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How it all began

Sunrise gives me its back
Sunrise gives me its back…

Since 2005 when I once again became a Sunrise Communications AG Switzerland mobile phone subscriber, I always paid my bills in a timely manner. With that being said, in early December 2011 and out of the blue, I received a Validation Notice sent to me by the Debt Collection Agency „infoscore Inkasso AG“ (www.infoscore.ch) on behalf of its client Sunrise Communications AG. This collection agency is located in Schlieren, Zürich. The content of the letter reads as follows:
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DEBT COLLECTION NOTICE (click here to see original letter in German)

Debt Claim on behalf of Sunrise Communications AG, 8050 Zurich

We noticed that your account is still delinquent, despite the previous overdue bill payment reminder letters sent to you. To date no payment has been received.

Amount outstanding to original creditor: CHF 72.45
Interest: CHF 5.00
Debt Collection Agency fee: CHF 83.00
Credit history check fee: CHF 35.00
Damage caused by account default fee: CHF 76.00

TOTAL: CHF 271.45

In order to keep your account in good standing and without incurring in additional costs, we are giving you a last opportunity to settle the outstanding sum in full within the next five (5) days from the date of this letter.

Failure to comply with this deadline will leave us with no alternative, but to exercise whatever rights and remedies we have under the law to enforce such payment, including but not limited to institution of legal proceedings against you to recover the above amount, together with the accrued interest and legal expenses.

——————————————————–

This final reminder followed by a threat of collection proceedings took me completely aback. Equally remarkable is the fact, that before this „last reminder“ I never received a first reminder, nor second or a third; or had otherwise any indication that I had overdue bill payments with any company, which services I used.

This last Collection Notice (also known as Validation Notice) before court proceedings totally baffled me. I was aghast at the thought of getting a negative entry in my Credit Report Records.

I immediately called the collection agency, Infoscore, to find out what all this was about, as I was certain it must have been a mistake. Upon calling Infoscore, I learned they were acting on behalf of Sunrise Communications AG, my mobile phone service provider. But since I only had a mobile phone plan subscription with Sunrise, and the service had always been in normal operation, I could not understand how it had not been suspended, if my account was indeed delinquent, as claimed by Sunrise.

Upon request, Infoscore agrees to send me copies of the alleged past due bills I had not paid to Sunrise. Looking at the copies I noticed the following:

  1. Sunrise had issued two separate statements (for a combined total of CHF 72.45) and sent them to Afghanistan. A country I’m sure is lovely, but one I had never in my life been to.
  2. Neither one of the statements gave me information about the services provided and for which I’m being billed.
  3. Both bills only showed a billing cycle: From August 2010 to October 2010.

In 2010, Sunrise covered the billing department for the mobile phone service division of Cablecom, as Cablecom used the already established network from Sunrise in Switzerland, to get into the mobile communication business. But this is another subject, one I only need to mention here briefly in order to explain what in all likelihood happened.

  • Sunrise (Billing Division for Cablecom users) issues two invoices under my account for a total of CHF 72.45, from August to October 2010 and sends them to Afghanistan.
  • Sunrise (Division for Sunrise users) simultaneously bills me for the services provided by them (Sunrise) during the same period of time (Aug-Oct 2010). These statements for a total just under CHF 300.- are accurate and were correctly mailed to my Swiss residence and were paid.

Needless to say that I never received the bills sent to Afghanistan (and if someone there did, clearly did not pay for it).

My first thought was that such an obvious mistake in their billing department would be promptly detected and amended. I could ultimately prove that I had paid on time the bills I did receive. Likewise, I could prove that I was never in Afghanistan to receive mail addressed to me there.

But unfortunately it all would turn out differently, as I was soon to find out.

In the meantime and before I would come to that less than sweet realization, I wrote to Sunrise in four different occasions, two of those letters were sent through certified mail. All in a desperate attempt to make the company aware of its mistake or at least to receive detailed information about the reason for those Sunrise-Cablecom bills. But the communication with Sunrise has since then been covered in a blanket of silence. Sunrise opted for not responding to my inquiries.

But back in early December 2011 when I received the Debt Collection Notice, besides getting in touch with the debt collection agency, I also tried to get a written report from Sunrise, stating, that my account with them had never been in default, and that not even once, I had made a late payment.
Here more or less the conversation with Sunrise Hotline when I called:

Sunrise hotline: Your account is in good standing. Yes, all due bills have always been paid in time, our records show.

