Ask The Consumerists: Defeat T-Mobile’s Fascist Billing Unlogic?

A seasoned traveler and journalist, Mike knows how to juggle his cellphones and avoid usurious charges while abroad. Before he leaves for international locales, he records a message on his phone instructing people to only call him on a second, pay-as-you-go mobile. Somehow he still ends up getting dinged.

On previous trips, he’s noticed numbers on his bill he didn’t recall dialing. This time, he jotted down each and every call he made. When it came piper payment time, there were $23 in calls he didn’t make, Mark claims. Now he’s trying to get T-Mobile to credit those back and they’re refusing. In the absence of definitive evidence that he did not make the calls, T-Mobile persists in making him responsible for the charges.

Mark’s getting the royal runaround with the CSR’s. He wants help. Our only idea is that he should send his letter after the jump to headquarters. They don’t seem to like getting those. Also, try getting hold of the executive customer support team, as we detailed in “Be a Customer Service Ninja.

Any other suggestions, commiserations?


Mark writes:

“Wanted to share a customer service story, still under way, that has left me speechless. I would love to get suggestions from other readers on how to handle it as I am flummoxed.

I am a journalist and travel internationally for a living. I understand global mobile networks and the charging procedures all too well and am always careful to juggle my phones to keep costs down.

My M.O.: the day I leave the US I record an outgoing message for my cell voicemail instructing callers never to leave me a message; so avoiding incoming call roaming charges. I then only use my US cell in emergencies and instead use a local Pay-As-You-Go SIM card (much cheaper)

BUT for the last year or so, I’ve been mystified at how high my cell bill has been. The discrepancies? Rafts of international calls I didn’t remember making. So, during my last trip to France & Italy, I kept manual note of every time I used (or even touched!) my US cell. Comparing my records with the bill for that month, I found a discrepancy of 22 calls. 22 calls I’d never made (And the calls were all in T-Mobile’ favor, of course)

This is when I entered cellphone hell.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: PART I

My first contact with Customer Service was on June 19th at 10.30am EST, I spoke to Katie (Emp ID # 0653435). I explained the situation – a total of 22 calls misbilled to my phone number during my trip to Europe. She explained, in some detail, that the billing was automated; a cellular tower in Europe relayed the information back to T-Mobile, and it was therefore not an internal billing issue. She told me there was no way she could investigate this. I told Katie that I simply wanted a credit against the calls I had not made – approx $23 – and that I needed to speak to whoever could authorize that.

I pressed on and asked to speak to a supervisor. I then spoke with Donovan (Emp ID # 53651). He told me the same thing, but offered to forward the query to the appropriate investigative department internally at T Mobile USA. He guaranteed that I would hear back within 72 hours.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: PART II

I then received a call – two days later and within the timeframe – from another colleague who didn’t leave his Emp ID #. He explained that the situation was complicated and would take some extra time to rectify. He then said that T Mobile would call me back with updates asap.

INTERLUDE

That, of course, never happened.

CUSTOMER SERVICE: PART III

I followed up with a phone call at 2.53pm EST on July 5 enquiring as to the status of my account. First, I spoke with Marvin (Emp ID# 847 4107). He had no explanation for the fact that T Mobile had not called me back as promised. However, he told me that the tech team had tried to contact the overseas carrier who had not responded to a query on the charges; therefore, T Mobile could not produce proof that the calls were made. However, per T Mobile’s policy (inexplicably) this lack of proof meant that T Mobile considered the calls genuine and I would not be offered any credit on my account.

I was flummoxed. I then spoke to his supervisor Lakeisha (Emp ID # 0732211) who told me much the same thing. She then offered a goodwill 50% credit on the calls I’d disputed – the equivalent of a cellular plea bargain. Since I’d done nothing wrong – and not made the wretched calls in the first place – I pressed on, insisting that I needed a full credit against calls I had not made. And reminding her that this was simply the most recent month where the billing was in error; and I had a year in arrears of untraceable but inaccurate calls that I was unable to dispute but which galled nonetheless.

I then spoke to her supervisor Pete (Emp ID # 8474049) and this was the most astonishing interaction of all. I recounted my whole tale, underlining that I was very upset that T Mobile would make no effort to rectify its error.

“No one can validate we made a mistake,” Pete answered, then paused, and said that T Mobile believed the bill was correct and would expect payment in full.

I asked him if he didn’t believe me. “I know the bill is telling the truth.”

Are you calling me a liar? I say. “Those words are never going to come out of anyone’s mouth,” Peter replies.

Finally, when I asked how he’d feel in my situation… “I would know I had made those calls and so I wouldn’t be in this situation calling T Mobile.”

Understandably, I then terminated my conversation with Pete. Never once did I lose my temper with or raise my voice to anyone. However, I am now waiting a call back from Kevin, the team manager (Emp ID #8474015) who Pete promised would call me by 5pm EST Friday July 7. But Pete did remind me, in his unique way, that Kevin would make no recompense for calls I was erroneously claiming to be wrong.

