Some of you may know about the ongoing war I had with AT&T over trying to get a bill that actually represented what I’d signed up for. My attempt to cancel when I moved out in June was nasty. Their follow-up attempt to screw me got very nasty, but I think I took care of it. Lessons learned:

1) We hateses monopolieses, yeessss. We wanteses cheap internets from non scummy companies with no accountability.
2) Being polite to the person on the other end of the phone when calling to resolve a billing issue is what you ought to do. They are not the company, they are not the one responsible for your monthly screwing. However, when, a month and a half after you’ve canceled your account they’re still trying to screw you, yelling and cussing turns what has historically been a 2hr conversation into a half an hour one. Also, you feel better afterwards. Screw being a good person.
3) Systematic attempts to charge you for services you didn’t sign up for, inexplicable “billing mistakes” and threatening to call in a debt collection agency to pay them money when, in fact, they owe you money, constitutes mail fraud.

[contact information for Anaea, the pissed parrot of DOOM, redacted.]
[contact information for AT&T, and the drop down sections of the mail compalint also redacted, except this time because I’m lazy]

Explain Your Problem: Please limit your entry to 2,000 characters (approximately. 30 lines)

From beginning service with AT&T, I found they had a continual misrepresenting what I was receiving and the cost of those services, adding services without my permission or consent, and having unexplained billing errors on my bill. Upon signing up for service over the phone in October of 2006, I was told that I would have a the most basic phone and internet package available for a monthly bill totalling $32.50. In addition I would be given a free DSL modem and free installation. Furthermore, I was informed that while I was under a 1yr obligation for my service contract, if I moved outside of an AT&T service area, I would be released from my contract without an early termination fee since they would not be capable of continuing my service.

My first bill contained charges for the modem, shipping of it, and services for which I did not sign up. Calling them resulted in having the shipping charges for the modem waived, the extra services removed, assurances that there was no more basic package for me to have (important as I had the phone line only in order to get the DSL and therefore had no interest in voicemail, caller ID, or long distance services), and that this was a one time mistake consequent of the new account. I was informed that the free modem was actually Free after rebate and that I would not be able to get the $50 refund until after three months of service.

The next month also contained billing errors, including an enrollment in extra services I did not want. When I called the company to have the bill corrected I was informed that normally there were fees for adding and removing services, but in my case, they would remove the unwanted services without a fee.

There was an inexplicable $10 charge on the next month’s bill which was explained as a billing error. I threatened to cancel my service and refuse to pay an early termination fee if billing errors and mistakes continued.

Another billing error lead to a phone conversation in April of 2007 where, not only was the $10 corrected, but I learned that I could in fact remove several features, including callerID, from my phone package for a reduced bill, despite what I had been told previously. I had those services removed.

I called on June 8, 2007, to prepare for moving from Chicago Il, to [Midwest location]. I explained that I either needed to suspend my account for two months during the move and continue it in [Midwest City], or cancel my account entirely, depending on whether or not ATT can provide service to [Midwest City]. I was informed that they could not, and that I would have to pay an early termination fee. After arguing over their policy and what had been explained to me initially I was transferred to an individual in their resolutions department who identified herself as TracyA. She said that since I was initially told that I would be released from my contract if I relocated outside of their service area then she would waive the early termination fee. My accounts were set up to be disconnected on the 11th, and I paid my bill through the end of my billing cycle on the 15th.

On June 26th, 2007 I received an email notice from ATT indicating that I no longer had any accounts with them. On July 20, 2007 I received and email indicating that I owed them $96, due immediately. Upon calling them I was transferred to their collections department. I was informed that my collections notice would expire Monday, July 23, at which point the debt would be sent to an outside collection agency. The collections department transferred me to resolutions only after demanding to know how I would be paying my bill. I insisted that I would not pay anything since given that my account was zeroed before I canceled my service. Eventually, she deigned to transfer me to resolutions.

I spoke to Vince from the resolutions department in Cleveland OH who said that he could in fact see notes about my conversation with Tracy, that they had charged me a $99 ETF despite that conversation, and the difference between the actual bill and the charge came from a credit they owed me for the time between June 11, when my service was canceled to the end of my billing cycle on June 15th.

