Terminating a Telephone Account

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The flat I had moved in was only a temporary home. After four month I had found a new place. One day before I would finally switch to the new flat, I called the Swiss Telecom to terminate my current telephone account. Since I was going to share the new flat with a colleague and a telephone was already in place, there was no need to apply for a new account---the very thought of which caused my spine to shiver.

When I had left Hamburg, I had been able to terminate my telephone account with a single call to the German Telecom. Not so in Switzerland. I was informed that in order to terminate my account I would have to fill in a form and send it in. And, what's more, I should have done this one month ago, since this was the minimum amount of time which it would take to switch off my account---of course I would have to pay for the additional month.

Having learned not to argue with Swiss Telecom officers, I asked where to find the form and whether I could fax it. The woman somewhat indignantly pointed out that I could find the form on the last pages of my telephone book. One more faux-pax---obviously it is part of proper behavior to read the telephone book on Sundays, so I should have known this.

She finally gave me a fax number. I found the form, prepared it, put it into our fax, and dialed the fax number the officer had given to me. Somewhat amazed, I listened to a friendly voice telling me that the number I had dialed was out of service and that I should contact my Telecom officer for further information.

Three coffees later I was finally able to face the situation: I would have to call the Telecom once more. I did so, but was connected to another woman this time, since I had dialed a general service number. She turned out to be an angel sent to my rescue. Having said only a few words, she concluded that I wanted to terminate my account. She asked me for my name and telephone number and said that the account was being canceled now with a final bill being sent to me some time next week.

This friendly woman was right, and indeed I received a bill for my account. As it turned out, however, it had been a fundamental mistake that I hadn't asked her for her name and phone number. No chance now to make some private calls, send her flowers, and get a little hand in dealing with the Telecom.

What was missing on the final bill was my 500 Swiss Francs--the security I had lent the Swiss Telecom for not taking one of their telephones. Calling the Telecom once more I was informed that the final bill was not the final bill but only a preliminary final bill. Another really final bill was still to follow, on which I would get back my 500 Francs. To be precise, it would be exactly 500 Francs plus interests minus a fee for terminating my account early.

Terminating my account early??? It took a while until the officer was back at the phone. He obviously maintained a safe distance between his ear and the receiver now. He explained to me that I had used my account for less than six month which meant undue administrative costs to the Telecom. Statistically speaking, these costs were not covered by my phone bills, and I therefore had to pay a fee of 80 Swiss Francs.

He told me that I should have known this, since it is stated in the "Gebührenverordnung für das Schweizerische Fernmeldewesen" (or something like this, I forgot the precise title) which I should have ordered from the Telecom headquarter in Bern. I pointed out that I was eager learning the telephone book on Sundays, though I admitted that I wasn't yet ready for the advanced stuff like the Gebührenverordnung. Unfortunately, he showed no mercy.

What's left, some 400 and something Swiss Francs showed up on my bank account two month later, but I'm still waiting for the really final bill to explain that deposit. I once made a weak attempt to ask them for the bill, but I was asked in return how I were able to call from home if my account was actually terminated. I silently put the receiver on the hook and dedicated a prayer to my colleague, the owner of the telephone I was using.

Dirk Riehle, December 1995

Copyright (©) 2007 Dirk Riehle. Some rights reserved. (Creative Commons License BY-NC-SA.) Original Web Location: http://www.riehle.org