Qwest Sells Woman "Cheaper" Package That Costs More, Has Unmentioned 2-Year Commitment, And Requires New Modem

Matt’s mom, a longtime Qwest customer, called up the company to switch her long distance over from AT&T. The CSR suggested she switch over to a bundled package that would save her $11 a month and offer faster Internet connection speeds. What the CSR didn’t mention was that the new package required a 2-year commitment, that it wouldn’t work with her current DSL modem, and that it actually came out to about $3 more per month.

Customer service has been no help, so Matt emailed people at the executive level. Although several addresses bounced back the message, Matt did receive a promise that Qwest’s executive VP that someone from customer service would contact him to resolve the matter. That was on March 31st, and he still hasn’t heard back from anyone.

Here’s the email Matt sent to the Qwest bigwigs:

Dear Teresa Taylor,
 
My name is Matt [redacted] and I am writing to you on behalf of my mother, [redacted]. Recently, she was the victim of some very bad customer service, of which I wanted to make you aware. My mother was satisfied with her service, but when she attempted to add a long distance plan to her decades-old account, adding to Qwest’s bottom line, she was bumped off her plan, signed up for a two year contract without her knowledge, presented with false claims that she would save money, asked to pay an additional $60, and prevented from using the service for which she paid, for approximately a week at the time of writing.
 
My mother has had the same phone service for over three decades, including Qwest and your predecessors in the area, at the phone number [uh-oh redacted as well]. She has had DSL internet with Qwest for approximately 8 years, signing up for a 256 kbps line with an internal DSL modem. Her bill in February for these two services totaled approximately $63. For most of this time, she has been very satisfied, except for the times when her connection would be unavailable for days or weeks at a time. Tech support representatives were often completely unhelpful, despite keeping her on the phone for hours. On one occasion, over a three-day weekend, she had to wait three and a half days to have someone reset her password after she had forgotten it and accidentally erased it from her computer.
 
Recently, she made a phone call to Qwest to try to sign up for a long distance plan to replace her plan with AT&T. This should have been a simple call to add a relatively inexpensive service, but she was given a hard sell to change her plan. She was told that she could save $11 by switching to a bundle that would include phone and internet service at 1.5 mbps, and an additional discount for bundling her phone, internet, and DirecTV service. The operator failed to mention that she would be signing a two year contract with Qwest as part of the Price for Life program, the new bill for phone and internet would total approximately $66, she would be ineligible for the new DirecTV equipment that new customers receive, and that the service would fail to work with her current modem, requiring her to buy or rent a new one. Soon after, she was unable to use her internet and approximately a week passed before the issue was resolved when my mother and I spoke with someone in the sales department.
 
When I called into Qwest and had an opportunity to speak with a salesperson about the problem, she was the first person we found remotely helpful and was able to find the tech support operator, “Roger,” who finally discovered the problem. It was at this point that the representative told us that my mother would have to pay $60 for a modem or pay $5 a month to rent the moment. She had the audacity to claim that my mother would still be saving $6 if she paid $5 every month in perpetuity for the modem, despite the fact that a $5 increase would bring the cost to $71, which would be $8 more than she paid on her February bill. My mother could receive credit for the time her internet was down before the source of the problem was found, but if she did not choose to take advantage of the offer to send a modem, she would have to keep paying for unusable internet.
 
I asked to have my mother’s plan revert back to her original plan and after a long time spent on hold, I was told that this would not be possible as the plan was no longer offered. I asked to at least have the Price for Life contract removed and she was eventually able to do this after another period on hold. A supervisor offered to have the modem sent overnight with no additional shipping costs, but we were told that we would still have to pay for the modem. The operator gave us her personal work email to us so that we could contact her with further questions, which was a nice gesture, and my mother and I ended the call.
 
Although I am happy that we eventually discovered what had happened to bring my mother’s internet down, we are both completely unsatisfied with the proposed resolution and the road which brought us here. As I said in the first paragraph of this letter, my mother had been satisfied with her service, but when she attempted to add a long distance plan to her decades-old account, adding to Qwest’s bottom line, she was bumped off her plan, signed up for a two year contract without her knowledge, presented with false claims that she would save money, asked to pay an additional $60, and prevented from using the service for which she paid, for approximately a week.
 
We ask that you instead consent to a resolution which we believe is fair, where my mother receives local phone service, DSL internet at 1.5 Mbps, and a free modem that will make the service usable, at the same price she was already paying, as well as a free upgrade to new DirecTV equipment, discounts for bundling her current DirecTV with her phone and internet, and credit for the time she has been unable to use her internet service. We believe that the upgrade to 1.5 Mbps and new DirecTV equipment is fair for a long time customer whom has happily put up with so much frustration for years, and will prevent future confusion with tech support operators who have been unfamiliar with her current modem and TV equipment. This will also allow Qwest to stop maintaining an outdated line. If you wish to propose an alternative, please let us know. My mother is already looking at prices for competitors and working on a letter to Consumerist.com, the Better Business Bureau, and the Iowa Attorney General, so we ask that you respond to this message promptly or by April 4th at 5:00 pm at this address.
 
