Time Warner Cable Misbills Even Own Company's Employees

Ben writes:

    This is my story how a request for a $5 credit on my Time Warner Cable bill turned into a $100 overcharge, and how TWC refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong, wouldn’t let me speak, tried to charge me even MORE, and then hung up on me. I’ve also attached some visual aides, natch.

And in a twist of bitter irony, Ben is actually an employee of Time Warner. Even he gets horrible service. Read his plight, inside…


Ben writes:

I’m one of thousands of SoCal residents who made the transition from Adelphia to Time Warner Cable recently. I had plenty of problems with Adelphia, so I figured TWC had nowhere to go but up… wrong.

I received my statement about a month ago (March 15th, see attached file) and noticed that I was being overcharged by $5 dollars. You see, one of the improvements of Time Warner Cable’s takeover is that they’ve simplified their pricing structure so any one basic service like digital cable now costs $44.95 (not counting extras like DVR, HBO etc)… but if you purchase two services ( i.e. Cable AND Internet), the second service is $39.95, and if you get a 3rd service like digital phone, that one will cost $34.95. I’ve attached Time Warner’s pricing guide for the City of Beverly Hills, which explains this deal in a simple, cheerful, colorful manner.

As you can see, on my March 15th bill, I was charged $44.95 for Cable AND $44.95 for Internet. I called up TWC customer service and pointed out this error. The CSR totally agreed with me and said that one of those charges should be $39.95. She checked with her supervisor to see how much I should be credited… she said she would credit my account for $25 dollars since this overcharging had been going on for several months. Let me stress for reasons you’ll see below, $25 was the figure TWC offered me… I just was hoping for $5 credit, so I found this offer to be a nice surprise. They told me the credit would take a couple days to process, so I should just pay my bill in its entirety ($128.80), and the credit would just appear on next month’s bill. I did what they said and paid my full bill.

Flash forward to today. I receive my new bill dated April 15th (see attached). Mind you, I’m expecting the bill to be around $98 dollars, since my monthly bill should be around $123, minus the $25 credit. Much to my surprise, my bill was for $190.35. At this point I couldn’t help but laugh at the Sisyphean ordeal I knew I was about to endure. If you look at my April bill, I was charged for Internet services three times… once at the old rate of $44.95, AGAIN at the new rate of $39.95, and then I also received a back charge of $46.60 for the previous month (Even though I paid my March bill IN FULL… I guess they felt like I should have paid for Internet TWICE last month too.) Oh, at least I did receive that $25.00 credit though. It’s pretty clear to me what happened… the CSR I spoke to a month ago ADDED another cable Internet service at the new price rather than adjusting the old one.

I immediately called Time Warner Cable customer service. After a 15 minute hold time I got a CSR and while I probably sounded a little annoyed, I stated my case matter-of-factly: “Hi, I was expecting a $25 credit on my bill this month, but instead I was overcharged by almost $100 and I’d like to sort this out.”

The CSR asked for a moment to take a look at my most recent statement. I tried to tell her more but she kept shutting me up and telling me “If you keep on talking I won’t be able to look at your bill.” She looks over my April 15th statement (the atrociously messed-up one) and replies “I’m looking at your bill, I don’t see any problem.”

I ask her if she finds it strange that I was charged three times for cable Internet on one month’s bill. No, she replies. She then goes on to “Explain” things by simply doing a line-item reading of my bill, as though by simply regurgitating the information we both have in front of us it would offer some sort of explanation e.g. “You see sir, you have one charge for Roadrunner High Speed Internet at $44.95, and you have another charge for Roadrunner at $39.95. The other charge is back charge for the previous month at $46.60.”

Well thanks for that explanation, Ma’am.

I asked her how that makes any sense. There was a pause as the gears slowly moved. “Do you have two cable modems, sir?”

Of course I don’t! Why their billing system even allows this, I have no idea… is there really anyone out there who pays for TWO cable modems at double the price where they could simply buy a router? (sad answer: probably yes). I told her that if she looked at my previous bills she would see that I only have one cable modem.

She looks at my previous bills, and this is where things really begin to turn south.
“I’m looking at your bills here, and the reason you were back charged was because this credit of $25 dollars is incorrect. You shouldn’t have received this credit.”

WHAT?

“I’m looking at your bills here, and back in January you were receiving a $15 off Internet as a promotion for new customers.”

