Comcast Apologizes For $2 Charge, Says It Will Make Sure CSRs Don't Do That Anymore

After we posted yesterday about Ian’s surprise $1.99 fee for asking Comcast to stop mailing him junk mail, a Comcast rep contacted Ian and apologized for the confusion, explaining that the fee is real but “it is not for changing marketing preferences.” Read his full email after the jump.

Dear Ian:

On behalf of Comcast I would like to apologize for the $1.99 fee being assessed to your account. This fee is assessed when you make changes to your account, like changing the level of services you receive, but it is not for changing marketing preferences. This should not have happened, and we’ve reviewed your account to verify that the marketing profile has been updated properly and the credit has been applied to your account. Per my voicemail, we have laced an additional credit on your account for the trouble that you experienced.

We’ve also coached the representative who processed the change to your account and are taking steps to make sure this process is clear to all of our representatives, so this doesn’t happen again.

We’d like to thank you for sharing this feedback with us and thank you for being a valued Comcast customer!

Sincerely,
Frank Eliason

Ian also wrote back to us with his side of the story—it looks like Frank made sure he was compensated for the wrong fee and the annoyance:

[Frank] explained that the charge on my bill was the result of someone’s mistake rather than Comcast policy and credited me for a month of service.

We also got this explanation sent in by a Comcast employee who asked to remain anonymous:

I work for Comcast and I think I know what is going on with the $1.99 charge to stop sending junk mail.

In some markets (mostly the old AT&T Broadband ones), there are small fees for making a change to your account that is processed in the back office and don’t require a technician to go to the customer’s home. Such changes include things like:

- Upgrading or downgrading digital cable service from one tier to another.
– Upgrading or downgrading the speed of a customer’s high speed internet service.
– Adding or removing calling features on Comcast Digital Voice.

Some markets make these changes for free; others charge a small fee for this (the decision is made by the local market, not by Philadelphia, so complaints to people in the market and the local franchise authority may help). The largest fee that I am aware of is $5.

Here’s where the junk mail part comes in: in those old AT&T Broadband markets, we control things like stopping junk mail, stopping bill inserts, etc. by adding a line item to the customer’s bill. It doesn’t charge the customer anything, it just notifies us that the customer doesn’t want junk mail.

However, to add this line item to the customer’s bill, the representative is required to enter a change of service order, just as if the customer had requested an actual change in the services they want from us. So this is really a matter of Hanlon’s Razor, not deliberate company policy.

The best way to avoid this charge in the first place is to bundle a request to stop junk mail with another change of service. Requesting no junk mail at the time you get your service installed is one good way. The alternative is to call in after the charge has “posted” to your account and ask for it to be reversed, like your submitter did.

As I don’t work in public relations, I’d appreciate it if you could keep my name and position out of this. I’m in the sometimes uncomfortable position of seeing a lot about how the system works but not having the power or authority to do anything to change it, other than advocating for more customer friendly policies with my superiors (which I try to do on a routine basis).

(Photo: Tyler Durden’s Imaginary Friend)

Comments

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  1. Bay State Darren says:

    So what’ll the charge be re-named?

  2. Coder4Life says:

    Make a change to your account and get charged? That’s like the same thing is would you like to add or remove service. $2.

    You are pretyt much charging each time a customer calls for something.. WHAT A RIP OFFF..

  3. evslin says:

    Tools. Anything to make a buck.

  4. trinidon2k says:

    Did he actually use the word “laced”?

  5. RIP MRHANDS says:

    laced credit? oh no!

  6. Tyler Durden's Imaginary Friend says:

    C’mon Consumerist. This article is missing the attribution for the photo even though the parent article had it.

  7. RIP MRHANDS says:

    fwiw, wells fargo charges $2 for the ‘privilege’ of calling someone on the phone

  8. Kevmas says:

    So what else do they do that they are just waiting for someone to point out so they can then change?

    /is happy Dish will be here on Monday!!

  9. B says:

    Comcast really does pay somebody to read consumerist, don’t they?

  10. Buran says:

    @RIP MRHANDS: I DEMAND DOILIES!

  11. Tyler Durden's Imaginary Friend says:

    Thank you for the attribution, Consumerist!

