NYT Home Delivery, Debt Collection

July 7, 2013 — The New York Times is sending the home delivery accounts of former subscribers to a debt collection agency, which is certain to aggravate customers and deter them from subscribing to the newspaper in the future.

Here is the scenario as it typically unfolds:
A customer has a subscription for home delivery of the New York Times. When the subscription term expires the Times doesn’t stop delivering the newspaper. Instead it continues the subscription — and if the customer does not pay for the delivered issues within a few months, the Times demands payment. If no payment is made, the Times sends the customer’s account to collections.

The first stop is International Media Concepts (IMC), a subsidiary of the New York Times Company that “performs accounts receivable management services for the New York Times newspaper and the Company’s other businesses.” The notice begins: “You have been a valued customer however, our records indicate that you have not paid your outstanding balance of $XX.XX.”

If you do not pay the “amount due,” the Times then forwards your circulation account to MCU & Associates LLC, of New Hyde Park, New York—a debt collector.

At this point the onus is on the customer to act, as the back of MCU’s letter states: “Unless you notify this office within 30 days after receiving this notice that you dispute the validity of this debt or any portion thereof, this office will assume this debt is valid.”

While I can’t offer any definitive advice, as each case is different, a customer in this situation might want to consider the following actions:

-Send a letter via certified mail (return receipt requested) explicitly stating that you are disputing the validity of the debt and the balance due.
-Request written proof of the copy of your order for a renewed subscription.
-Ask that if MCU cannot provide proof of your order, that it adjust your balance to $0 and provide formal notification that the matter has been closed.
-Ask MCU not to contact any credit reporting agencies.
-Advise MCU that if it fails to comply with any of your requests that you will file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau of Long Island (NY).

Although it may take several letters to get the desired response, this approach is likely to prompt MCU to close the matter (unless of course, MCU can provide proof of your order).

It’s somewhat mystifying why the New York Times Company would take this approach with paying customers. I wonder if any other print publishing companies are taking the same approach?