Full disclosure: back in January, I was receiving a discount on Internet since I recently signed up for Roadrunner (I previously just relied on them for TV), but the discount was subtracted from the incorrect amount of $44.95 rather than the correct amount of $39.95, so my entitlement to this credit should still be valid. But this simple arithmetic was totally lost on her. Let’s also not forget that the $25 credit was Time Warner’s call last time… I was only asking for $5!

But it was too late… this CSR was locked on to the $25 credit like a laser. I tried to steer her back to the main issue at hand… the fact that I’ve been triple-charged for Internet. She refused to cooperate and kept scolding me for interrupting her. Not only was she REFUSING to resolve my gross overcharge, she was trying also REVOKE my $25 credit, which would have brought my bill up to $215!!!!

At this point, I had enough and demanded to speak with a supervisor… in a very condescending tone, she told me she would explain what’s going on to supervisor, essentially implying that my efforts to move up the ladder would be fruitless.

I was on hold for over 10 minutes, suddenly a voice answered “Hello sir…”. I immediately said hello but no one replied back (my mute button wasn’t on). “Hello? Hello?” I keep saying. I could hear the ambient noise of a call center in the background, but my supervisor seemed to have disappeared into the ether. I stayed on the line for at least a couple more minutes, shouting into the darkness, hoping someone would hear me. I even played Mary Had A Little Lamb with my touch tone keypad. Nothing. I could hear people in the background but no one was picking up the receiver. Finally, I was just disconnected.

All and all, I was on this call for 45 minutes, and there was no way I was going to do that all over again. I called the Beverly Hills’ Cable TV office at City Hall [ed. (310) 285-1178], which has actually been really good to me in the past. They had gotten many Adelphia problems resolved for me, going as far as conferencing me in with supervisors from the cable company’s local office. (One of my few experiences with local government really working on the side of the consumer, so I have to pay my respects.) I filed my complaint with the city, but it may be several days before I hear anything. I’ll of course keep you updated.

Here’s the bittersweet irony of it all… I’m an employee of a different Time Warner subsidiary. Oh, and if you’re wondering if Time Warner employees get a discount with Time Warner Cable… the answer is no.

We’ve heard of this magical cable ombudsman in the LA area. Do any other cities have someone comparable? — BEN POPKEN

twcpriceplan.jpg

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/twcbillmarch-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=530

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/twcbillapril-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=602

Comments

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  1. RumorsDaily says:

    I like that she doubled checked that you didn’t in fact have two cable modems running to your house… presumably so you could get on the internet extra fast!

  2. dwarf74 says:

    Actually, he’s only being double-charged… It’s just one of the charges is prorated.

    It looks like a REALLY simple error. The rep probably just added the service at the proper price, effective 3/20/07, without deleting the higher-priced service. It’s a dumb mistake, but one which should have been easy to fix.

    Since this was backdated, he got prorated charges from 3/20-4/24, along with full charges from 4/25-5/24.

    I have no idea what was up with the second rep. This should be an easy fix, and it’s pretty atrocious that she couldn’t see the problems with the bill. I’m going to guess poor training. I’m sure this guy was a real peach on the phones, but any rep should have been able to see and resolve this issue.

  3. Canadian Impostor says:

    Having two cable modems isn’t that weird, or stupid. If you have a roommate and both of you play online computer games, you’ll want two cable modems.

    A group of guys I knew in college had four cable modems since they all played Halo 2 together online, they had to fight for a month or so to get Comcast to let them do it, too.

  4. Canadian Impostor says:

    I’d like to add however, that it is fairly uncommon and it should be easy for Time Warner to check to see if you have two modems or not.

  5. eldergias says:

    Does anyone think there would be a problem if Ben only paid the parts of the bill he actually owed and disputed the rest? Also, if Ben pays with a credit card (as I do) he can contest the over charged parts of the bill with the credit card company and get them involved on his behalf to help get this changed.

    I know that the service reps suck, but just assume they are as dumb as possible and go from there with your explanation. You should call back, but be ready. Have you bills as far back as you as you have been overcharged plus one month in front of you. When you call up again say that you want to go over you bill line by line.

    Firstly, at the top of your bill is says your previous balance was $128 and your previous payment was $128, thus you paid you bill in full and Time Warner acknowledges that. Thus you could not have only paid for a partial month because you paid everything they asked you to, so they MUST remove the $46.60 partial month charge. Also, make sure to have the information on your form of payment in hand. If it was by check, have the check number and information on hand, same for credit card. Either they can dispute that you paid the full $128 in which case you have the payment information to back you up or they have to acknowledge that you don’t owe a back charge.