  12. trujunglist says:

    Nice to see Comcast taking extreme measures here to make sure that people don’t get charged $2. Trying to game the “Worst Company in America” poll?

    I hope the CSR that did it actually does just get retrained rather than canned, because that would make me feel very sad.

  13. vastrightwing says:

    Sprint is similar because every time I do somthing that changes my account, the CSR enters an incorrect code or charges me for the incorrect item/service and it takes several billing cycles for them to fix the mess they made. Every single time!

  14. snowmentality says:

    I knew that name Frank Eliason sounded familiar! A friend of mine on Livejournal recently complained about Comcast in her journal, and got a comment from an LJ username of “comcastcares” — signed “Frank Eliason.” He apparently offered her a $17.40 credit for the cell phone minutes she had to use while her digital phone was down.

    Mr. Eliason must be the internet representative — or e-liason. I wonder if that’s a real name? If it is, that’s crazy coincidental.

  15. scoosdad says:

    @snowmentality: He’s the guy who has been solving a lot of the Comcast problems reported on comcastmustdie.com. He’s an executive customer service rep in their Philly office, and he fixed my Comcast problem after I posted to comcastmustdie.

    His direct number is/was 215-286-7480, FWIW.

  16. jarchie219 says:

    From Wikipedia

    Hanlon’s razor is an adage which reads:
    ” Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. “

    Also worded as:
    ” Never assume malice when stupidity will suffice. “

    Seems to be a lot of both going around.

  17. marsneedsrabbits says:

    This should not have happened, and we’ve reviewed your account to verify that the marketing profile has been updated properly and the credit has been applied to your account.

    What about the other people whose accounts were stuck with the fee? Will they get it refunded, too? Everything in the email was specific to Ian’s account.

    Don’t all the other customers deserve the fair treatment, or is Comcast okay with keeping their money even though they shouldn’t by their own admission?

  18. BFD. why the hell is Comcast charging ANYTHING if I make changes like adding/modifying service?

  19. dohtem says:

    @geeniusatwrok: That’s how those bastards make money.

    Money grubbing sons of bitches! I hate comcast!

  20. humphrmi says:

    I hate Comcast more every day. This goes nowhere to change my mind. Closing the barn doors after the horses have run free isn’t a fix. Comcast would have kept charging this until they got called, and gleefully racked it into their profit line.

    Screw them, I’ve got cable competition in my area, I’m switching to RCN.

  21. FLConsumer says:

    Why should it cost ANYTHING to upgrade service? That’s totally asinine there.

  22. EasyEinstein says:

    Comcast is to good reliable honest service what Charles Manson is to a good house sitter for the kids. The only difference is that with Manson you know what you are getting. THIS IS EASILY THE MOST DECEPTIVE AND DISHONEST SCAM IN AMERICA!!!

    When I canceled there (lack of) service, they insisted I couldn’t without numerous time consuming transfers after which they informed me that if I did I would owe for a cable box and remote that I have never actually had or needed. Today I received a bill for over $340.00 for this fictitious equipment as punishment for canceling them after 16 years of never missing a payment.

    They were also kind enough to threaten on the bill that they be paid in full within 7 days or my account would be sent to a collection agency. Good luck with that comcast. You won’t see a penny! May you all rot in hell.

  23. KJones says:

    A customer has to “request” no junk mail? WTF?

    A company needs my permission before they can send anything unsolicited. If they violate that rule, they’ll be getting an earful from me.

  24. INHUMANITY says:

    Dish Network does something simliar to this. They charge a $5 “Downgrade” and “Side-grade” fee.

  25. mcnee says:

    I would rather companies charge a small fee for me to make account changes that require “people contact”, because they have overhead that has to be paid for. If they did not charge a fee, they would have to cover that overhead by spreading the cost to everyone.

    I used to be in the habit of just calling in to pay my bill rather than mailing in a check. They started charging a small fee to do so, so now I pay online instead.

    I’d be interested to know if they charge for making service changes online or if it’s just if you call and talk to a rep to do so.

  26. webworm98 says:

    EasyEinstein First, I would drive to the district office myself an discuss this matter nicely if nothing happen then I would send Comcast a dispute letter, to the district headquarters and if you get something from a collection agent. Dispute that as well. They can not come after you for something you never had. I am not a lawyer.