Thank you for your time, and your attention to this matter.

(Photo: mkreyness)

Comments

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  1. r081984 says:

    Why would they charge you for a modem if they put you on a two year contract???
    Everyone else gives free equipment with contracts.

    Do not pay qwest $60 for a modem, you can get qwest modems on ebay for around $30.

    Good luck getting what you want. Also, pretty much all those customer service supervisors have access to create any plan they want at any price so when they say that old plan is no longer offered they are lying.

  2. So, I wonder if he got a response by the Friday deadline he put in his letter.

  3. Sarge1985 says:

    @solareclipse2: I was wondering the same thing. I wonder of QWest is taking it seriously as well?

  4. Ciao_Bambina says:

    I hate Qwest with a passion. For years I didn’t have a choice but to use them and every encounter with them was horrible.

    There was the period where every time it rained my phone line would get staticky and almost impossible to use. I called for service, got the speech about how if the problem was on my side of the line I would be responsible for any charges. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m not an idiot and I knew how to test from the outside box to see if it was my side or not. It definitely wasn’t.

    I made sure I was home between “noon and 4 p.m.” the day the technician or whatever they call themselves was supposed to be there. He never showed. When I called the Customer Nonsupport at 5 p.m., they told me that he had logged it as “no one home, gate access locked.” ??????? I said some very bad words, told them they had themselves one lazya** employee and insisted they send someone out immediately. I had certainly been home and although I have six-foot cedar fencing with gates, there are no locks of any sort on them.

    And they did send someone out, who I think was expecting to find a fire-breathing Medusa. But I was very nice to him and he was very apologetic. And sure enough it was on their side, what he called “squirrel chew” on the overhead line.

    But that was the last straw after a string of evil encounters with Qwest. My job at the time required me to be on call 24/7 one week a month and I convinced them that it was possible to do that without a land line. I cut that cord and three years later I still am happy not to be dealing with those ratbastards.

    And every week they continue to send me pleading letters to “come back!” with all these wonderful deals that cost more than what I was paying them originally and quite a bit more than the great mobile plan I’m on now.

    Evil, I tell you, EVIL!

    Whew.

  5. matt314159 says:

    I would never send an email that long to a company. While it was well-written, it was simply too LONG. I doubt anybody would read it in its entirety at Qwest.

    Concision is key.

    That said, good luck with getting a resolution from them.

  6. @matt314159: I find it hard to fault the guy for his letter. The important thing is he made his case and has a clear idea of what he thinks Qwest should do to make things right. If someone at Qwest can’t read a customer complaint from start to finish, then they clearly aren’t taking this seriously.

  7. abkad says:

    Thanks for printing and editing this, Consumerist, and thanks to all of you who read this.

    I did write a very long letter, I admit, because I was hoping that this would allow Qwest to understand the situation and respond quickly. I thought this might have worked better than a short email and a long exchange of follow-up emails for details, but I may have been wrong.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet heard back from Qwest, even though I sent a subsequent email 24 hrs before the deadline to remind them. I waited to send the letter to Consumerist after the deadline passed.

    Part of what is frustrating about this is that I also made clear that we were willing to negotiate a resolution, but they still couldn’t bother to speak with us.

  8. abkad says:

    Also, does anyone think that the AG in my state would be of any help? I’m guessing the BBB won’t do a thing, but the AG would have some teeth.

  9. r081984 says:

    Whenever I have to write a long letter as a last resort to execs, I always include a short synopsis of what the problem is and what I want.

    I then add a line to the bottom stating if there is any confusion they can read the full letter below.

    If I was an exec and received paragraphs of a complaint I would probably delegate it out, but if at the top in 4 sentences it says the problem and the wanted solution I would probably just do it to make the customer happy and not even read the rest.

  10. scoosdad says:

    @abkad: Your state’s equivalent of a department of public utilities may be more eager to jump on them than the attorney general. Quite often this agency has a list of inside contacts for service providers in their state and can get to someone quicker and get resolution faster. Worked for me when I recently had a problem getting Verizon off their behinds.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t yet heard back from Qwest,

    They haven’t finished reading the letter yet, that’s why.. :-) j/k, good luck.

  11. SAugsburger says:

    I will say that it is dishonest to claim that a package is cheaper when it really isn’t, but honestly why did she even want to add phone service from a company that shows such a low regard for their DSL service?

    “her connection would be unavailable for days or weeks at a time.”

    Unless there is a software or hardware issue with your equipment, I would find downtime in days unacceptable never mind weeks of downtime. If I had that type of downtime of this type I would either expect a serious credit to my account with them or I would start considering alternatives for my internet access.

    “service would fail to work with her current modem”

    While I have heard that some DSL providers use proprietary modems I am confused about how changing speed tiers would cause a compatibility issue. I will give Cable internet one clear advantage in that early on they established the DOCSIS standard that allowed industry wide interoperability without PPPoe dialers or other proprietary BS that seems to be common in the DSL industry.