    Second, you agree with everything down to HBO.

    Third, you have Digital Cable at $44.95, which you agree to, but make sure they understand their own pricing structure, that each additional service is $5 cheaper.

    Fourth, Internet appears twice; once at $44.95 and once at $39.95. You only have one cable modem, you only have one internet connection, and if they look at your previous bill they can see that this is the only bill that states otherwise. The $4.95 charge must be the incorrect one because since you already have Digital cable at $44.95 and the second service is $5 cheaper, then the internet must be $39.95. The only argument they can give you is that they think you actually have signed up for two internet connections. If they think that you should have two cable modems, so they should be able to access the serial number of both modems and tell you or reference a service appointment in which the second modem was installed. If they can’t do that how can they believe you have two connections.

    Fourth, you agree with the emails and the IP.

    Fifth, as you discussed in your first point either you paid last months bill in full or you didn’t. The first section of the current bill says how much last months bill was and that the amount you paid against it paid the entirety of the bill, this the back charge is completely without merit.

    Sixth, the $25 credit was for being over charged on previous bills. Make sure ahead of time you look through your back bills and see how far back you were over charged by $5. Then tell the rep to look at your bill from that month and show her you were overcharged $5 since the second service is always $5 cheaper. Then have her look at every bill up until the current one. For each bill you were over charged you need to receive a $5 credit. If it was few than 5 statements then she can reduce the credit to the appropriate amount, if it was more than she needs to increase the credit.

    Finally, you agree to the taxes and fees.

    There are no reasonable objections that a rep can make to this. If they make an unreasonable objection, state that they are doing so and ask them how what they just said pertains to the situation at hand. It would really be best if you do this with a supervisor of course. If this does not work on the person you speak to, they are utterly hopeless and you need to speak with someone high up the chain.

    Now if only someone knew the Executive Customer Service number for Time Warner Cable.

  6. eldergias says:

    Oops, I meant to say “The $44.95 charge” not $4.95

  7. xkaluv says:

    You can use a modem bonder w/ two modems and double your effective up and download speed.

  8. Schminteresting says:

    I’ve been convinced for several years that Time Warner (Cable) recruits applicants based solely on their willingness and ability to never ever, under any circumstance, use their brain.

    I loathe TWC.

  9. Omni Consumer Products says:

    This is Ben, the poster of the story.

    @dwarf74, I completely agree with you that this is quite a simple billing error, which is what made it so frustrating for me, since I found myself having to defend myself against this CSR who immediately assumed that I was just uninformed and didn’t know how to read a bill properly. My first instinct was to tell her to look at my previous bills so she could see that I only have had one cable modem in the past. It was at this point, reviewing my old bills, that she became absolutely transfixed with that $25.00 credit I received and was determined to reverse that credit and would not acknowledge that I was being triple-charged. (And I know this is sorta an issue of semantics, but if I got charged 3 times on one bill for internet, even if one of those charges was a prorate, I still consider that being triple charged, since there should have been only one charge and no prorates!)

    @Jason: Now I know, there are completely legitimate reasons for some people to have 2 cable modems. I stand corrected.

  10. davere says:

    See your government’s cable office as “executive customer service.”

    Cable companies fear them, and they are there for you.

    I had some horrible problems with my cable company (Bright House Networks, a Florida monopoly.) They kept insisting on charging me $40 more a month because I wanted to add a $6 service.

    No one I contacted by phone or email would help. Escalation didn’t work. I finally got a hold of the City of Orlando cable office and a few days later I received a call from someone in management who straightened the mess out in a minutes.

  11. rossb says:

    I have Time Warner for Internet and Digital cable, and i can tell you thier CSRs are totaly retarded. Schminteresting is right, they never use their brains. Oh and for the record, Time Warner employees not only get a discount on service, its free. My brother has 1 HD-DVR 1 normal dvr and a regualr cable box, all the premium channels, road runenr business class and get %50 off everything else sucha s porn channels

  12. Meatloaf says:

    This is what I don’t understand… If you are an employee, you would be getting free reciprocal services – and you wouldn’t be going though regular customer service. Please clarify and ask Consumerist to correct the title.

    Consumerist: Please do your own research before posting false information.

  13. Meatloaf says:

    Disregard my last comment. I just read the final line, “Here’s the bittersweet irony of it all… I’m an employee of a different Time Warner subsidiary. Oh, and if you’re wondering if Time Warner employees get a discount with Time Warner Cable… the answer is no.”

