AT&T Incompetence by Charles Young

Fraudulent third party billing

In early 2009 AT&T started adding some mysterious small charges to my phone bill. When I asked what these charges were for, I was told that I had bought something online and billed it to my phone bill, but AT&T could not tell me what I supposedly bought. I asked that these charges be banned from my account so that the third party partners in crime with AT&T would not be able to bill me for their supposed "services". AT&T refunded the charges, but could not stop the fraudulent billing. I would have to call the billing department every month to get the charges removed. The billing office keeps pretty much bankers hours, so this made it a very big hassle that I did not want to deal with any longer.

I dumped my AT&T phone service and went to dry line DSL (no dial tone) from AT&T for a flat monthly charge with no added taxes, fees, or fraudulent third party billing. I ported my home phone number to Phone Power which offers much more value for the money.

More billing troubles

Everything was fine with AT&T DSL billing only for about a year until I received a bill with a small amount overdue because they had not credited the full amount that I pay every month. The next business day, I contacted the billing department and after much waiting on hold, was able to finally talk to a nice lady who assured me that she would fix the problem. Evidently she was not able to do so, since my bill has been wrong for three months now.

Looking back to the late 1990's, SWBC selective call forwarding stopped working. I made abougt 8 calls to SWBC over a period of about 5 months. Each time I was assured that the problem would be fixed shortly, but it never was. I even asked for an address that I could write to about the problem, wrote a letter, and received a reply with a return address of only an 800 number. SWBC was never able to fix the problem. One person read me the instructions even though I explained to her that I had been using this feature for over a year before it stopped working. The next time I talked to repair, the lady told me that the "instructions" lady never even turned in a trouble report. Another blamed the problem on Cox Cable. I asked for a phone number for this company and talked to a nice man at a cable company that had nothing to do with providing phone service.


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Land Line phone service competition?

During this time period several independent phone companies emerged that could have provided some competition if the government had kept things fair on a level plahying field. I switched to Navigator Telecom and received good service and correct bills.

A few years later I needed DSL in order to be able to do some work from home. The only real option was to go with what is now known as AT&T. Again there were problems.

It took me one month minus 2 days to get DSL. It took a week after the line was switched to get my metro calling service phone service reactivated. Metro calling allows me to call Little Rock numbers toll free, and allows Little Rock phones to call me toll free.

I have heard that switching phone companies usually takes a long time. Besides taking over 3 weeks to switch the line to AT&T, it took another week and many hours on the phone for AT&T to get my metro calling reactivated. I have had the metro plan as long as it has been available. I called AT&T billing to get a credit for the service that I paid for and did not receive. They promised me a credit of less than $3. It does not matter how inconvienienced my wife and I were or how long I had to spend on the phone listening to AT&T's music on hold, their calculation is that I am due less than $3.

Perhaps AT&T justifies their long hold times for customer service by saying that customers should use the internet trouble reporting option. I tried that. Maybe because I had new service, my account was not yet in that system. Anyway, I was not able to report my phone service trouble via the AT&T web page.

I would think that a big phone company like AT&T would be able to routinely transfer phone service and an existing number from a competitor to AT&T and provision DSL. Not so. AT&T seemed to think that I was ordering a new phone line with a new phone number. I had no contact with AT&T until 2 weeks after placing the order. That is when I received a letter in the mail from AT&T. This is in spite of the fact that I had given AT&T my home phone number, my work number, and my Email address.

In the letter, AT&T said I need to contact them to provide additional information. I did call the number provided. That is when I learned that AT&T had done nothing about my order other than sending me a letter and totally misunderstanding what I wanted. Here is the letter I wrote in response to their bumbling. I have not received a reply.

P.O. Box 1535
Topeka, KS 66601

April 2007

Dear Ms. ,

Several things about my contacts with AT&T do not make sense to me. Perhaps you can explain them to me.

On April 7th I called and asked that my phone service be transferred to AT&T, and I ordered DSL. I am sure that the customer service rep understood what I wanted because he repeated it back to me several times. I was confident that the service would be installed in less than 2 weeks as he promised (3 to 5 business days for transfer of service followed by 3 to 5 business days for DSL).

Instead of having DSL in two weeks, I received your letter of April 16 saying that I needed to call and give additional information before my order could be completed.

I called, but was not asked any additional information. After waiting on the phone for several minutes, Michael told me that my order had been fixed, and it would be processed by April 25th.

What additional information did Michael need, and why did he not ask me for that information? I have trouble believing that my order was delayed due to a lack of information. What was the real reason?

If there were some problem with the order, why couldn't you have called me on the phone in a timely manner rather than sending me a letter that I received 2 weeks after I ordered service?

I asked Michael this question. His response was that someone probably tried to call, and nobody was home. As I told Michael, my elderly mother requires 24 hour care - someone is always at this number.

I asked what number customer service would have used to try to contact me. His response: 501-316-nnnn or 501-888-8888.

As I told Michael, those are not my phone numbers. I asked him to explain how he could have contact phone numbers that are not mine and I did not give to the original customer service rep. He explained that 501-316-nnnn was my new AT&T phone number. I told him I was not ordering new phone service, I had an existing phone line, and I wanted to transfer my phone number to AT&T. He apologized for the confusion, but could not explain how AT&T could confuse a transfer order with a new phone / new number order. Also he did not explain why AT&T would try to contact me on a phone number that they should know is not a working number (mistakenly assigned but not installed). He had no explanation for the 888 number except that it must be what the original customer service rep had written.

I told Michael that something seems to be amiss, and that AT&T seems to be very incompetent. I said that I wanted to wait a while to research other options, and to please refrain from processing my order until (if) I contacted AT&T later to ask that the order be completed.

Michael offered to transfer me to a supervisor, Ms. Moore. She said Michael had informed her of my concerns, but the only thing she seemed to know was that the order had been delayed. I explained my concerns, and asked if my phone number, 501-316-nnnn was listed on my account. She said it was. I asked why I wasn't called if there was some problem with the order. She said my number must not have been listed until today when I told Michael my phone number. I asked her how Michael could have called up my order by my phone number, if my phone number were not on the order already. She apologized for the confusion, but had no explanation. I repeated my request to Ms. Moore that my order be put on hold until (if) I decide that I want AT&T service. She promised that my order would be on hold until (if) I give the OK.

At the end of the conversation Ms. Moore thanked me for choosing AT&T. I reminded her that I had just unchosen AT&T.

I do not want a new phone number or an additional phone line. I merely wanted to transfer my existing telephone service and number to AT&T. I wonder how such a simple request for transfer of service could be misconstrued to be an order for new service with a new phone number? The fact that AT&T cannot process a simple order such as this without messing it up certainly does not give me any confidence in your company.

I would love to hear your explanation for what seems to me to be gross incompetence.