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Thursday, June 3, 2010

AT&T's Days As My Telephone And Internet Service Provider Are Numbered

AT&T has been put on notice that they have exactly one more month to fix my billing issues. If they can not do that, they will not be my telephone or internet service provider after that.

I wrote earlier about how AT&T screwed up my billing. I also wrote about how they screw up my billing at the drop of a hat. Anyways, my prediction that the issue will not be corrected with just one phone call was dead on. They have now sent me wrong bills for the past three months straight. I have gotten on the phone each time and spent an hour on hold to talk to some incompetent customer service representative who promises to make the problem go away, but instead only seems to make it worse.

Each of them will assure me that everything is taken care of and I should not have any problems. But each month, the wrong billing continues on. I just got off the phone with AT&T for the third time today. According to the latest billing statement from them, my internet access went from basic to express to pro during the last couple of months (about $15 to $32). In fact for a whole month, I had both the express and pro levels of DSL service at the same time! I have no idea how or why!

During every phone conversation, I have reiterated to each customer service representative that I don't need anything except the basic level of internet service. Moreover, even though the billing reflects different levels of service, my internet speed never went above the basic level even once anyways.

I was quite exasperated by having to waste time repeatedly on a useless issue that AT&T seems unwilling to fix. So, I gave the customer service representative an ultimatum: if I see one more billing error on my next statement, they are toast. I will take my phone and internet service to a different provider. Obviously, they pretended to care. They apologized for the billing errors, and repeated how much they value my business.
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If I were convinced that these were just honest mistakes, I might be less inclined to take drastic action. But I am convinced that AT&T deliberately makes billing errors, and makes their bills as hard to read as possible so that people end up paying more than they should without even realizing it. I am convinced that they are a dishonest company that relies on cheating their customers to bilk them for extra money. If I had to start all over again, I would not consider them for any service whatsoever. The only reason they still serve me at all is a testament to the power of inertia and incumbency!

In my latest statement from AT&T, there were 6 line items dealing with internet service. I was billed for service all the way from the middle of March. My previous month's bill already had a charge for that service, but now I was being charged for it all over again. There were similar double charges for service between the middle of April and the middle of May. And then there was a curious stretch of days when AT&T claims I had both DSL express and DSL pro on the same phone line! And then there was a medley of small credits thrown in that made no sense whatsoever either. For the same service between the same dates, the charge amount was 5 cents higher than the credit amount in one instance. Even an accountant formerly employed at Enron would have trouble making sense of this travesty of a bill from AT&T!

The billing agent could not make head or tail of the bill either. So, I gave him an easy way out of the problem. I told him that my usual bill comes to about $45 per month. So, I told him that I needed a credit for all charges that are above that going back all the way to my March bill. And going forward, I wanted my bill to be about $45 per month also. End of story. If he can accomplish that, they can keep me as a customer. If my bills contain any more gobbledygook and the charges are not in the normal range, I will not even call AT&T to dispute my bill. I will cut my losses and switch to some other company. They have struck out twice already, and I have made it clear that they are now facing the third pitch. If they strike out again, they are out of here with no further warnings!

But AT&T did provide me comic relief during my latest phone call with them. Right after I finished giving them my ultimatum, the customer service provider replied by asking who I have my wireless phone service with right now, and whether I would consider switching to AT&T. To say that I was incredulous would be an understatement! At least, my wireless bill from T-Mobile is one thing I don't have to worry about. Let us see, wouldn't it be fun to switch that over to AT&T so that I can spend more time arguing about charges and credits on that bill too? Fat chance!

So, I will know for sure how much AT&T values my business when I get my next statement from them. I am now busy doing research on replacing my phone and internet service. I might need to use the fruits of this research very soon.

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