    The title should still misinforming though because Ben is not a Time Warner Cable employee, he is an employee of a Time Warner subsidiary.

  14. Meatloaf says:

    Disregard my last comment. I just read the final line, “Here’s the bittersweet irony of it all… I’m an employee of a different Time Warner subsidiary. Oh, and if you’re wondering if Time Warner employees get a discount with Time Warner Cable… the answer is no.”

    The title is still misinforming though because Ben is not a Time Warner Cable employee, he is an employee of a Time Warner subsidiary.

  15. RetroChristal says:

    Dear lord, at least I’m not being wrongly charged by Time Warner. I’m also a Beverly Hills (now former) TimeWarner Cable company. We had an installation that took over 3 weeks, and they still kept messing up the order. First they installed a non working DVR. Then they missed an apointment, then they missed another apointment. Finally they installed a working box, only it wasn’t the DVR that we’d requested.

    I’ve called so many times, and have spent over 4 hours on hold (30 min each time). I have yet to speak with a supervisor. Everytime I’ve been transfered to one I’ve be disconnected. I don’t think they actually have any supervisors.

    Anyway, I have DirectTV now, and it’s been so much easier. The DSL that I just ordred is a different story, but at least their CSRs are really helpful.

    Time Warner Cable should go to hell.

  16. Theora says:

    @:

  17. Theora says:

    @Meatloaf:

    I was confused by the headline as well. One of my very good friends works for TWC, and gets all of his service free (except, I believe, his digital phone home line through them – but they do pay for his cell phone, also through TWC). The headline really should be changed.

    I’m also confused as to how I managed to double post (and one’s blank!).

    Aside, Time Warner employees really should get some sort of discount on cable services, even if they work for another branch.

  18. Meatloaf says:

    It would be nice for all TW subsidiary employees to get a discount, but the logistics of it would become extremely complex since TW is such a decentralized company. With approx 96,000 employees (as of January, 2007) spread across all companies (AOL, Warner Brothers, CNN, HBO, Newline, Turner Broadcasting, and Time Publishing), it would get really messy – not to mention the huge loss of potential revenue certain cities such as LA would experience since so many of the subsidiaries are based here. This loss may very well result in further gouging or the regular customer.

  19. tvh2k says:

    To be honest I’ve never had a utility installed without being overcharged for it. They always do it, and few call them out on it. This seems like an easy fix though. I would have just hung up after 5 minutes with the first CSR and called for another one.

  20. Scazza says:

    @Omni Consumer Products: I would have never subjected myself to an asshole of a CSR like that. The Hang-Up-And-Call-Again method works wonders usually. I usually tell them as soon as the call starts if they can record on my file EVERYTHING that is being said now, and then if she/he is a bitch, I say “thanks alot, I will call back” and hang up. Call back until you get a good CSR.

    Also, alot of cable companies have an “internal ombudsman” that will usually fix shit right away if you write to them (dont try asking a CSR about an ombudsman, they usually got no bloody clue what one is anyway), but you can also write to a local office or what have you.

  21. amyo28 says:

    I still have to vote for Comcast as the worst cable company. I lived in Elizabethtown, KY for a year and had Comcast cable. Then I moved to Louisville, KY which only has Insight Cable. I canceled my Comcast account and gave them my forwarding address so they could send me the credit they owed me (they make you pay your bill a month in advance, so whenever you cancel service, they owe you a credit).

    I then proceeded to get Comcast bills for my previous address for SIX MONTHS. Apparently when the person who moved in my apt set up service, Comcast somehow conflated our accounts and sent the bills to me. I called every month when I got a bill, and was assured each time that the matter would be taken care of. Every time I said “I’ve called x times before and it has never been taken care of” and I was assured it would be taken care of this time. Luckily for me it was completely obvious that I was correct. Regardless, before admitting I was right, each rep tried to tell me that I owed them money, and they also tried the “oh you had a promotional period so you got too much of a credit” thing. I guess the last time I called they really closed my account, I haven’t gotten a bill since. I have a paranoid fear that bills are still being sent to some random address and one day I will check my credit report and find that the account has been turned over to creditors.

  22. royal72 says:

    twc sucks, end of story. the only good thing about them is there are no contracts and so you can tell them fuck off at anytime.

    i would send an email with the info here (perhaps just include a link and a brief intro) and send it to any email addy you can find from your local twc for starters. as we’ve all seen a lil bad pr on the consumerist changes their tune pretty fast.

  23. Omni Consumer Products says:

    Update!!

