Log in to the online community

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in

Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

35 Replies

  • New Question

Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Arran Cameron on Nov 20, 2019 9:49 am

It used to be known as abstraction of electricity on a landline telephone network but it might be better referred to as abstraction of EM waves or photons, depending on how you view the wave particle duality, on a mobile network.

A friend racked up a mobile phone bill of nearly £2000 as a result of exceeding his data allowance whilst abroad back in 2017. He changed his network provider then cancelled the direct debit resulting in this bill going unpaid to today. It's not actually illegal to do this as all the old network provider can do is demand the payment, as a civil matter, and ruin his credit rating. He claims that unlike an unpaid gas or electricity bill, an unpaid phone bill has not consumed any of the earth's precious natural resources apart from a bit of electricity that cost only a tiny fraction of the value of the bill.

A local bobby disagrees and says that theft is theft regardless of whether it's a tangible object or a non-tangible service, so the criminal should be brought to justice and jailed.

Does the IET have a position regarding the legal status of unpaid phone bills and whether or not refusal to pay should be a criminal offence? 

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Andy Millar on Nov 29, 2019 1:24 pm

Roy Bowdler:
In general, my observation is that the Police or DPP, would not wish to get involved, or in many circumstances a wronged party wish to involve them, even if there is evidence of dishonesty, when the issue can be resolved by other means, ie “it’s a civil matter”.  However, I have seen prosecutions for minor “fingers in the till”, “theft from work” and fraud offences, where an employer has wanted to pursue that course of action.   

Yes, that's been my experience too - I suspect a combination of overwork and the fact that proof of active dishonesty is required to get a conviction. I think we've been lucky that in the 25 plus years that my wife has been self employed she's only had one client who tried to evade payment, but even there we didn't even need an actual solicitor's letter, just a letter (drafted with a friend of ours who has legal experience) saying the usual "pay in the next week or I'll pass the matter to my solicitor". 

I've certainly seen a case of an employee jailed for theft of IT equipment - but in that case they worked in procurement and ordered more laptops than they were supposed to, the extra laptops then "disappeared". I suspect dishonesty was pretty easy to prove there!

On the other hand, in a previous employment I remember our company solicitor coming in to give the senior management team a briefing on what constituted theft from a company, and saying we should aim to start criminal proceedings against any member of staff who took a pen home from the office. When we said "don't be daft" (and probably "life's too short") he affected to look scared and to said "I'm going to check whether my car still has it's wheels on since you encourage your employees to steal". Hmmm...I'd say these things aren't as black and white as some lawyers (employed and bar-room!) would like them to be. Which is why good lawyers can charge as much as they do. If any Ricardo lawyers are reading this I will admit that I do use work pens for home purposes, I also use home pens for work purposes...

Cheers,

Andy
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Sparkingchip on Nov 29, 2019 8:31 pm

A local garage had a guy who worked in the body shop charged with theft when he went home with a piece of wet and dry abrasive paper that he had been using in the pocket of his work trousers, valued in pennies. 

Andy B 

 

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by BUFFER on Nov 30, 2019 12:48 pm

Hallo to ALL - I have now been retired from my previous Employment "The Job" for Twenty (20) Years - Previously in Electronics & Electrics after my Career finished - therefore I speak as I find "Internet Knowledge" The Theft Act 1968 Section(1) dealt with the "Definition(s)" of Theft there are Three (3) A Person DISHONESTLY APPROPRIATES PROPERTY belonging to an OTHER - to prove Theft you have to satisfy those Three (3) criteria - normally now we break down those criteria to explain them in "context" - I won`t bother unless required - Moving on "Abstracting Electricity Sec.13 Theft Act" now you enter the "Minefield" I will only say in the "Electronic World" you are standing in YOUR field under a "Super Grid" Transmission Line(s) & you notice that the waving of the "Old Fluorescent" - IT LIGHTS UP & so you couple up Twenty (20) & illuminate your Barn - Have you committed an Offence YES/NO the answer is YES even though there is NO PHYSICAL CONTACT - in brief YOU form the "MENS REA" the THOUGHT to do WRONG DOING then your Illumination Circuit ABSTRACTS the means to POWER it - YES the "Electro Magnetic Pulse/Wave" Now you can SEE how COMPLICATED this can ALL become - Therefore returning to the initial POST - I am of the Personal View this is first of all not THEFT ask yourself When did the MENS REA appear can you PROVE IT !! - Therefore if this is the case I can only see a "CIVIL DEBT" in other words "NO CRIME" so much for a "Disturbance of the Ether" !! - I will stick to interpreting BS 7671 much more relaxing !! **Here`s one to ponder !! - Tax Evasion or Tax Avoidance - which is Criminal - answer(s) in a "Plain Brown Envelope" !! - Hope this wasn`t to "tiring" !! DM

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Sparkingchip on Dec 1, 2019 8:08 pm

Did you take it, did you mean to take it and did you mean to permanently deprive the owner of their property was how it was explained to me when I did jury service rather a long time ago.

