Dave Johnson, 61, of Pembroke, Ont. got a bill in 2010 from a collection agency working on behalf of Rogers Wireless. It suggested he was in arrears for over $5,400.
But Johnson didn’t owe the money. He called the collection agency and thought he straightened it out.
“They said, you’ve never had a Rogers cell phone, so we’ll make this go away," Johnson said.
Problem didn't go away
But the problem didn’t go away. It ended up on his credit record and he was turned down for a couple of credit cards.
The bank also wouldn’t allow him to co-sign for his son’s mortgage. And he couldn’t use the equity in his home, which is paid for.
“I’ve got equity. But the frustrating part is it’s worthless to me because of this smear,” Johnson said.
He then began the frustrating job of clearing his name. In the process, he found out that another David Johnson had also been wrongly pursued for the same bill.
“They are just throwing darts. They are not chasing the person that was responsible for the debt," Johnson said. "They’re chasing the person that they think maybe have a similar sounding name."
Deborah Bruneteau of Winnipeg said she received a bill for over $2,600 from a collection agency hired by Rogers. The bill was addressed to her father, William Spence who had died two years ago and never had a Rogers account.
“Spence is a very common last name," Bruneteau said.
She said Rogers needs to take responsibility for the actions of the collections companies it hires.
“Collecting on people who have never owed money and causing very much stress and harm to someone’s credit rating...why would they do that?"
CBC News received dozens of complaints after our investigation last year revealed how collection agencies aggressively pursue unpaid debts. CBC's inbox was filled with emails about collectors hired by Rogers, one of the biggest phone companies in the country.
Howard Maker, Commissioner of Telecommunications Complaints, said he hears too many stories like this.
'Too many no-brainers'
“There’s too many no-brainers that come all the way to us, the industry’s ombudsman, and that’s very unfortunate.
In an email statement, Rogers said that "generally the system works" and suggested that the fault is with the collections agencies.
Rogers also conceded that it was pursuing the wrong Dave Johnson and that his credit rating has been restored.
As for Bruneteau, Rogers said "we sincerely regret" the experience she has had and is working to correct the problem.
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