An Auckland woman is sharing her frustrations after numerous billing errors by a garden bag collection company have cost her about $75.
The woman, who asked to be referred to as Julie C, first became a Greenfingers customer in October 2017, when she used the company's monthly wheelie bin pick-up service. Initially billed a $10 monthly collection fee, things went smoothly until she ordered an extra bag a year later.
Each time Julie called to dispute extra charges, a staff member offered to manually remove them but after numerous invoice credits and extra fees charged, the account became messy and difficult for her to reconcile.
"Run while you can - it's not worth the hassle," she said.
"I get that mistakes [will] happen, but they have confusing invoices with random debits and credits. The worst part is, they don't cancel when asked and they're hard to get hold of, so it carries on and on."
The monthly collection fee started at $10, increasing to $12, then $13. The extra bag was left on the property indefinately, for which she was charged two lots of $25, plus an annual rental fee of $26. Twice, when the wheelie bin wasn't by the curb, she was charged $2.
"My front yard is open - I would never leave the bin in the fenced back yard because we have dogs," she explained.
"I originally ordered the extra bag in October 2018 and have used it a few times since. As I had a direct debit, my assumption was that I would be charged for it as usual.
"This wasn't the case, instead it was showing as overdue. I was in debt for around $50 for over a year with no word from them," Julie added.
Financially stretched during COVID-19 lockdown, Julie finally asked to cancel her subscription. On March 9, 2020, she was charged a $13 collection fee as part of a total invoice of $103, which she paid.
The invoice charged her $13 as a 'final invoice on termination'. But on May 26, she received another $25 invoice for 'one extra bag'. Then on August 26, she was charged a $30 debt management fee.
"I paid the final invoice of $103, but since then they'd tacked on another $25 for a phantom bag in May," she said.
All up, Julie estimates she's out of pocket by about $75. Following her request to close the account in March, Greenfingers confirmed in September that the debt management fee had been removed and her account would be closed.
Sharing her frustrations about the company on a North Shore community Facebook page last month, Julie's concerns were supported by other residents.
"They've been doing random things for some time: non-collection but charged for it, sometimes charged for two bags when one collected, never on time [and] sometimes the weeks merge into next month (one month's pick up not achieved but still billed for it)," one resident, Chris, said.
"We've only used them once paid for a bag and collection. They tried to charge a second time for collection.
"When I followed up after two weeks of not hearing from then, [it] took another six weeks to be picked up (and they tried to invoice me again during that time)," said April, another resident.
Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said if a customer is charged incorrectly, they should contact the company concerned, ideally in writing, and ask for the issue to be fixed.
"The company should promptly refund you if you’ve been overcharged. If it doesn’t, you can file a claim in the Disputes Tribunal.
"Alternatively, if you’ve paid by credit or debit card, you can contact your bank and ask for a chargeback," Wilson said.
Greenfingers has not responded to a request for comment.
Update: Greenfingers spokesperson Robyn Cormack contacted Newshub on October 7, after the article was published. She said the company genuinely cares about its customers and operates fairly.
"If an error has been made, we try to find a resolution in favour of the customer," Cormack said.
COVID-19 lockdown restrictions caused pick-ups to be delayed, creating a backlog.
"Final collection of Julie's bag could have been delayed due to COVID restrictions and difficulty catching up. There have also been extra demands on our customer service team, which may explain some of the delay in getting in contact," Cormack added.
"We value our customers and continually try to improve the service we offer to them. This is an ongoing process."