Law firm is collecting unpaid bill for Smart

Socorro Llamas is one unhappy @Smart customer. This is her story:

“Last January 20, 2022 , I applied at the Smart (Communications, Inc.) office at Greenhills (San Juan City) for a Plan 599 for unlimited calls and texts (to and) from all  networks.   I paid (the equivalent of) three months advance.  After the three months (were up), I was  charged P340, which I promptly paid. I was so shocked to find out later that my line was cut.

“Immediately, I asked that my contract be terminated, as I no longer wished to continue with (the plan). Now I get a bill for P6,636.82, which (purportedly) covers the year of the contract and some extra charges.  

“This is unfair treatment of a customer and tramples on the rights of every consumer . . .”

What Llamas particularly found galling was her line was cut off without any advance notice. As she complained in a handwritten note to the company, she only found out she had been disconnected when she tried to call her driver to pick her up from a shopping mall.

Llamas said she had to buy a new SIM (subscriber identification module) card right then and there so she could use her phone. 

In her May 7 letter, she asked that her contract with Smart be terminated. Llamas said she religiously paid all accounts payable with both Smart and its mother company, @PLDT.

So far, the only response she got was a letter from a law firm dated Aug. 10 demanding immediate payment of P6,636.82 she supposedly owed Smart. Her outstanding balance, according to the bill sent by the firm, was only P1,407.07 but the pre-termination fee was P4,714.73. There is also a collection fee of P420.46.

I have only heard Llamas’ side but what struck me about this case was its being referred to a law firm for collection. I could be wrong but I thought this practice was discontinued when it was abused by credit card companies. 

Llamas did not mention being called by a Smart representative to iron things out. From what I gathered, it was only the law firm’s letter that alerted her to her supposed failure to settle her bill. Now she regularly gets text messages from the law firm regarding her “unpaid bill”.

Apropos to this complaint, why are utility companies so quick to pull the trigger, so to speak, on customers? The @Manila Electric Company (Meralco) sends a disconnection letter a day after payment is due just because one of the Bayad centers or e-wallets have not yet posted the payment made on the actual DUE date. Shouldn’t it allow for time lapse before sending out ominous warnings of disconnection?

@SkyCable and PLDT have both cut off their services for the same reason – payments were not posted on the dates they were due.

We may be living in a digital age but certain things are still not reflected in real time. Besides, many consumers have yet to catch up with all these technical innovations. If they have not gone digital, going to the nearest Bayad center or service provider remains a major production for ordinary citizens. The cost of transportation and time and effort required mean they have to plan these things.

As for Llamas, she hopes Smart will discuss with her her supposed unpaid bill instead of letting its law firm do the talking, rather texting.

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