Andy B.

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Rob Eagle on Dec 2, 2019 7:53 am

Would any of you, with an interest in things legal, have a look at my post entitled "Straw Poll" and give me you opinion?

Thanks,

Rob

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Benyamin Davodian on Dec 2, 2019 9:34 am

Good morning Rob Eagle,
What do you need an opinion on?
Regards, DAVODIAN BENYAMIN

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Rob Eagle on Dec 2, 2019 9:53 am

Morning Benyamin

I am looking for opinions on my post entitled "Straw Poll" in the "Ask the Community" forum.

Rob

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Arran Cameron on Dec 2, 2019 11:08 am

Andy Millar:

On the other hand, in a previous employment I remember our company solicitor coming in to give the senior management team a briefing on what constituted theft from a company, and saying we should aim to start criminal proceedings against any member of staff who took a pen home from the office. When we said "don't be daft" (and probably "life's too short") he affected to look scared and to said "I'm going to check whether my car still has it's wheels on since you encourage your employees to steal". Hmmm...I'd say these things aren't as black and white as some lawyers (employed and bar-room!) would like them to be. Which is why good lawyers can charge as much as they do. If any Ricardo lawyers are reading this I will admit that I do use work pens for home purposes, I also use home pens for work purposes...
The NHS has its own fraud squad staffed by many former police officers - allegedly asked to resign from the police due to a vindictive attitude or a chip on their shoulder - that cracks down even on minor trivial instances of stolen stationery or fiddled expenses claims in order to justify their existence and put the frighteners on staff. 

Not so long ago they gave a presentation at a local hospital about staff evading car parking charges committing a criminal offence - as opposed to it being a civil offence or a disciplinary matter. Investigations revealed that it is a criminal offence of fraud (overpayment of salary) because the car parking costs are deducted from staff salaries. If however they were paid by direct debit from a bank account then it will only be a civil offence of non-payment of a service charge.

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Lisa Miles on Dec 2, 2019 2:50 pm

Going slightly #offtopic but on the same theme:

A colleague in a previous employment was overpaid on their overtime. Someone in payroll misplaced the decimal point and they were paid £104 per hour instead of £10.40 for their overtime hours which meant a huge £624 (should have been £64.20) extra in their pay packet for the month. This happened on three occasions (for three months in a row) overpaying them a total sum of around £1500. On every occasion my colleague contacted the payroll dept to tell them that they had been overpaid, each time being told by the payroll staff that they would sort it out and reclaim it from the next months salary. 

My colleague was also leaving the company (the month after the last over-payment) and for the whole of their last week they were ringing and emailing payroll to tell them that they still needed to reclaim the over-payment.

They never did...

So was my colleague a criminal for keeping the money they overpaid or the payroll dept for making the mistake in the first place and then failing to recover the monies? 

Bear in mind that this happened over 20 years ago now and to date the colleague has never been contacted with a view to recovering the overpaid salary! 

  
Lisa Miles - Online Community Manager, Engineering Communities

Re: Should non-payment of a mobile phone bill be a criminal offence?

Posted by Andy Millar on Dec 3, 2019 1:27 pm

I vaguely remember there's something about you need to "have made reasonable efforts" to return property. Which it sounds like they did in this case! I looked at this quite a few years ago when a mail order company sent me something by mistake.

I did discover early this year that if HMRC give you a £6,500 rebate by mistake they do ask for it back - but very nicely! Shame they asked the day before my birthday though... Fortunately I hadn't spent it as I thought at the time it was FAR too good to be true.

Cheers,

Andy
Andy Millar CEng CMgr IET Mentor / IET PRA uk.linkedin.com/in/millarandy

Share:

Log in

Want to post a reply? You'll need to log in