Can a company charge late fees if they haven't delivered a bill?

So a labour stoppage at Canada Post is looming, and on my last set of (mailed) bills, I was warned that I am responsible for paying my next bill even if I don’t receive it in the mail in time. If I don’t, they’ll hit me with late fees. Is this actually legal? Don’t they have to invoice me in some way first?

It will depend on what the bills are for, or what the contract you agreed to when you signed up for whatever service it is says, or what the local laws on the subject are, but, yeah, it’s probably legal.

Presumably whatever service it is that you’re supposed to pay for has a phone number you can call or a website you can login to to find out what you owe. It’s not their fault that the postal service isn’t reliable, nor should it be a mystery that you have to pay for, say, electricity, or cable television every month.

If it was otherwise, then a lot of people who can’t pay their bills would say that their bills got lost in the mail or that someone stole their mail.

They do that anyways despite it not working; when I was a utility operator doing disconnects for non-payment probably at least 1/4 people said they didn’t get their bills. They were always very sincere and confused looking… but they didn’t know how many of their neighbors gave me the same line that day.

If the mail system were (as they claimed) really so messed up that a quarter of all mail got lost, the town would be up in arms because the good mail (like their paycheques) wouldn’t show up either. But apparently only bills, photo radar tickets, and other bad mail gets lost :rolleyes:

Yes, but the question concerned an actual postal strike when the bill certainly didn’t come. I am right now expecting a school tax bill and the amounts are not available online. Since everyone in Montreal is expecting such a bill, I imagine they will quickly find a way of posting the bills online. I think the PO is shooting themselves in the foot by locking out the workers. Already, with few exceptions, the only mail I get are magazines, junk mail and charitable solicitations. Perhaps I will change to online subscriptions and do the charities online.

What is this “bill in the mail” you speak of?

Sounds like a postal strike is an ideal time to switch over to paperless billing.

I had reason to discuss this very point with a very good lawyer.

“If you owe somebody money, it is YOUR obligation to find out how much and find a way to pay him”.

If you hire a surgeon to perform an operation on you, you certainly know you just might owe her/him money.

“I didn’t get a bill” does not hold water, even if the exact amount owed is really not known to you. If you do not know the amount - it is on YOU to find out.

I was on a paperless billing service run by Canada Post. It was great. It integrated with my bank’s website, so I could see my bills there and pay bills electronically. Then the big telecom companies decided that they’d all rather run their own websites that didn’t integrate with anything. Fuck that noise. I want all of my bills in one place. I don’t want to have to be checking 5 different websites for bills.

But the medical system is tough in that they’ll screw you anyways. Go, have surgery, and in three months call the health care group and tell them you didn’t get a bill yet and they’ll probably rattle off something about how the bills are ‘probably still bouncing around in the system’ or ‘the insurance company and the billing department are still figuring out everything out, sometimes it takes a while’. You can call every month and suddenly after 6 months you’ll get a letter from collections.
Anytime you call a health care billing department I always suggest you make a note to yourself of who you talked to (what time/date, and what you talked about) AND ask them to make a note on your account that you called. Just having some random person say ‘don’t worry about it, you’ll get the bill eventually’ without even getting your name won’t do you any good, but being able to call them back when you get that collections letter (without contacting collections) and saying 'look at the notes in my accounts, I called every three weeks for the last 3 months, 9 different people told me the bill wasn’t ready yet.
I had a different, but similar mess, literally, the ONLY reason I got out of it was because I documented it on my side. It was nice when I could say 'I talked to Owen last week, he-" and I was cut off when they said ‘yeah…Owen quit last week, let me bump you up to a supervisor’. Still took months to sort out. Lots of mistakes and half assed promises on their side.

Without being able to name drop ‘Owen’ I would have been starting over, again, apparently Owen didn’t make notes on any accounts, just told everyone whatever. It was like I didn’t even call.
Good thing I called back too, just to check on the progress, otherwise it would have started dinging my credit. fuckin 'owen.

I played postal chess for a few years … out of about 5,000 pieces of mail sent/received, only one was lost outright and two came weeks late … pretty outstanding record if you ask me.

You know you owe the money, you agreed to pay, not getting the bill is NOT an excuse.

But, here’s the thing. If I owe you money and I never get the bill, that’s not an excuse. However, if I owe you money, I send you the check and you never get it…it’s still not an excuse, I’ll still get penalized in the same way I would if I just decided not to send it. In some cases, some people will date the payment based on the post mark (and if I’m pushing it, I’ll take it to the post office and make sure to get it stamped for just that reason). But in general, if I get a payment to you late because the bill got lost in the mail that’s my fault. If I get the check to you a week late because the check got lost in the mail, still my fault. Seems like it should be one or the other, not both. You shouldn’t get to have it both ways.