I: Ok, then consequently could you please: a) state that in writing for me and b) withdraw the debt claim Sunrise handed over to Infoscore, the collection agency?

Sunrise hotline: Hmmm … yes…. uh oh… just a moment please.

And that’s the moment when Sunrise staff on the phone gets confused, because he does not see anywhere in my account that a debt claim has been filed. And a confirmation in writing that I do not owe anything to Sunrise, will just not be issued.

The last time I called the Hotline on February 13, 2012, I was only told:

„Sorry, we have a total system crash. We can not access your account. Call again tomorrow“.

Mind you, I was „only“ half an hour waiting on the phone line before my call was picked up by a human being.

Given the situation I decided to reach out to Sunrise in writing, four times. Since December 9, 2011 and until now, Sunrise had not only opted for absolute silence, but also turned a blind eye on its mistake.

Meanwhile, Inkassobüro Infoscore Inkasso AG, the collection agency, had done nothing more than to send me a Final Notice threatening with legal actions. Although I also wrote to them in four occasions pointing out all the inconsistencies in this case, in a last attempt to make someone realize this is a mistake. Three of the letters sent to Infoscore were also certified. Not surprisingly, my plea fell in deaf ears once again.

After over two months trying in vain to be heard, both in writing and by phone, on February 13th 2012 finally I got a reaction: not from Sunrise though, but from its collector.

Mr S. of Infoscore called me (on the very same mobile number here in question by Sunrise!) to tell me:

„Listen, if Sunrise’s demand for payment is justifiable or not, is none of my concerns. You need to meet the new and final deadline and submit the payment by March 5th, 2012, or else we will go ahead and take legal action by filing a lawsuit against you. “

I: „Should that happen, I will appeal the claim to have the debt collection lawsuit thrown out!“

Mr. S.: „But by then you would have a negative record for 3 years on your credit report.“

I: „But doesn’t it perplex you that you are calling me on the same mobile number for which you are trying to collect payment on? If my account with Sunrise were delinquent, how come then, that this mobile number is up and running? Sunrise would have disconnected the service before threatening me with a lawsuit, wouldn’t it?“

Mr. S.: „A claim from Sunrise is the only requirement I need to collect a debt, which I can and will collect. Pay it immediately, or we will carry out the filing of the suit on behalf of Sunrise!“

I: „But, Mr. S. The fact that these bills were sent to AFGHANISTAN doesn’t even make you suspicious that more than one error was made in their billing department?

Mr. S.: Why do you keep on mentioning „Afghanistan“? What does Afghanistan have to do with the case?

I: „Just have a look to the address on Sunrise invoices to me. Sunrise sent them to Afghanistan!“

And Mr. S. goes on here once again with his rehearsed announcement:

„A claim from Sunrise is the requirement I need to collect a debt, which I can and will collect. Pay it now or ….“

In summary, neither with Sunrise nor with its collection agency can I conduct a dialogue that would address the actual error. It needs to be detected first and asserted as such, in order to be corrected.

On December 9th, 2011 the first certified letter was sent to Sunrise. The last one on February 13th, 2012. Content of the letters:

  1. Evidence that I have always, in a timely fashion, paid all the pertaining bills to my mobile number. Proof of that is, that the service is not suspended and that my number is still in operation with Sunrise as provider.
  2. The request to withdraw the debt collection claim from its collection agency Infoscore AG.

Until March 16th 2012 I had not yet heard back from Sunrise.

What stood out in this case (and to my detriment), was that I might have been wrongly prosecuted and potentially received a negative record on my credit report history for delinquent debt; an entry which I certainly would have appealed but by then, the damage would have already been done and there was nothing else I could think of doing at this point to prevent that from happening.

Such an entry on the Swiss credit report agency is only erased after 3 years. During those three years I would be able to rent a new place to live only if I’m in luck (and certainly not longer in Zurich where I have lived and am still living). Neither would I have qualified for a loan/credit and should I have sought out new employment during this period of time, I would have been assuredly called upon to explain myself.

