Sunday, August 31, 2014

AT&T Alert

If you have combined billing from AT&T for your cell phone and house phone, internet, or U-Verse, this post is for you.

Back in July, AT&T in Connecticut separated its billing departments for cell phones, internet, or whatever. As a consequence, all hell has broken loose with their billing.

The first hint of the problem came this morning, when I received an email from AT&T, asking me to call them regarding my wireless account. Odd. They've never done that before.

When I called the number in the email, I wound up in the regular AT&T menu. In a surprisingly short amount of time, I was able to reach a live person. The live person proceeded to inform me that I was delinquent on my bill. I immediately pulled up my account to confirm that I had, in fact, paid my bill in full on August 10, as I do every month. The live person insisted that I had not paid my bill since July 3. Considering that I had paid my bill on time since that date, on July 9 and August 10, this made me a little cranky.

The live person then explained that the billing has been separated, and that I would have to call a different AT&T number to find out where my money went, that he couldn't help me any further, but if I wanted to pay the money that the computer said I owe, I could do that now. I declared somewhat loudly that I had already paid the bill, that AT&T was double-billing me, and that I absolutely would not pay the bill twice. The live person again stated that I would have to talk to someone else. When I asked if he could possibly give me the number of that someone else, he asked me to wait a few minutes while he looked up the number.

After hanging up the phone, I spent a few minutes downloading and examining my new separated bills. Sure enough, the bill I paid on August 10 included the amount I owed for cell phone service from July 2 to August 1. The new wireless bill on which I am supposedly delinquent is for cell phone service from July 2 to August 1.

Here's the billing cycle information from my new, separated wireless bill, which was due August 28 (for which I never received any notification).

And here's the wireless service dates for the combined bill I paid on August 10.

Next I calmed myself down and called the number the extraordinarily unhelpful live person had given me. I eventually was patched through to a new live person. The new live person was much more helpful than the old one. New Live Person informed me that I'm not the first person to call with this problem, and that I would have to call the Combined Billing Department when they open on Tuesday. In the meantime, he would do something or other to my account, presumably so I won't have my service disconnected.

New Live Person also assured me that I shouldn't worry about my ebill having my old address, from eight years ago, as my billing address. He said their computers have my current address, and it's just a little weird thing I could ignore.

So, if you're like me, and you're being double-billed by AT&T in the wake of their billing separation, call the Combined Billing Department during their regular office hours. I've been told they can help.

Combined Billing Department: 888-757-6500
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Update (9/2/14, 3:15 p.m.): It took fifteen minutes, but I finally got through to someone who could figure out what was going on. It turns out I'm not being double-billed, it's just that they decided to change when I pay the bill. Instead of paying for a month of service after that month is done, I now have to pay for a month of service while it's still happening. In other words, the bill for wireless service from July 2 to August 1 was due on August 10; the bill for wireless service from August 2 to September 1 was due on August 28.

This is a real pain in the rear for anyone on a tight budget. While AT&T is not double billing, they are requiring everyone to pay their bill twice in August, or suffer a late fee. As with most things in U.S. life, the poor get penalized for being poor.

In my case, I can afford to pay the extra bill for August, but because AT&T's computer screwed up and sent the notice about the bill to an address I haven't used in seven years, I got hit with a late fee. When I explained the situation, they agreed to remove the fee, so at least there's that.


Anonymous said...

I agree that whoever decided to notify us about the unbundling of services by way of a "delinquency" message has a lot to learn about consumer experience. My experience was similar to yours, but happier: no unhelpful person, and one exceptionally helpful person who noticed that I was on an old plan that had me paying too much for my service.

Tom said...

Make a complaint to the Public Utility Commission. That should get AT&T's attention.