For example, upthread a poster mentioned a post office strike and the biller telling everyone ‘welp, better figure something out’ shouldn’t the people that owed the money be able to say ‘okay, we figured out our totals, we wrote the checks, you can figure out a way to get them, we’ll leave them in the mail box’. I know, that’s a bit extreme, I’m just saying, one or the other. If it’s my responsibility to get the money to you on time, it should be your responsibility to get the amount due to me on time.

We sign a contract: “I’ll plant a maple tree in your front yard, then you give me $100”. There’s no requirement for me to invoice you, you have to pay whether I do or not.

If you insist on an invoice, then you shouldn’t have signed the contract without that clause.

Since this involves legal issues, let’s move it to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

That’s a specific case of “I know how much the bill is ahead of time and promise to pay it with in X days of the work being done”. And I’d still be willing to bet that if the check is mailed and [for the sake of the argument, let’s assume it really is] lost in the mail, it’s still my problem.

However, in the rest of the thread, people are talking about cases where they don’t know how much is due. Medical bills, utility bills (my energy bill isn’t the same from month to month) etc. In those cases, I can’t pay the bill until I know how much it is and if for every month for the last 15 years I’ve been getting the bill in the mail and putting a check in the mail a week or two later, maybe the biller could cut could me some slack if there’s there’s a postal strike that week.

Yes they can and will charge you a late fee. You can also call them, explain that you did not receive the bill, and they may decide to wave the late fee/send you a duplicate bill. But it may still show up on your credit report as a late payment.

What I do is I have a list of bills I should receive each month around a certain day. I check that and sometimes I have not received a certain bill (lost in mail). I then pay it anyway - easy to do online these days. I mark off each bill as I receive it/pay it.

So I ALWAYS pay my bills on time - have very good credit.

I know that I owe some amount of money, but my bills aren’t a fixed amount. But somebody above mentioned calling in for my balance. Perfect. I can make them waste time and money handling my call, because they insist on wasting my time so that they can try to force me onto their advertisement, wait, sorry, no “billing website”. Right.

It actually saves them time and money to get the billing right in the first place. Using my example again, the bylaws in the small town were such that when a utility bill didn’t get paid, it had to be dealt with in a certain series of steps.

First the account was flagged by the computer system, and a clerk had to verify that records were correct.

Then after a given amount of time a letter was generated by the system (and again verified by a person), printed, stuffed by hand, and mailed to that account reminding them they didn’t pay (and telling them how much they owed as well as giving options for how to fix the problem - including phoning in to make payment arrangements).

Then near the next billing time another list was generated of accounts that still hadn’t paid, from which a bunch of disconnect warning tags were again verified by a person, printed, had a rubber band attached, and handed over to the utility operator (me) to go hang. These tags also had the same info telling them how much they owed as well as giving options for how to fix the problem - including phoning in to make payment arrangements.
Then I had to drive to every house to hang the tags… generally took me 2 full working days.

Then after the prescribed time indicated on the disconnect tag had passed the clerk would again go through the system to see if any of those accounts still hadn’t paid up. They made a list of those and handed it over to me.

Then I had to go out again and drive to every house that didn’t pay up, locate the underground shut off valve (many of which were buried or rusted up), shut them off, and hang another tag telling them that they had been disconnected by us, why, and how to fix it. At this point they had to either come in in person or phone us.

Then I had to go back out and turn the service back on… after they paid an additional penalty fee.

I never added up the total time spent per delinquent account, but my own personal time probably averaged about 30 minutes per account who held out to the end. And in the end 95% of these people finally ended up settling the whole thing with a 2-minute phone call once they realized we meant it.

For many years with modern computerized systems it only takes seconds for someone to look up your records and tell you what you owe.

I guess their only solution is to turn off your service until the postal service is back up and working. They wouldn’t want to inconvenience you by making you use the phone or the Internet.

Perhaps I’m a rarity in that almost all my monthly bills are as close to being fixed as to make no difference. Generally my electric bill only goes up and down when I’m running the heaters, which I won’t be this next month, so I know $50 will keep them happy.

Late fees are not strictly for profit … there’s an overhead to getting your due money late … that doesn’t mean there no profiteering on late fees … just that’s it’s not solely for profit.

I actually use a similar system, hasn’t failed me yet and has actually saved a few times over the years. I don’t know offhand when all my bills are due, but I make I have a list of all of them and check them off each month. If it’s near the end of the month and I haven’t made my Time Warner payment yet, I go and check on it (maybe I didn’t get the bill, maybe I did, maybe I made the payment and forgot to check it off).

But try and change the ways of your 80 year old grand ma that’s been writing a check to Ma Bell since she was 25 and rented her first phone and still had a party line.
If it’s the responsibility of the payer to make the payment on time, it should be the responsibility of the biller to to get the bill to that person on time. If they have so many customers that’s just not possible, that shouldn’t be my problem.
In some/many cases, ISTM, it could be as simple as sending out a courtesy letter/call/email* a few days before it’s due.

*I’m thinking something other than how the first bill was sent and agreed upon when the account was first set up.