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Thursday, February 19, 2015

AT&T tries bait and switch

I'm fed up with the telephone industry, especially AT&T. Robocalls are bad enough - I get two or three per day Monday thru Saturday - and now it's an ongoing, inexcusable effort to force me to pay more for U-verse than I was quoted.

It all began the first few days of last December when I called AT&T to discuss cancelling both my Internet and phone (I have a land line) service. Charges had been runnin' 'bout $72 - $80 per month, and given the constant barrage of robocalls - which had prompted me to generally avoid answering my phone - it just didn't seem worth it.

The lady I spoke with was very nice, seemed sincerely interested in helping me, and wound up quoting me a rate of $34.95 per month for a year if I would sign up for U-verse, which I gladly accepted. When AT&T showed up to install the U-verse, I inquired again about the rate. He quickly confirmed what I'd been told, and e-mailed me a copy of the charges (installation and modem fees waived), which ended off with a "Grand Total" of $34.95 per month.

No mention was made verbally or in writing of any addtional charges.

All well and good until charges showed up on my new U-verse account. Initially, I was billed for over $200, but after several online chat conversations with AT&T, that was gradually reduced to a little over $52 per month. AT&T dug their heels in for the $52 per month, and the online chats got somewhat less than cordial. 

ALWAYS - I repeat ALWAYS - get it in writing when AT&T specifies charges that you are in agreement with. Had I not obtained written confirmation, it's anybody's guess as to what I would have wound up being charged.

I refused to pay anything unless I was billed for the amount I had been quoted, and the next thing I knew, I got a nasty notice via snail mail advising me that my service would be "temporarily interrupted" the following day unless I forked over the $52 per month. So I immediately filed an online complaint with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.

Good thing I got to Consumer Affairs' website when I did.

Next morning, my phone had been disconnected for all but emergency calls (of course, the robocalls continued), and my Internet usage was restricted to e-mail, Facebook, and, for a short while, Blogger. Attempts to navigate to other websites prompted a nasty, full-screen pop-up berating me to pay the fifty-two bucks. 

I persevered, and it took about a week before Consumer Affairs e-mailed me confirmation that AT&T had agreed to $34.95 per month, and I needed to pay for two months based on that rate. I paid the amount within hours after receiving notification from Consumer Affairs, full service was restored, and I hoped the matter had been resolved.

But alas.

My next bill (the current one) popped up for about $92, and I've again complained to AT&T (Consumer Affairs had given me contact info for someone in AT&T's president's office), with a copy of this latest complaint to the person I initially communicated with at Consumer Affairs. I e-mailed my complaint Monday, my bill is due on the 27th, and I haven't heard hide nor hair from Consumer Affairs or AT&T.

I can understand errors on the first bill for U-verse. But there's no excuse whatsoever for my service being interrupted for a week. Nor is there any excuse for the same thing starting all over again. This entire matter amounts to nothing more than a bait and switch tactic, with a dose of bullying thrown in for good measure. The 27th will be here soon, and I suppose AT&T plans to once again "temporarily interrupt my service" in an effort to make me accept a higher monthly rate than I was quoted. 

Clean up your act, AT&T. And while you're at it, block those robocalls.

Update 2/19/2015 - AT&T is developing quite a reputation for bait and switch. The FTC is suing AT&T over the company charging customers for "unlimited" data, then throttling the data. "'Unlimited' means 'unlimited," says the FTC. Someone also needs to tell AT&T that "'Grand Total' means 'Grand Total.'"

Update 2/20/2015 - 
> My tweets with a link to this blog post are being blocked from appearing in Twitter's real-time posts. Likewise re the tweets appearing on my Twitter profile page. Corporate CENSORSHIP in the age of the Internet. My pleasure to expose Twitter and AT&T on Facebook. 
> Who woulda thought? My Facebook posts with a link to this blog post are also being blocked from appearing in real-time. AT&T and their crooked, bullying cohorts don't like it when folks dare to expose AT&T's inexcusable behavior.

