Money Grouse: Hit with a bill for other people's phone calls

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The Independent Online
WHEN Andrew Horbury was a student at the University of Humberside he shared a house with six other people.

The telephone was put in joint names, and when he left at the end of March he did not think to remove his name from the bill.

Kingston Communications, the 90-year-old private telephone company that operates in the Hull area, has now presented him with a bill for pounds 674.05.

'They told me that even though the calls were made after I left the house I was still liable to pay the bill because I failed to remove my name from the bill,' Mr Horbury says. 'Even though there were six other names on the bill, they elected me to pay the full amount.'

Mr Horbury says two of the people now live in Indonesia, (many of the calls were to Indonesia), one lives in Belgium and he can track down only one of the other former occupants. He looks unlikely to be able to recoup money from the other occupants. The company is threatening legal action.

A spokesman for Kingston Communications said: 'When any customer applies for telephone service they sign a contract which states clearly they are liable for all calls made from their telephone. That applies to customers who sign collectively or individually.

'With students and other customers who may live in multi-occupancy accommodation it may be difficult to find one person prepared to sign the contract and to be solely responsible for the payment of bills.'

In these cases every individual who signs up is responsible for the whole bill. Kingston said that if arrangements break down between the occupants, and some cannot be found, then it enforces the contract against those who can be traced.

When a group of people share a house, BT insists on one person being responsible for the bill.

Oftel, the consumer watchdog, says Mr Horbury's position depends on the nature of the contract.

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