Time Warner Charges You For 2 Years For A TV You Don't Own

Colby writes:

I moved this past month to a new apartment in the same building — when I was setting up the account transfer, the representative uncovered that I had been misbilled for nearly 2 years for service on a 3rd, non-existent, television. It wasn’t clear due to the billing information, and I was instantly promised a credit for $170.20 that was calculated by the rep and his supervisor. As a loyal consumerist reader, I got all their extensions and representantive ID’s — just in case. After the move, I received a bill and there was no credit. I called, and was informed my credit was denied due to a ‘disclaimer’ that would allow them to only go back for 3 months with a credit. They didn’t care what I had been promised, nor did they care what another rep and their supervisor had noted on my account.

My countless calls every few days kept me in a runaround, as I was told this was being researched on “microfiche” (Hello 80′s???).

I had enough of the runaround… I searched on your website, and found a number for Barry Rosenblum’s office, he is the president of TWCNYC. After a quick conversation with the friendly woman, I was transferred to Ed Urbanowski, who pulled up my account and saw the entire history of my runaround… within 3 minutes, my call was done after Ed happily resolved all the pending issues. My credits were put through immediately by him, and he provided me with his direct number should I have any difficulties interpreting the next statement that arrives.

While I’m thrilled that Ed was able to resolve my issue so expeditiously, I hope that they look further to uncover other issues which prevented me from resolving this through the normal channels.

Kudos to Consumerist, Barry’s office, and Ed… and shame on TWC Billing.

Who the hell came up with this, “if we’ve ripped you off for more than 3 months, you’re screwed” policy? It seems to be endemic to most service companies. They call it a company policy, I call it a scam. They get away with because people don’t challenge it, or when they do, the words “company policy” are like a instant killshot. In those cases, you do what Colby did and escalate your ass up to executive customer service. Also, be checking those bills to make sure everything’s legit. There’s no need to let an excess charge like that slip by for so long unnoticed.

(Photo: USAgent)

Comments

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  1. K-Bo says:

    My guess is that the 3 month policy is part to simplify accounting, and part to allow them to say “if you didn’t notice it for that long, it couldn’t mean that much to you. Not saying it’s right, but I’m certainly going to look closer at my bills, so I catch things before the 3 months is up.

  2. LorneReams says:

    One day that company policy is going to really bite them. When a company policy violates the law, damages tend to be incredibly severe because they can’t claim a difficult CS rep botched it.

  3. NightSteel says:

    Yet, of course, if they’d been UNDERbilling you for the past 2 years, you bet your ass they would be demanding the entire amount.

  4. MercuryPDX says:

    @K-Bo: Not disagreeing, but just wanted to add it’s not really a question of noticing when the company uses “inside terms” to describe all their fees on your bill instead of plain english.

  5. BlondeGrlz says:

    @K-Bo: If it had been $30 a month he surely would have caught it right away, but since it was closer to $7 it might have been easy to miss next to the Universal Service Fee, the taxes and the Because we’re jerks fee.

  6. shadow735 says:

    usually you have to go to the top otherwise you are dealing with people that make min wage so they dont give a rats ass about your issues.

  7. pylon83 says:

    The reason they put the 3 month limit is simply to make people responsible for looking at their bills. The guy probably didn’t even look at his bills. I’m sorry, but when you don’t pay attention for 2 years, I don’t think you are entitled to a FULL refund.

  8. Barbarisater says:

    @NightSteel: I agree totally. Can you say “Sorry you only get 3 months worth of what I owe because you didn’t notice it sooner.”

  9. K-Bo says:

    Would a separate tv be listed separate like a fee? I have 2 tvs, and they are not listed separate, so the only way I would know is because I verified the price for 2 tvs when I signed up, and I make sure that price doesn’t change. I also have TWC, and if that is the way his bill is done, he should have noticed the over charge on the first bill, since TWC pre-bills you for the first month while the technician is still in your house, or at least they always have for me. I always compare the hand written bill to the hand written itemized estimate given to me by the sales guy a few weeks earlier.

  10. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    If he really wants to light a fire under their ass all he needs to do is file a complaint with the Board of Public Utilities (or his State’s version of it). I can’t speak for all of the companies that are regulated by such boards, but I know the one I work for takes them VERY seriously. Heh – yes, I know that’s a bit of a cliche here on Consumerist, but in this case it really is true. BPU complaints get immediate action from competent employees.

    When I discovered that Cablevision had been billing me for over a year for channels I wasn’t getting, I too got the runaround from the Customer Service department – not willing to refund money from that far back, telling me it would take six to eight weeks for them to calculate it and issue a credit, telling me they are not authorized to issue credits for more than $99, blah blah blah.

    Suspecting that even hours on the phone would get me pretty much nowhere, I instead spent fifteen minutes filing a complaint with the NJ BPU. There’s even a convenient online form. Lo and behold! I got a phone call the NEXT DAY from some analyst deep within the Cablevision corporate bowels, who assured me that it would be sorted out in 3 days or less.

    Before the week was out she called me back. She told me the amount she was prepared to credit – more than twice what the Customer Service “supervisor” had figured – and gave me a brief, coherent summary of exactly how she arrived at that number. She also told me that the credit would be on my next bill.