Update 2/23/2015 - 
> This morning I heard from the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs advising me that they will once again reach out to AT&T. Stay tuned as consumers get a firsthand look at how AT&T bullies its customers.
> AT&T prefers to argue instead of correcting my bill, realizing, of course, that the so-called South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs has no legal jurisdiction in the matter. Here's a copy of the e-mail I just now sent to Consumer Affairs with a copy to AT&T:


"I didn't speak with AT&T the last time you resolved my complaint, and I complained to Consumer Affairs only after repeated conversations with AT&T. I'm not interested in arguing with AT&T - that's why I contacted Consumer Affairs. 

If AT&T wanted to correct my bill, they would have done so by now - the bill continues to reflect over $90 instead of the $34.95 I was promised - so it appears the situation cannot be resolved through Consumer Affairs.

There's no reason whatsoever - other than a lack of good faith on AT&T's part - that AT&T can't respond to Consumer Affairs' inquiry the same way they did last time, taking action to correct my bill."

> I just love it when crooked corporations like AT&T feign ignorance in an attempt to bully customers into complying with unjust demands. Just now heard from Consumer Affairs with the "news" - who woulda thought? - that AT&T sees nothing wrong with my current bill for over $90. Consumer Affairs wants me to have yet another verbal exchange with AT&T, when the facts of my case have been clear to AT&T since the first part of last December. I refuse to be baited in such a manner. Toothless state "Consumer Affairs" departments - looking out for business interests instead of consumers - are part of the problem when it comes to crooked corporations. I never expected much when I contacted the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs to begin with.

> I understand, AT&T: Crooked corporations and their stooges in state government would rather not converse in writing. Sure am glad I lucked out and got a copy of that quote for U-verse at $34.95 per month.

Updates 2/28/2015 - 
> Consumer Affairs says their actions are limited to facilitating a resolution between customers and businesses. They do not render decisions and have no legal jurisdiction over entities such as AT&T. In other words, the SC Dept. of Consumer Affairs is just another toothless, tax-funded agency that wears consumers out with meaningless back and forth chit-chat.
> AT&T reduced my current bill to about $38 and sent me an e-mail (copy to Consumer Affairs) claiming they would never include taxes and surcharges in a "Grand Total" because they "cannot calculate" such charges. Perhaps AT&T expects folks to purchase U-verse without knowing what it costs. My bill was due yesterday, I'll pay it when the amount is corrected to what I was promised, and I have advised AT&T (copy to Consumer Affairs) to review the definition of "Grand Total." 
> AT&T's claim that they "cannot calculate" taxes and surcharges is at odds not only with common sense, but also contradicts what they state on their website. Obviously, they are able to calculate such amounts and should advise potential customers accordingly. Failure to mention such amounts while offering a "Grand Total" price for U-verse, and then billing customers for such amounts epitomizes the marketing ploy known as "bait and switch." 

Update 3/9/2015 - Just for the record, I was referred to Consumer Affairs by the SC Attorney General's Office. Wonder why the SC Attorney General isn't taking a direct interest in what appears to be a bait and switch tactic.

Update 2/12/2015 - AT&T is now billing me for $86.40 - the correct amount (for two months) should be $69.90. I've updated Consumer Affairs (copy to AT&T) and have once again emphasized my willingness to pay the bill as soon as it's corrected to the amount I was promised. Truly a shame that paid-off legislators - Repukes and Demagogues alike - allow crooked corporations like AT&T to kick consumers around. 

Update 4/15/2015 - Effective today, AT&T has once again interrupted my service. I notified AT&T and Consumer Affairs via e-mail that I have no intentions whatsoever of paying AT&T one cent until my bill - now three months worth including April - is corrected to $34.95 per month. Consumer Affairs replied back that there's nothing more they can do. Isn't it wonderful that this paid-off, corporate-controlled government gives consumers such great recourse against crooked corporations?

Update 4/16/2015 - Future payments to AT&T - if any - will reflect a credit for each day my service has been interrupted.

Update 4/29/2015 - AT&T now says they will "permanently" disconnect my service if I don't pay by May 11. Real hoot when corporations are allowed to promise a rate in writing, then not honor it, and tack on about 50% of the rate as an additional charge. Apparently, AT&T expects folks to agree to pay for their product without knowing the cost.