Camberley funeral firm chases

widow for bill she's paid.

by Cliff Mogg

A GRIEVING widow has accused a bungling firm of undertakers of a lack of compassion for chasing her for money she had already paid.

Mrs Julie Sanford said that Camberley and District Funeral Directors deserved to be "named and shamed" after it threatened to call in a debt collection agency to pursue her.

"I think people deserve to know how I have been treated by this company in what has been a horrible year for me," she said at her home in Churchill Close, Farnborough.

The dispute involved payment for an urn containing the ashes of her 34-year-old husband, Andrew, who collapsed and died from a heart attack in August last year.

She collected the urn from the company's Sandhurst premises last December and paid for it by handing over £175 in cash. The following month Mrs Sanford, mother of four sons aged eight, nine, 13 and 16, received a letter from the company claiming the amount was still outstanding.

"I was extremely upset by this and contacted the shop," she said. "I gave them the receipt numbers, and the date on which I had paid the £175, and they apologised." She was also assured that the account would be properly credited and that would be the end of the matter.

Last month she was shocked to receive a further letter from the company warning her that, if the bill wasn't paid immediately, interest would be added and the matter put in the hands of a debt collection agency.

"You can imagine how upset and angry I was," said Mrs Sanford. "I'm trying to rebuild my life after my husband's sudden death, and this was the last thing I wanted."

She telephoned the company's accounts department which told her that, as she had paid the bill in cash, the amount had not been credited against her outstanding account.

"I thought it was an incredible answer," she said. "In any case, my account had never been outstanding because I paid on collection."

When she spoke to the Star last Thursday - two weeks after the company finally agreed she had paid the money - she had still not received a letter of apology.

Geoff Wade, the company's corporate relations manager, confirmed this week that Mrs Sanford had paid cash for the urn and should not have been sent the payment reminder letters.

"This matter has highlighted a flaw in our accounts procedure which we have now been able to amend to prevent such a problem occurring again," he said. "I have written to Mrs Sanford and offered our most sincere apologies for the accounting error."