1999 a man living in Kandos (near Mudgee in New South
Wales) received a bill for his as yet unused gas line
stating that he owed $0.00.
He ignored it and threw it away.
In April he received another bill and threw that one
away too. The following month the gas company sent
him a very nasty note stating they were going to cancel
his gas line if he didn't send them $0.00 by return
He called them, talked to them, they
said it was a computer error and they would take care
of it. The following month he decided that it was
about time that he tried out the troublesome gas line
figuring that if there was usage on the account it
would put an end to this ridiculous predicament. However,
when he went to use the gas, it had been cut off.
He called the gas company who apologised
for the computer error once again and said that they
would take care of it. The next day he got a bill
for $0.00 stating that payment was now overdue. Assuming
that having spoken to them the previous day the latest
bill was yet another mistake and he ignored it, trusting
that the company would be as good as their word and
sort the problem out.
The next month he got a bill for
$0.00 stating that he had 10 days to pay his account
or the company would have to take steps to recover
Finally, giving in, he thought he
would beat the company at their own game and mailed
them a cheque for $0.00. The computer duly processed
his account and returned a statement to the effect
that he now owed the gas company nothing at all.
A week later, the manager of the
Mudgee branch of the Westpac Banking Corporation called
our hapless friend and asked him what he was doing
writing cheque for $0.00. After a lengthy explanation
the bank manager replied that the $0.00 cheque had
caused their cheque processing software to fail.
The bank could therefore not process
ANY cheques they had received from ANY of their customers
that day because the cheque for $0.00 had caused the
computer to crash.
The following month the man received
a letter from the gas company claiming that his cheque
has bounced and that he now owed them $0.00 and unless
he sent a cheque by return mail they would be taking
steps to recover the debt. The man then tried to file
a debt harassment claim against the gas company. It
took him nearly 2 hours to convince the clerks that
he was not joking but convince them he did.
They subsequently provided statements
which were considered substantive evidence of the
aggravation and difficulties the man had been forced
to endure during this debacle.
The matter was heard in the
Magistrate's Court in Mudgee and the outcome was this:
The gas company was ordered
1. Immediately rectify their computerised
accounts system or show cause, within 10 days, why
the matter should not be referred to a higher court
for consideration under Company Law.
2. Pay the bank dishonour
fees incurred by the man.
3. Pay the bank dishonour fees incurred
by all the Westpac clients whose cheques had been
bounced on the day our friend's had been.
4. Pay the claimant's court
5. Pay the claimant a total of $1,500
per month for the 5 month period March to July inclusive
as compensation for the aggravation they had caused
their client to suffer.