    Less than a week later I had a credit for almost $300 in my happy little consumer hands. Behold the power of regulatory agencies!

  11. Twitch says:

    I think the best way to handle a rep that says they can only give you three months of refund on something like this is to tell them that the statute of limitations on fraud is much longer than 3 months.

  12. darkened says:

    I assume he was charged for a 3rd digital cable box which would be approx $7/month and on his bill he only saw “Digital Receiver Lease $21″ that doesn’t state it’s 3 boxes, not 2 boxes on his bill.

  13. UpsetPanda says:

    The best course of action when it comes to billing and such, I think, is to separate for yourself the individual charges. I thought there was an error with my cell phone bill last month but after I totaled the amounts, it came to the correct price because I had forgotten all about the $9.95 charge for a second line, and had been going “where is the $10 coming from?!”

  14. K-Bo says:

    @darkened: That may be it, I don’t have digital, so I didn’t think of that.

  15. MercuryPDX says:

    @pylon83: Be sure to remember that the next time some company bills you a “Service Enumeration Fee” and you discover 2 years later that they weren’t supposed to. :)

  16. XTC46 says:

    @Twitch: no, the best way to handle a rep who says that is to ask for their supervisor. Explaining fraud law to a person answering their own phone is pointless. Its the guys who don’t answer their phones (because they have secretaries) that care about all the “legal mumbo jumbo”

  17. Cowboys_fan says:

    @NightSteel: Any company I ever worked for would not back-bill if you were undercharged.
    The 3 month policy makes complete sense to me. If a company is intentionally ripping you off, or if its a tax charge, that is different.
    Billing systems are run by computers and guess what? Just like humans, computers make mistakes.
    Kudos to TW for noticing the error in the first place, as obviously OP never would have!

  18. Freedomboy says:

    Some folks here have an odd idea of what a CONTRACT is and if the dude did or did not know the contract was being violated [by overcharging him] it is, sorry, still a real contract, so TW is wrong. Glad he found a human who knew that.

  19. RottNDude says:

    Are there still cable companies that charge by the drop, even if you don’t have a box? Nobody in San Diego does that any more – you can run 50 TVs off of a splitter and they don’t care.

  20. SexCpotatoes says:

    This is Time Warner, they’re the ones testing the “bandwidth caps” in Texas. I’m surprised they didn’t charge him by each eyeball in the room watching the tv.

  21. chrisbacke says:

    So the next time I’m told something is “company policy” or “corporate policy”, I’m going to ask for the exact wording of the policy, how I can find it for myself, when this policy was started, and so on and so forth… And then I’ll the executive CS line and ask if that’s really the policy… They might need to be informed that at least one of their CSR’s (by number and name) is giving out false information…. Just a though

  22. slaine says:

    Over the recent holidays I visited my mother and we had a problem with her cable on one of her TVs. I called up DirectTv to try to sort it out, and while on the phone with them I discovered that they had been billing my mom for four set-top boxes when she only had three in the house. This billing had been going on for over three years. It turns out that a month after she moved into the house she had one of the boxes replaced with a DVR unit which she bought through them, and the representative never credited the return of the box that he took with him.

    I spent three hours on the phone with them during which they offered to give her a $30 credit and credit the missing box. Since that was less than 10% of the cost, I didn’t accept that offer and kept escalating. After I was told I would be transferred to executive help the representative came back refusing to escalate me and threatening me that they were withdrawing all offers and would now be charging my mother’s account for the missing box. When the rep told me there was nothing else that he could offer me, I again asked to speak to someone who was authorized to do what I needed, and I finally managed to get it escalated to executive help. 5 minutes later everything was resolved, with the box credited to her account and a credit for a very decent chunk of the mis-charges.

    The basic customer service people were non-helpful, insulting, and threatening, but the executive help solved everything.

  23. P41 says:

    Funny how companies nowdays think their corporate policies override mail fraud inspectors, small claims court judges, and local government regulators, to name a few.

  24. rochec says:

    When I read before clicking more I was going to suggest calling the regional president. It clearly works.

    I had a incident on consumerist about two weeks ago that was resolved the same way. They, and their secretaries, are 100x more helpful than any CSR agent I’ve ever spoken to.

  25. MaggieShaw says:

    I had a similar experience with TWC when I first moved into my apartment. I had set up Internet installation; a few days later I went online to see when I would receive my fist bill. That was when I saw that my installation had been cancelled. Apparently, the previous tenant had left a $300-plus balance. No mind that the account was set up under a different name and nothing popped up initially. Nor was I informed. Needless to say, I made a good stink but still had to fax my lease and ID. Yeah, won’t be going with TW anymore.

  26. racermd says:

    @Cowboys_fan: “Billing systems are run by computers and guess what? Just like humans, computers make mistakes.”

    More precisely, it’s because computers are programmed by humans that they make mistakes. In addition, humans enter the data that the (humanly-programmed) computer chews on. As such, there’s bound to be errors somewhere between input and output. Best for everyone if that were kept in mind at all times.

    Now, if we could just get the humans out of the equation… What? What is this ‘net-sky’ you keep rambling on about, Ms. Connor?

  27. dualityshift says:

    “Machines making machines. How perverse.”
    – C3PO

  28. AndrewJC says:

    @racermd: Just wanted to point out that it’s SkyNet, not NetSky. :)