I received the paper version of the bill on Monday the 23rd, the day my collections notice expired according to the collections department. This bill was mailed directly to a [state on the East Coast] address which I had given them as my intermediate address during the summer, before I commence residence in [Midwest city] in August.

Given my experience, I find their practices to be deliberately and systematically designed to over charge and sign up their customers for services they do not want. Given that I received paper statements via the USPS and electronic statements through their online system and the same email account listed as my email address in this complaint, and that there were several phone conversations where the facts were misrepresented to me, I believe these practices constitute both mail and wire fraud, and would like to file a formal complaint against them for both charges.

<lj-cut text="Oh wait, they want a briefer summary than that. Geesh, I was already cutting it so short there wasn't any entertainment value left."

[what actually got sent, though I'm hanging on to the other in case they follow up.]

During my period of service with ATT while living in Chicago, Illinois, with whom I had phone and DSL packages, I was repeatedly signed up for services to which I did not consent, lied to about charges I would incur for certain services, and received several $10 charges which were explained as billing errors when I called to complain. After canceling service with a zero balance in my account in June, I received notification confirming that I no longer had accounts with them. Then, on July 20, I received notification that I owed them $96 due immediately. Upon calling to understand this charge I was transferred to a collections department where they informed me that I was under a collections noticed which would expire on Monday, July 23, at which point they would call in an outside debt agency. She refused to transfer me to resolutions until we'd argued for several moments over whether I would be paying my bill that day, and if so, how. My conversation with the resolutions department confirmed that they were capable of seeing the notes made in my account upon canceling it that they should not charge me an early termination fee, that they had done so anyway, and in reality they owed me money since I had paid through the end of my billing cycle but my service was canceled before the end. I did not receive a paper notification of this alleged dept until Monday, July 23, the day they were going to call in the outside collection agency.

Given the repeated errors on my bills, the frequent misrepresentations of the circumstances, and the tactics of intimidation employed after I canceled my service, I believe ATT to be guilty of both mail and wire fraud. I received paper and electronic billing statements throughout my service with them, and my initial signup and all of my resolutions were conducted over the phone. I kept notes and records of my June and July 2007 conversations with them, as well as paper bills, and can give a more detailed description of the particular instances of error upon request.

Oh, and if you are, or represent, AT&T, be forewarned that at this point, you cannot make me happy. You could have made me happy in October. You could have made me happy in February. Hell, I might have eventually forgiven you if you'd left me alone after June. Calling a debt collection agency on me when you owe me money though? Unless your executives commit seppuku, there is no appeasement to be had here. I'm totally sicking another bloated unaccountable monopoly on your ass. Let's see how you like it.

3 thoughts on “Anaea kicks the AT&T monster

  1. I used to have AOL. I got rid of them after they charged me for services I had not asked for and did not want. It seems as if there is a tendency among large corporations to believe that they are entitled to bilk their customers.

  2. AT&T is a monopoly? I know that they get dealt a hell of a lot of anti-trust suites but I thought Verizon was a competitor and that many companies provided internet access.

    1. Competitor is a funny term in this sense. In Hyde Park there is only one option for phone service, and one option for cable service. This is true in most areas of the states. That one option is different from place to place, but generally you get just the one.
      Now, I had the option of either cable or DSL internet, which meant either Comcast or ATT, but they’re barely competing with each other at the internet level. They both want you to do phone, internet, and TV with them, and so they’re competing at the 3-way package level. Getting straight internet is nearly impossible because it gets rolled into everything else.
      From what I hear after asking around and stuff on the internet, these kinds of billing problems are typical no matter which one of these companies you go to, because short of moving, you have to deal with that company if you want those services. They know it, and they figure that their typical customer is too lazy to actually read their bill every month and figure out that they’re getting shafted. I suspect that the most recent unpleasantness was just backlash for not letting them screw me once. Of course, that meant monthly 1.5+hr phone conversations with them, thus my response to their backlash.
      Seriously, I think I just need to take out a full page ad in the New York times that says, “Push me and I’ll break your face.” Too many people don’t get that trying that stuff on me just inspires me to make them miserable.

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