    The City of Beverly Hills’ Cable Office called the office of the president of the Southern California Time Warner Cable division. An aide from the president’s office gave me a call directly a few hours later. I asked her for an email address so I could send her a more specific description of my complaint. I essentially just cut and pasted my Consumerist piece, and told them that I would be happy to write an update to Consumerist if this issue is resolved in a timely manner. Well, a few hours later, I received another email saying my account had been credited the proper amount, and they gave me a promotion where I receive $10 off my internet for the next 12 months! Thank you city of Beverly Hills! Pays to call your city’s Cable Office.

    Sorry about the confusion earlier… the title of this piece was sort of misleading. I do not work for Time Warner Cable. I work for an entirely different subsidiary of Time Warner.

  24. easy2panic says:

    Sue ‘em

    Do it in the small claims court, only a couple dollars in filling fees and such, but you get a better response and much better happy ending.

  25. dig says:

    I got so fed up with Time Warner Cable’s customer service (after the switch from Adelphia) that I finally just cancelled my cable in disgust. I haven’t had cable TV for two months running now, and quite frankly– I don’t miss it.

    But if you can’t bring yourself to ditch the TV, then try reporting them to the Local Franchise Authority (LFA). Maybe if enough people do this, LA will fine them just like Moorpark did.

  26. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I have three words: SUE THEIR ASS.

  27. dwarf74 says:

    Congrats for getting it worked out!!

    I used to see similar problems back when I worked in Billing for an insurance company. I’m glad that you were able to bring in the big guns and convince the company to do their duty, since it’s apparent neither the rep nor the ‘supervisor’ (more likely a senior rep) did theirs.

  28. tigerjade says:

    I worked for TWC in NC for 15 months from ’99 to ’00, and discovered the true secret to getting results in customer service issues, which Ben already figured out: immediate escalation. Any time anyone threatened to call the local TV stations’ troubleshooters, send a letter to the Better Business Bureau, or otherwise let the public know about the issue, TWC ABSOLUTELY rolled over.

    One customer (this is before you ordered movies on demand from the box) used to call in every Friday to order a pay-per-view movie, then call the next day and say she couldn’t see it and request a refund. EVERY week. Eventually even the CSRs got suspicious and started passing her up the chain. All she had to do was yell, and she’d get her refund from the execs. I sent out tech after tech after tech who could find no technical issues for why she’d have any difficulties seeing a movie, and the ‘difficulties’ she experienced apparently didn’t make her wary about calling every Friday for a new movie. But whenever she was challenged about it, she’d start yelling about calling the local TV station and the credit would be processed.

    Oh, the dirt I could dish…

  29. ericstoltz says:

    Going to the city is always the best move. You may think you are the customer, but remember that cable companies have monopolies within an area, so the city is their real customer. If they annoy you, they only lose one customer. If their record is bad with the city, they lose hundreds of thousands.

    A coupe of months ago I was having horrible problems with Time Warner when they took over Comcast here in Los Angeles (the changeover was so bad that the regional TW top guy was finally fired!). After total refusal of the CSR and the supervisor to help in any way, I hung up and called the city. A very nice person there filled out a form as we spoke and sent it over to TW. Within hours a very nice and polite person from the executive offices of TW called me to see what they could do, and fixed everything. He even called the next day to make sure everything was still OK.

  30. karlyguy says:

    “is there really anyone out there who pays for TWO cable modems at double the price where they could simply buy a router? (sad answer: probably yes)”

    unfortunate reality: yes. ive told several people they dont need a 2nd or 3rd modem, just get a router because its less expensive. strange people still ask for more modems.

    i hear your pain on that issue, i hate having to deal with phone service reps. all the big companies develop call centers with negative attitudes, its a bad side effect to phone reps.

    im happy to hear you have someone in your city that you can go to. i wish Chicago had something like that.

  31. cyberchick says:

    Time Warner CABLE(emphasis on Cable) employees get their service for free for many reasons. One is so we can tell the customers what the service is like. You have to know it to sell it, explain it and troubleshoot it. Another is because we need to be guinea pigs for the service. If we have issues we can call them in and explain. I had and outage once and all my family called me to find out what was going on. I called my office and the maintenance crew was dispatched. They kept calling me as they were working on the issue to make sure it was all ok. We are also used to test new equipment and services before it is unloaded onto the public. Right now I am testing a new menu and providing feedback. ( I do not work in LA but have read about the ongoing problems there and also am aware a new President has been put in to place to correct some of the issues.) (ps i just love this site)