You are sueing me for what? And who are you to begin with?!
January 18, 2012 8:01 AM   Subscribe

[Germany] I got a letter from court that a Pay TV provider sues me for not paying for their services; a 6 months bill worth over 400 €. Problem: I've never had anything to do with this - or any other - Pay TV provider in my entire life.

The bill lists my old address, where I have moved out 3.5 years ago after a big fallout with the landlord. I caught him several times in my appartment, always giving weird reasons like "I only wanted to check if all windows were closed". Obviously, I took the next best chance to move out and live at my current address ever since.
In neither place did I have any Pay TV contracts. I have a TV, sure, but I so rarely use it, it would never occur to me to even look into such a thing.
However, it was not too low for my former landlord to call my current one - about a year after I moved out - to claim I don't pay my rent and damage the property. Since I do pay my rent and am generally a quiet and easy going resident, my current landlord just hung up on him and never bothered with it any further, with the exception of telling me about this call.
I don't doubt said former landlord would sink even lower to harrass former residents (I'm not the only one with such experiences; the woman who lived there before me was accussed of running a bordello... in a 2 room appartment in a quiet suburbian neighborhood...) and seeing the Pay TV bill out of nowhere has this old address on it... it smells more than fishy.

My questions are, obviously, what do I do now? This is a letter from court, from a Pay TV company I never had anything to do with, sueing me to pay for a service I never had or wanted. I have no hard evidence that my former landlord is behind this, and no clue what kind of evidence they present. I assume they must have something telling them I ordered random movie and sports channels 4 years ago (actually, that I ordered them right after catching my landlord in my appartment and saying I'll move out, making things even more suspicious to me.) How do I prove I did no such thing? Do I need a lawyer? Could I end up paying for this?
posted by MinusCelsius to Law & Government (10 answers total)
You don't need to prove that your landlord did this, which seems to be distracting you. You just need to be able to show the company that not only did you not order this (as in, where is your initial agreement? Who's signature? Who's contact details?) but also reason with them with the same logic - "Why would I sign up with you a week (or whatever) before I moved out? Here is my new lease that proves I moved".

Contacting the TV company and expressing your concerns that someone is using your name to get services at a location you haven't lived at for 3 1/2 years may be your best start. You may be surprised how amenable they are if they find out they haven't been talking to 'you' all along. You only need a lawyer if they don't see sense.
posted by Brockles at 8:28 AM on January 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The supposed time of my contract is the last 6 months I've been living in the old place; or more specific - begins in June, I moved out in mid-October; most of the contract would have been while I still lived at this address. But I'll try to get someone on the phone tomorrow; and already objected to their claim formally.
posted by MinusCelsius at 8:40 AM on January 18, 2012

Since the letter is from a court, rather than the company, you definitely should first call the court to confirm that it's valid and not some weird scam or fabrication. Then find a lawyer - the initial consulation will be around €200. You could also call the Mieterverein and see if they have any tips since you suspect that your dodgy landlord is behind it.

The TV company will have probably required a signed letter in order to cancel the service, which may or may not help you make your case. Also, are you positive that you didn't fill any paperwork out around May, or maybe sign up for a contest or something, that you didn't read carefully? There are some shady companies in Germany that might try something like this.
posted by cmonkey at 9:08 AM on January 18, 2012

Well, call the lawyer if the TV company doesn't budge - €400 is a small amount to go to court over, but you don't want this to wind up on your SCHUFA report.
posted by cmonkey at 9:11 AM on January 18, 2012

I'm sure it's no scam *company*, it's a big Pay TV provider. Doesn't mean they don't try weird stuff tho, I've heard all sorts of stories. I'm also sure I didn't participate in any contests or replied to spam mail. I also can't see if this contract was actually cancelled from the little information I have. The list just ends with the December post.
And it's kind of strange that I never heard anything about this while the contract was running. Wouldn't they have contacted me after 2 or 3 months of not paying? (Though, I was rarely at home and said landlord was suspected to steal mail by other residents, maybe they DID try.)
posted by MinusCelsius at 9:59 AM on January 18, 2012

If it's a satellite company, at least they'd have the paperwork when they did the installation, but if it's a cable company, they might not. Kabel Deutschland just sent me a receiver via DHL and turned the line on remotely, so it would have been conceivable for someone to order the service in my name and apartment, but accept delivery of the package on my behalf if I was out and never tell me a thing until the bill came due, assuming that they allow you to sign up without giving them a bank account (I can't recall - all my bills are withdrawn automatically because I'm a lazy, lazy man).
posted by cmonkey at 10:39 AM on January 18, 2012

It's Unitymedia. I never heard about any satellite offers they have, so I assume there is a digital receiver somewhere, and it was delivered to my former landlord (retired/home all day; logical person to accept deliveries to the house). I just can't imagine any company would just sit and wait if someone made a new contract and never paid from the start. I can only assume that they sent bills and I never got them, and after my address changed, they still kept sending them to the old one. Obviously I didn't notify them that I moved.
posted by MinusCelsius at 11:15 AM on January 18, 2012

Well, I guess you can't really do much until you get more details out of Unitymedia. I have no idea how long DHL keeps their signature records around, but if Unitymedia still has the tracking information, that might be another angle to use (chances are the driver noted that it was given to a neighbour named X).
posted by cmonkey at 11:53 AM on January 18, 2012

When I lived in Germany I got a bill for a magazine that I had never subscribed to. I wrote to the magazine and asked for a copy of my subscription form to check my signature, telling them that I believed someone else had subscribed in my name. When the form arrived, it was my name, but the signature was weird and looked nothing like my normal one. The magazine tried to be difficult, but I went to the police, and they told me that it was a crime for someone to have forged my signature, so they looked at the copy, and they looked at various pieces of ID I provided that had my normal signature on it, and agreed that they did not match. They took a statement from me (but they wouldn't listen to or write down my suspicions about who might have done it, because they said I had no evidence). But my copy of the police report, sent to the magazine, was enough for the magazine to go away and leave me alone.

I recommend you try something similar.
posted by lollusc at 2:30 PM on January 18, 2012

My landlord would have had several signatures from me, plus he frequently went into my appartment while I was at work - it is very possible he just copied it, if there is a written contract. I'll call Unitymedia to find out what service delivered the receiver (if there was one) and then try to get the records for both the delivery and the original order. I can't imagine anyone can make a verbal contract or online, with no signature anywhere.
posted by MinusCelsius at 4:50 PM on January 18, 2012

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