently purchased Nokia, admitted, Simple-phone), I am now free from the Spark-related scourge.
…Slingshot took care of everything in that regard; they made the awkward termination calls and, while I was recommended by Slingshot to give my old providers a call just to ensure they had indeed ceased ‘providing’ (which in fact a few days later I did do, and imagine Spark’s ‘surprise’ to learn that the broadband they were ‘providing’ to my house – also for which they were still very much charging – was now being provided by another company) so ultimately Slingshot did their best to take care of the entire changeover.
Having already received the Slingshot SIM for my mobile, and seamlessly completed that transition, as well as conformation from Slingshot that my broadband was now up and running, I then received my last bill from Genesis; imagine my surprise to see that my usual allocation of approximately 100 day and 150 night units ordinarily totalling around $50, this time was costing me $200.
Then I saw it: cancellation fee – $150.
I was immediately hit with a surge of fury. I knew there was no way I was still under any sort of contract; I wasn’t sure for exactly how long I had been a Genesis customer but I knew it was far more than three years.
I picked up my new Slingshot mobile and gave them a call. Apparently Genesis considers 23rd December a public holiday. I wasn’t feeling terribly festive.
I went away for Christmas. Families came together, gifts were given, gifts were received; it was swell. The morning of the 27th, over breakfast, I gave Genesis a call.
“Good morning,” I began pleasantly, “my name is Tim Walker … I am a long-time customer of Genesis but have recently switched to Slingshot … This call is regarding my final Genesis bill.”
“Alright Sir, yes, I see you are owing one hundred ninety-five dollars, seventy-six cents…”
I felt the beginnings of an eruption inside me.
“…Would you like to pay now, sir?”
“No,” I fought my rage, “thank you, I would not … In fact I vow never to pay that bill, for that bill is incorrect.”
“I’m sorry sir, what do you mean – incorrect in what way?”
“That one hundred and fifty dollars, that cancellation fee, given I have been with Genesis for… In fact how long exactly have I been with Genesis?”
“Ah, you joined us in … May twenty-eleven.”
“Right, that’s over six years – so what the hell are you people doing charging me a cancellation fee?”
“Hmm, it looks like, sir, it looks like you re-signed with us in May twenty-sixteen – your new contact will expire in May twenty-eighteen..”
“What? Bullshit! … I haven’t seen any Genesis employee since the day that funny little Irish street-fighter knocked on my door and signed me up years ago – apparently in twenty-eleven..?”
“No, sir, it’s a verbal contract – we record them all.”
“Are you serious? You are trying to tell me, that in twenty sixteen, I signed a verbal contract with Genesis, extending my prospective loyalty for another two years? That’s ridiculous, why would I do that – why would anyone do that?”
“I don’t know, sir, but we have them all on file.”
“Alright then, play it for me – I want to hear this so-called verbal contract that I signed for no reason.”
“Ah, that will take seven to ten working days to organise, sir.”
“Yeah, and by then you duplicitous wankers will have debited my account … In fact, no, you know what, no, you guys are so into your verbal contracts, well this is me, stating, that I refuse your right to take your so-called cancellation fee from my account … I am demanding, that if you pricks take from my account any more than last month’s electricity bill – if Genesis charges my account that one hundred and fifty dollar cancellation fee, as per this verbal agreement, it is you who are committing a crime…”
“Sir, I am not authorised to give assurance of that agreement.”
“You’re ‘not authorised to give assurance’..? Well I can assure you that what you are doing is extortion … You can’t just go fabricating verbal contracts, claiming that people have made promises when they haven’t … I know for a fact that I have not spoken to Genesis in well over three years, yet you’re claiming that I ‘signed a verbal contract with you in twenty-sixteen’..?
“That’s what our records say, sir.”
“Bullshit! My God, what you’re doing is criminal … You know, I used to like Genesis – Genesis used to be good, but it turns out they’re just another unscrupulous utility … I realise you can’t give assurances, but I can assure you, if you take from my account any more than this last power bill, if you don’t waive that fucking cancellation fee, I am going to have your company up on corporate extortion charges – this is shit!”
“As I said sir, I am not authorised…”
“Well for fuck’s sake let me speak to someone who is then.”
At this point I am trembling so much I actually fumble the phone and watch as it drops to the floor. I curse my lack of self control, my inability to suppress rage. I think maybe I have gone too far, perhaps ruined any chance I had of halting these unjust charges. I glance at the tiny phone at my feet and am relieved to hear ‘hold’ music drifting out of its earpiece. I retrieve it. A few minutes later the operator comes back on the line.
“My manager has agreed to waiver the cancellation fee, sir.”
“Right” – I didn’t feel relief, I didn’t feel vindication; at that point I felt only confusion – “can you tell me why?”
“Why, what, sir?”
“Why, after claiming that someone has ‘signed’ a ‘verbal’ contract, why you would then waive it, simply because they refuse to pay it?”
“Ah, you have been with Genesis for over six years, sir.”
“I have been, yes, but you maintained that I ‘extended’ my contract with you, in twenty sixteen..?”
“So why are you releasing me from a contract without charging me an early cancellation fee?”
“If I might, I will tell you why … You are releasing me from your fabricated ‘verbal’ contract, because I queried its legitimacy … I am aware there is no way that I entered into a two year verbal contract with you in twenty-sixteen, as you are aware furthermore of how ridiculous that would be … I am now aware that Genesis is as deceitful, as unscrupulous as every other utility in New Zealand, but that your crooked strategy is to hit any departing client, whether or not they are breaking their contract, with an early cancellation fee.”
“No sir, we are waivering your fee, sir.”
“You’re damn right you’re waiving my cancellation fee – if I see any more than a month’s electricity charges go out of my account I will scold your arse with a corporate extortion lawsuit – but what about all the others … What about all the other poor suckers who don’t stand up for themselves, who allowed unscrupulous utilities like you to take them for hundreds of dollars of unjust charges?”
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Manny Han Garry
Photography by U Tully-Tee