Over the last 4 days, my energy company has contacted me regarding an unpaid utilities bill.
Day 1: I received an automated phone call, with a pre-recorded voice asking me to pay my bill. It was established through that call that I would make a BPay payment within the next 5 days. If payment wasn’t received within this period, further action would be taken to recuperate my outstanding debt.
Day 2: I received an sms from my energy company stating that I had an outstanding bill and that I could pay simply by clicking on a link provided in the text. It was Saturday and I was in taxi-mum mode. I didn’t have time to click on the link.
Day 3: Silence. It was Sunday after all.
Day 4: AM — I received an email from said energy company, reminding me and detailing my outstanding bill. A clever “Pay Now” button was at the bottom of the email and I proceeded to make a payment online.
Day 4: PM — I received a phone call from my energy provider’s offshore call centre. This is the transcript of that conversation.
AGL: “Hello, this is Midna, from AGL. Am I talking to Sandra Catalano?”
Me: “Yes, this is Sandra”
AGL: “Good evening Ms Sandra, could you please confirm your utility bill address and date of birth?”
AGL: “Uh, I need to confirm your identity”
Me: “No, you dont. You called me on my mobile phone and asked if I was Sandra Catalano. I confirmed who I am. Can you confirm you are Midna from AGL?”
AGL: “Uh, Um. M’am, we would like to offer an extension on your payment terms for your outstanding bill, so I will need to verify your identity.”
Me: “I don’t require an extension on my payment terms. I paid the bill this morning. In fact, I responded to an email I received stating I had 5 days to pay that bill. Why would I need an extension?”
AGL: “We have not yet received any payment m’am.”
Me: “Of course not. It was a bank transaction, so you will most likely have to wait 24 to 48 hours to see if the transaction actually occurred.”
AGL: “Well can I just confirm your identity and I will then place a note to contact you in 4 days should payment not be registered?”
Me: “Midna, when I call AGL for an inquiry into my account, I understand the need to verify my identity. You need to know if you are actually talking to the account holder or authorised person on the account. In that instance, I am more than happy to share my personal details with the operator. After all, I called you so I know who I am speaking to. When, however, you contact me on my phone, it is you who needs to verify your identity to me. I will not share my address, date of birth, email address or any other private information when you call me.”
“Furthermore, is it really necessary for AGL to notify a customer with: 1 automated phone call reminding me of payment, 1 sms reminding me of payment, 1 email prompting payment and 1 phone call from a call centre offering me an extension on payment, all within 4 days? Doesn’t that seem a little excessive?”
AGL: “Yes, m’am I understand your point. I will note that payment has been made via a bank transaction on your account. I apologise for any inconvenience.”
Me: “Thank you Midna. Apology accepted. Enjoy your evening.”
Does anyone else think it’s odd that we are bullied by our banks, telcos and utility suppliers to provide personal data over the phone to operators, who only have a first name, in their off-shore call centres so THEY can verify they’re talking to the person THEY called? Yet when you ask them to identify themselves, they have nothing more to share with you than their first name?
Does anyone else also find it ironic that when you receive an automated call, they ask you to simply “press 1” to confirm you are who they are looking for yet require no other information to verify that identity? Just pressing 1 is enough. Yet when they call you in person, they demand a full list of your personal data for verification.
Following tonights conversation with Midna, I have decided that I will no longer be bullied by call centre operators. I will not verify my identity by sharing personal data to those who call me. If they can remind and request payment via automated calls, sms texts and emails, then they will have to find an automated way to offer me payment extensions too.
Don’t let yourselves be bullied either. Let’s learn to respect our personal data and keep it just that — personal!
PS: Suffice to say, I’m changing utility company!