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A while ago, I received a LOD (Letter of Demand) for an amount of $380 with ABC-CO. I signed up for a service with ABC-CO 10 years ago and terminated the service 5 years ago. I have not received any payment reminders throughout the course of 5 years for this amount.

I called ABC-CO and found out that it was due to the equipment charge that I have not returned after service termination(5 years ago). It is not a common industry practice to require the customer to return the equipment after 2 years of service so I am not aware of the need to return the equipment(provided 10 years ago) and there wasn't any reminders on their end to collect/return the equipment after the service was terminated(5 years ago). The equipment charge is $280.

I remember on the day I wanted to terminate the service, I had a conversation with a sales person to waive a surcharge of $50 that was added to my account a month ago then. Since I wanted to terminate the service, I requested to waive that $50 surcharge. I then made my final bill payment and terminate the service. There has been no additional invoice or chasers from ABC-CO so I assumed the $50 is waived.

Now, 5 years later, they sent me a demand letter for the amount of $380. I found out that the sales person I spoke to did not waive the surcharge 5 years ago. In addition to that, they billed me for a full month cycle despite my service was terminated a few days after the last invoice date. So another $50.

In total, they claimed I owe $380. $280 for the equipment, $50 for the surcharge which was not waived, and the $50 for the final month.

For the equipment charge, I checked through their terms and conditions on internet archive, they only added it in recent years. However, they insisted it was there since the beginning of the service but they couldn't provide me a copy of the service agreement that I signed 10 years ago to verify.

I requested them to show me the chasers or reminders they have sent in these 5 years but they can't produce that to me. They said they were generated by the system and they don't have copies of it.

Finally, I was billed for a full month cycle despite the service was terminated days after the invoice date. So I owe the last month which was unpaid and I was uninformed.

After contacting ABC-CO, they volunteer to waive the amount. They said on one-time good will gesture they will waive the outstanding amount. However, do I really owe that amount? Does waive mean null?

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    Note: As I understand, claims from a contract become statute-barred after six years (IHTM28384 - Liabilities: law relating to debts: statute-barred debts). Does that maybe apply to your case?
    – sleske
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 8:11
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    Hi, welcome to law.SE! I don't quite understand what your question is. Do you want to know whether the original claim is valid (ignoring the waiving)? Or do you want to know whether their declaration to waive it is binding? Or something else? Voting to close as unclear.
    – sleske
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 8:13
  • Thanks @sleske I really appreciate your time taken to point out the lack of clarity. I've a few questions in my original post but edited to ask a general question based on a member's suggestion in a comment. I would like to know whether the claim is valid too.
    – CheeseBeer
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 10:23

2 Answers 2

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You cannot waive an obligation you have; the person to whom you owe that obligation can waive their right to it

A waiver is simply the relinquishing of some right or privilege. In this case, the company has the right to be paid $380 (probably) plus interest by you but they are choosing not to enforce that right.

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  • Thank you! Can I interpret that as by accepting the waiver, I'm also accepting the obligation of the amount owed? The situation makes me feel that someone has just painted on my gate with a permanent ink and sell me an ornament to disguise it..
    – CheeseBeer
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 4:33
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    @CheeseBeer: That sounds like a good separate question - something like "If I dispute a debt, and the creditor agrees to waive it, do I implicitly acknowledge the debt by accepting the waiver?".
    – sleske
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 11:22
  • Thanks @sleske That's one of my concerns and you have phrased it with more clarity and structure. I didn't realise how I lack of that until you guys pointed that out. Thank you!
    – CheeseBeer
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 6:13
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I see that this question is tagged England and Wales (though the amounts are puzzlingly given in dollars). I am more familiar with New York's debt collection laws, but many of its provisions arise out of principles of fairness that are probably also reflected in the law of England and Wales.

First, there's no need for a debt collector to warn someone that they're going to send a demand letter. The letter itself is the notice. The letter asserts that there is an existing debt, which means an existing relationship between the recipient of the letter and the party claiming the debt -- the creditor. Further, the letter asserts that law firm or other debt collector who sent it is acting on behalf of the creditor.