What should I do? Has anyone else experienced this? T-Mobile is essentially telling me that automated billing can’t go wrong (which we know it can), cannot even provide proof for its own records (questionable at best) and refuses to acknowledge my complaint (even though I am the ideal pay-bill-on-time, spend-plenty-each-month customer)

Thanks much,

Mark E.”

Comments

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  1. Smoking Pope says:

    Simply send them an invoice for $40,000 for “services rendered”. When they refuse to pay, ask them to prove you didn’t render services.

    If only that would work. Anyway, run this WAY up the flagpole. See if you can noodle out the e-mail addresses for these folks:

    http://www.t-mobile-international.com/CDA/management,6,0,,…

    And complain away. At this level, they’re usually interested in fixing the issue so they don’t have to deal with customers any more. Punks.

  2. thatabbygirl says:

    While this may seem like horrible illogic, this is actually pretty
    common practice among agencies, etc, that serve low-income folks
    without this consumer purchasing power.

    For example, the Social Security Administration has cut disability
    benefits to a 63 year old woman in California with severe dementia.
    Why? Someone stole her SSN and used it to work in North Carolina,
    earning $13,000. While it’s immediately clear to any right-thinking
    person that this woman did not fly to NC to do manual labor, SSA
    maintains that until she proves she did not do the work, she’ll be
    considered to have earned those wages.

    Proving negatives like this – and like Mark is faced with – is nearly
    impossible. Just thank your stars that it’s not yet the norm in
    customer service, like it already is with administrative agencies.

  3. aka Cat says:

    Mike, was your cell phone on when those calls theoretically occurred? It’s my understanding that cell phones can, and do, contact the network on their own to get information such as the time.

    I wonder if that’s where those calls came from, and now the a$$holes are billing you for them.

  4. ModerateSnark says:

    With local phone companies, saying you’ll be writing to the Public Utilities Commission (or equivalent) seems to help. I’m not sure what agency international cell phone companies are scared of — or if they might be so unregulated that they’re fearless — but if you can think of a good one (Attorney General’s office?), try it.

  5. thesilentnight says:

    I would start by looking at your agreement with T-Mobile. See what provisions, if any, are in there for disputing calls. If you’re going to write a letter make sure you cite to the favorable provisions in your agreement. If you’re going to looking to consumer protection agencies you want to do so where your bill is sent to and where T-Mobile HQ is too. If you talk to them first then you can reference that in your letter or in your next call to try and gain some leverage. You’ll probably get a bunch of double-speak so just make sure you read the contract so the next CST doesn’t try to talk circles. Then you can put them in their place in hades.

  6. The_Truth says:

    It annoys me to know end when you have to deal with vindictive asshats. In this case Pete not wanting to give you any sort of break, while Lakeisha wanted to offer you a 50% discount. This tells me that Pete has the power to credit you this money, and yet refuses to do so, so as to be a little bastard.

    Most amusingly the company has saved/earned themselves $23, and yet how much will this cost them in bad PR?


    But I honestly have to wonder at Mikes intellegence. Mike your a JOURNALIST, write a column about it, get it on the news, INVESTIGATE the story, DO SOME WORK!!!

    Dont come whinging here about bad CSR’s, investigate it, publish it, and then have the consumerist pick the story up.

    I swear journalists annoy the crap out of me, if there is one subsect of the working population who has decided to slack off in recent years, its journalists (CSR’s closly following them). Seriosuly, almost every story on the consumerist has been brought to our attention by consumers, with the journalists jumping on the ‘easy news’ bandwagon after the fact.

    Its a sad state of affairs when the best journalism on TV comes from a damn comedy show.

  7. gte910h says:

    You, and everyone else who signs contracts with cell companies are
    idiots. Many of you realize this now, and a subset of that cadre will
    be smart and switch to a no contract cell service in the future when
    their current service runs out. Prepaid or Unlimited monthly are both
    fine plans. Do *not* give the power to the cell company to guarentee
    your business for more than one month.

    Buy unlocked cell phones if at all possible.

    Yes, these sorts of hideous contracts should not be able to walk the
    earth. No, it is your fault you signed it. There are numerous
    no-contract sellers of cell service. Yup you have to buy your own
    hardware. But you don’t give these irresponsible and generally corrupt
    companies the ability to have power over you.

    For the journalist, pay them with a credit card, then dispute the
    charge with t-mobile. If t-mobile hasn’t credited you the 23 by then,
    dispute the charge with your credit card. Let Amex take it up with
    them. Big company vs. Big Company.

    –Michael

  8. DF says:

    “Dont come whinging here about bad CSR’s, investigate it, publish it, and then have the consumerist pick the story up.”

    Perhaps his area of journalism doesn’t include consumer issues (or an opinion-column soapbox)? It’s not easy to write about something outside of your assigned beat/area.