Resisting this pressure while trying in vain to find a way to engage Sunrise in a dialogue, was what happened to me for several months. Being ignored all the way. This entire situation became my daily nightmare for more than three months.

NIGHTMARE Telecommunication SUNRISE!

10 Kommentare
  1. Ata Lipsos permalink

    4. January 2015: Despite Sunrise confirmed the dismissal of my mobile phone contract, they send me a new bill. Interesting: I threw away the sim-cards, but the bill is now 3 time higher than at the time before.

  2. Mike permalink

    31. Mai 2013: To all Americans living in Switzerland: if you get a chance to avoid doing business with Sunrise…, avoid!

    • Jon permalink

      28. Juni 2013:
      Wow… Can’t you file a class-action lawsuit against a company in Switzerland? This sunrise company seems to be a plague to lots of its Swiss customers. Best of luck, dude and thanks for the video!

    • Anne permalink

      17. Juli 2013: Sunrise is nothing but pure organized fraud. A total scam. Do not do business with Sunrise. They will rip you off with no mercy.

      Especially in the area of Geneva, Sunrise has proven relentless stubbornness with visually handicapped people. Sunrise’s behavior is disgusting, to say the least.

      I fully agree: avoid http://www.sunrise.ch !!!

  3. 10. März 2013: Thank you for having shared your Albtraum with Sunrise and providing a platform for others learn from your experience. Writing a letter to the company or trying to get them over the phone may be a useless effort as it was in your case also and it would have taken me several hours formulating one in German since they would probably not read my complaint in English or hear me out in English. This experience provided me a platform to express my annoyance and gave me the effort to let go of the negative experience through writing about it. Coming from the US where customer service is so much better than here, encountering such experience (my first one in more than 3 years in Switzerland), although not representative of all my experiences here, leaves a sour taste.

  4. 10. März 2013: Sunrise has no sense of customer service and I was so annoyed with how the Sunrise personell (white woman) was talking to my husband (asian) in Swiss German. After 10 minutes of both of them going back and forth with their own arguments, in which they both could be right (I refrain from judging), the woman tells my husband that she will talk in English for him to understand. Seriously, this was so paternalistic and demeaning. Her tone was loud and high. I, feeling totally discriminated decided to join in the conversation and told her in my very fluent English what the original problem was presenting (my husband got a sim-card replacement in December 2012 which was never registered and activated although he paid for it). After explaining her that she as the company representative has two options (fix the problem or return the money) and telling that her response of „she did not provide this service“ is not the right answer as it the service is independent of who provided it as long as it was one of the Sunrise employees. She said I was being loud. I replied that she was being loud to my husband and thats what she also gets in return. After my response, she tried to kick us out from the office by giving us the receipts and the bills to us and said „have a good day“ as if „stupid“ was written on our faces. Certainly we did not leave and she tried to dump this problem to her „asian“ colleague working at that time!

    This guy was nicer and we were explaining him what had happened and stating that there is no point saying „it is not I who did it“ or us blaming the person who originally provided the service. Since it is Sunrise’s problem which includes them all and as a customer, our job is to pay for the services we asked for and they have to deliver it once the money transaction has taken place.

    After two minutes, the woman returns and she said she will take care of it. At this point she said she would fix the problem and blamed untrained new employees for the mistake. For the next 5 minutes she did something on her computer and told us that the new simcard is now active (which was not active when we tried 2 hours after leaving the Sunrise office). After she supposedly fixed the simcard, in a nice way I was trying to explain her the problem that she created and how she explicitly was being rude to my husband. In addition, I brought to her attention that her English was worse than my husband’s Swiss-German and that she should never try to make customers feel bad and switch languages when not asked by the customer. I said that it is part of her job to be aware of how to deal with customers and not treat them based on their outside looks. She said that customer service is not part of her job and practically told me to leave as she has done was we came in for and she has other customers.

    My main problem with this drama was twofold (1) not accepting that when one of the personell provides a service and when it does not work, it has to be corrected. It is the customer’s right to demand the proper service for which he or she paid the money; (2) total lack of customer service and the mindset that you can get rid of your customers by saying the same thing again „I did not do it, this is not a normal procedure.“ On top of this, belittling your customers is totally unacceptable.

