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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, July 22, 2016

Money might

The Way We Live
Casiano Mayor Jr.

I was amused when I read the letter supposedly sent to me by a law office, Lauron Delos Reyes and Partners, demanding “overdue” payment for a service I allegedly got from Smart Communications Inc.

With its subject titled “Seriously Overdue” printed in unusually big bold letters, it appeared to me like a scare letter than a formal legal notice.

“Despite notice of our decision to file the necessary civil case against you to collect the amoupnt P4,977.04, you opted to ignore the same. Please be informed that as a necessary consequence, we shall file a case against you. Should you still disregard the summons, or otherwise conceal yourself, the case against you shall proceed exparte or without your participation,” the letter's main body read.

I suppose the letter, which was signed for Zapiro T. Lauron, was not reviewed, much less written, by a lawyer. My suspicion was that it was hastily-done, if not a copy-and-paste job because the amount mentioned was not the same as the amount claimed by Smart. The word “amount” itself was misspelled to “amoupnt”. The word ex parte was also spelled as one word.

Whoever prepared the letter should have shown it to Atty. Lauron or any lawyer in that law office before signing it in his behalf. It doesn't speak well for a lawyer if he did not review the letter and corrected major errors. The phrase “amount P4,977.04” should have also read “the amount of P4,977.04”. I won't have much respect for a Filipino lawyer who does not know his basic facts and English.

Anyway, the letter was sent to me last Saturday after I got into separate arguments by cell phone with two ladies, one from Smart and the other from a credit-collection agency, over my alleged overdue payment for a post-paid cellphone service. When the Smart lady first called up about two weeks ago, I asked her what was the bill all about and gave her my email address to give me an explanation. She did not send any message.

Last week, the lady from the credit-collection agency gave me a follow-up call demanding payment of more than a thousand pesos for the same account. She dropped a name of a law firm probably to scare me into paying my supposed debt. I told her to tell the law firm to give me an explanation of what the bill was all about. A few days later, on Saturday, I got the “scare letter”.

On Friday, a day before I got the law firm's letter, I went to the Smart office at SM to inquire what the bill was all about. I was told that it was about account so-and-so which I surmised was the Smart Money account that I opened after my wife and I discovered that it has similar services being offered by Smart Padala that we wanted to open for a business.

I have written about this in my previous article “The smartness of Smart” for last Friday's column. But for a refresher, we went to the Smart office at SM nearly a year ago to inquire about Smart Padala. The staff of Smart there did not know about Smart Padala and one of them suggested that we opened a Smart Money account, instead.

When we found out that Smart Money, an electronic wallet which would allow consumers to pay bills, reload and transfer money using a Smart mobile phone, had similar features of Smart Padala, my wife and I decided that I opened the account. But instead of teaching us how to send bills, reload and remit money, he assured us that a Smart representative will call and see us to do that.

After months of waiting, we received no call from a representative who was supposed to teach us how to operate my Smart Money account so I decided to browse the Internet for Smart Padala and learned that I could apply for it online. I did and abandoned my Smart Money account on the advice of a Smart Padala representative, saying that Smart Money was only for personal use and not for business.

A few months after I opened Smart Money, Smart sent us a text message that my account would expire and that I had to renew it if we wanted to continue the service. I went to the Smart office at SM, which has moved from the south wing to the north-wing by then, and was advised that I did not have to renew it if I did not need the service anymore.

Against that backdrop, I thought of fighting it out in court when I received the threat of the law firm that it would sue me if I did not pay the bill. I was banking on the fact that I never got the services that were supposed to be provided to me and that I did not renew the account when it lapsed. Why should I pay for service that had not been provided for, from the very start?

When I went to the Smart office at SM on Friday, a young staff said that I should have requested for a disconnection when I decided not to renew my account. I explained that my decision not to renew my account was a notice that I did not need the service anymore and that Smart should have closed the account automatically.

But after weighing things out, I decided to pay the bill on Saturday to save me and my family from getting into financial troubles. My wife and I are both former OFWs who are starting life anew here in Bacolod, and we can't afford to indulge in unnecessary expenses, like paying the cost of litigation.

In a nutshell, against the might of money, of which Smart has so much, I swallowed my principles and pride. I was made to pay P1,777.25, not the P4,977.04 the scare letter wanted me to deposit in some accounts.

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