The recipient of the letter is entitled to ask for documentary evidence supporting the existence of the debt. The debt collector must honor the recipient's request not to communicate by phone.

The recipient can respond with evidence challenging the facts presented in the letter or otherwise showing that the claimed debt is not in fact owed. The debt collector can then decide whether to pursue the matter in court. For example, if you have a final invoice showing that an account was closed on a certain date, and they have no invoice showing a charge after that date, they may decide that they would be unlikely to prevail in court.

In one of my dealings with debt collectors in New York, the collector was from a foreign country where I had called a tourist medical information line. I had been hoping for a referral to a doctor who could see me over the weekend for a sore throat, but all I got was advice that I did not need about gargling with salt water, along with other information about home care for sore throats with which I was already well familiar. I later received a bill for this "service," which was a nasty surprise since there had been no mention of cost during that call -- I had naively assumed that this was a public service of the tourist bureau.

When I returned to New York, the debt collectors tracked me down there. I gave brief responses to several of their persistent letters, which had no effect. Eventually, I sent a more substantial letter pointing out their obligations under New York law (which, being from another country, I wouldn't have expected them to know about). I also looked up the law of that country concerning the offer of services by telephone and found that it did indeed require disclosure of any fees incurred by callers and an opportunity for callers to decline the service after learning about the fees, which certainly never happened during my call. I pointed this out to them in the letter, and asked them to provide me with any evidence they might have showing that the fee had been discussed during the call. Of course I never heard from them again.

The facts that the debt is from so long ago and that you were not pursued for it regularly suggests that this is an instance of a debt collector acquiring a large amount of old debt from a company with many delinquent accounts. They often acquire this debt very cheaply. The debt is often incompletely documented, so if the debtor challenges it they just stop trying to collect. They make money anyway because a sufficient number of debtors don't know this and don't know their right to demand documentation of the debt's validity, and so they just pay. You can find out whether that's the case here by asking for the evidence. If they don't have it, you shouldn't hear from them again. If they do, you can consider what they have and act accordingly. However...

I was billed for a full month cycle despite the service was terminated days after the invoice date. So I owe the last month which was unpaid and I was uninformed.

Did you receive a bill? Most of the question says that you didn't, but this suggests that you did. Or did they put the monthly charge on your account without your ever having received an invoice for it?

Can I interpret that as by accepting the waiver, I'm also accepting the obligation of the amount owed?

Your goal here is to avoid paying for something. There is effectively no difference between their saying "we never should have charged you for this" and "we believe that you owe this money under the contract but we'll overlook that as a gesture of good will."

The situation makes me feel that someone has just painted on my gate with a permanent ink and sell me an ornament to disguise it.

It's not clear to me whether they've offered to waive the entire $380 or just a portion of it, but if it's the whole thing then I submit that a more apt analogy would be that someone defaced your gate, tried to sell you an ornament to cover it, and when you called them out on the scam, offered instead to put a fresh coat of paint on the gate for free.

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  • Thanks! They charged it to my account and I didn't receive an invoice for it. I only aware of it 5 years later after verifying the outstanding amount with them. They couldn't provide me any supporting documents to substantiate the claim. They waived the entire $380. It feels strange and do I really owe them that? Your analogy on the fresh paint is more on point!
    – CheeseBeer
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 10:37
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    @CheeseBeer whether you really owe the money will depend on details of your contract and more to the point of contract law and possibly consumer protection law. Contract law and consumer protection law depend on where you are and perhaps on where they are. There's an England-and-Wales tag but the amounts are given in dollars, so it's confusing. Is the company in England or Wales? Are you? Is it US dollars or some other dollar? If it's not the currency of the place where you live, why not?
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 13:39
  • Thanks so much! $380 is not a big sum of money but not liking how it is handled. It doesn't feel right to me when a company sells my data to a debt collection agency and has a law firm sends me a legal letter claiming a 5-year-old debt that I was not even aware of its existence and validity. They waived it but I don't like that if that means I owed it. On the currency, it's just more convenient to type $ than £ on my keyboard. You are very astute to notice and consider that.
    – CheeseBeer
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 6:03

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