    From my experience, this certainly is not a company to do business with and I have decided to switch phone companies and move get new phone number and new contracts with other companies where customer service is better and where customers are treated with respect and dignity. As an individual, I expect equal treatment and respect for my personhood and I do the same to others despite their origin, job status, and financial incomes.

  5. 26. April 2012: In the American news right now and maybe of interest to you or your readers (and that includes both Sunrise and Infoscore Inkasso Büro legal department).

    Here is the full article: http://abcnews.go.com/US/va-woman-fights-collect-10-million-debt-collectors/story?id=16205697#.T5kHDI7ydok

    „In a twist of irony, a West Virginia woman is trying to collect money from a collection agency. Diana Mey, of Wheeling, W. Va., won the largest judgment ever against an abusive debt collection company — more than $10 million.“

    „I’m a mom, and I’m a housewife, and I’m an accidental activist,“ Mey said. From her small-town home base in Virginia, Mey went after a debt collection empire that hounds people nationwide and won.

    „They threatened to take legal action against our property and it wasn’t even our debt,“ she continues. In the United States is illegal for debt collectors to make empty threats about serving people with a lawsuit or seizing their property.

    Millions of Americans are victims of this kind of mistaken debtor identity, partly because of a new breed of collectors called „debt buyers.“ They purchase old debts for pennies that the original creditors have given up on and then try to collect them for a big profit. Critics say debt buyers sometimes use outrageous tactics to get the money where others have failed. RFA (the agency harassing her) is a debt buyer —> (hey, Infoscore Inkasso Büro, do you recognize here any similarities?)

    Mey wrote RFA a cease and desist letter, telling the company not to contact her anymore, and sent it certified mail. Postal records show exactly when RFA signed for it. Precisely 23 minutes later, Mey started getting mysterious hang-up calls. „I was so frightened. I felt violated. I pulled myself together and I thought, I can get through this.“ Mey said.

    After the spoofing phone calls she received, she went online and discovered other complaints about the debt collectors‘ agency. „He picked the wrong person,“ she said. And then decided to take legal action against the abusive collection agency.

    It took her a year to find attorneys who would sue on her behalf. But she was not a newbie in legal matters against large companies: In 1999 she won a class action lawsuit against another major company in the US.

    Last May, Mey sued RFA for harassment and illegal collection practices. And it paid off: She was awarded over $10 million. She says she knows she may never be able to collect the money, but that her lawsuit still serves a purpose: „I hope that it sends a message to other debt collectors out there that you have to follow the law,“ she said. „Because if you don’t, there are going to be people out there that are going to stand up against you.“ … and win.

  6. Jane permalink

    14. März 2012: Holly Molly, I would have never thought that such arbitraries occur in Switzerland!! Swiss companies have a reputation for preciseness, attention to detail and trustability.

    I’ve just moved here from the US and need to set up my cell phone. I was given the names of two companies, Sunrise being one of them, so I decided to do an online search, just to check if there was something online about the quality of their services, and you blog came up on top of my search.
    I’m so glad I found it, because after reading about your experience with Sunrise, there is no way in hell I will set up my Swiss mobile (or any other service) with them!

    If such injustice happened to you, a Swiss who speaks the local language and knows the law and how things work here, I can not imagine how an ex-pat like me, who is not even fluent in German, would handle a similar abuse.

    I can only imagine how stressful this situation must have been for you, that you had to resort to start your own blog just to try to get the attention from Sunrise. If this is how a subscriber must communicate to his mobile provider, that is certainly a provider I for sure want to stay away from!!

    Good luck, hope you get heard and that another error is not committed against you.
    And thank you for sharing your experience also in English, I know I’m not the only ex-pat reading this.
    Sunrise has lost credibility and reputation and that will cost them way more than whatever amount they are trying to wrongly collect from you. How stupid can a company be? Really.

  7. mitico permalink

    12. März 2012: Sunrise is awful. For instance with option surf if you stop the renew of option,they stop the option but they make you pay anymore and they don’t refund you.

  8. J.A.S. permalink

    06. März 2012: C’est un vrai cauchemar. On peine à imaginer pareille politique de la part de Sunrise, encore que …, j’avais connu quelques arnaques commises par Sunrise vis-à-vis de personnes handicapées de la vue.

    De ce fait, nous sommes toujours restés de fidèles clients chez Swisscom pour nos téléphones portables.

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