    I am not trying to play blame the victim here, but I don’t understand why anyone would look to spend more money with a company that has such lousy uptime. I would look into cable internet access or FIOS. You probably won’t save anything, but I would be rather surprised if you got reliability or customer service this bad.

  12. abkad says:

    @SAugsburger: She’s had the same phone line with Qwest for over 30 years, so she was really just trying to add a very cheap long distance package because it was less than she was paying with AT&T. This appeared a lot easier than switching providers for everything.

    Usually, they’ve given her credit for her downtime. The problems resulted from inadequate training of Qwest personnel regarding the older modems and DSL lines.

    And as far as switching, there are only two broadband providers here: Qwest and Mediacom. Neither has exactly spectacular service. So, being someone who doesn’t really like dealing with technology or a different set of headaches, she’s somewhat stuck.

  13. ChuckECheese says:

    @SAugsburger: Agents/CSRs get brownie points and/or bonuses for signing people up for the flavor of the month. They get knuckle raps and pink slips for not signing people up. That’s likely why the agent lied about terms. I had an AT&T agent sign up my mail drop for phone and DSL when I called them once. It took months to get the charges removed.

  14. Blinker says:

    @SAugsburger:

    Actually most of the existing cable modems wont work if you want to boost your speed when DOCSIS 3.0 becomes widely available so its not just DSL that requires a new modem when you increase the speed.

  15. ChuckECheese says:

    @Blinker: That’s good to know. Do you think that that be corrected with a firmware upgrade/hack?

  16. Blinker says:

    @ChuckECheese:

    I dont believe it will be able to be fixed with a firmware update due to the way the new standard transfers data but they may figure a way to do it.

  17. shor0814 says:

    Quest, oh how I love thee.

    My wife had home/cell service through them, and tried to cancel after moving. They insisted that she had signed a 2 year agreement and would have to pay an ETF. I still to this day have not seen the technology to sign an agreement via telephone. She also didn’t have to pan the ETF.

    Always press them for a signed copy of the agreement, they won’t have it in this case, and if they recorded the conversation, it will show their deception, so they never find those tapes either.

  18. SAugsburger says:

    @Blinker:
    “Actually most of the existing cable modems wont work if you want to boost your speed when DOCSIS 3.0 becomes widely available so its not just DSL that requires a new modem when you increase the speed.”

    My point is that there is an actual standard for cable modems! Standards seem to be all over the place with DSL. I remember trying to find a DSL modem for a client because despite repeated attempts to reset his DSL it wouldn’t connect. I bought and returned several DSL modems at Fry’s and Microcenter and ultimately just bought the DSL modem that the ISP recommended because I was tired trying to find something. I have found that most DSL providers don’t even provide hardware compatibility lists other than the modem they sell! I have heard of several DSL providers that outright won’t even let register the MAC address for your modem unless you bought the modem through them!

    With cable I just buy a DOCSIS modem, register the MAC address and generally speaking provided that DHCP is turned on it just works. Setting up cable modems I have found tends to far less BS than DSL modems.

    DOCSIS 3.0 isn’t much of an issue at this point. I am only aware of two markets off the top of my head that even take advantage of DOCSIS 3.0 and the cost is $~150/month for 50Mb/sec down so I don’t think it is going to be something that will catch on for a while. Either way, what is to stop the cable companies from offering both slower DOCSIS 2.0 and the higher end 4 channel DOCSIS 3 based speeds on the same network? The only difference I thought was that DOCSIS 3 was finally going to use multiple channels at a time for increased bandwidth whereas DOCSIS 2 never used more than 1 channel.

  19. baristabrawl says:

    I’ve never heard anything good about Qwest. I live in an area without them, but still never heard anything good about them.

  20. Johann says:

    US Worst is now Qworst.

    I signed up for phone service with them in 2000. I just wanted basic phone service, but the CSR lied to me about the price of bundles vs basic phone service to get me to agree to a bundle. It didn’t dawn on me how I’d been duped until a couple years later.

    I also had DSL with them. I tried to cancel it when I was entering some financially shakey times. It went something like this:

    I called to cancel. The CSR made me go through a lengthy process for them to “update their records.” Finally he told me he needed to transfer me so I could cancel my DSL. The CSR he transferred me to said the same thing: she couldn’t do it, she’d transfer me. The person she transferred me to answered the phone in Spanish. Yeah…so now they’re getting really funny, transferring me to the Spanish line. That CSR “attempted to transfer” me as well, by which I mean, disconnected me.

    I called a second time and it was very similar to the first call. I was transferred multiple times, AGAIN to the Spanish line, and eventually hung up on. It took a third call to actually find someone who was willing to cancel my DSL.

    Qwest’s crappy CSRs who care only about fulfilling their quotas have lost me as a customer for life. Never again.

  21. AlphaWolf says:

    Cox cable also has a bad “habit” of promising to give you a package at X price and then when you get the bill it is always more then they quoted.

    If it is not the CSRs it is some computer that randomly adds stuff to your bill.

  22. ajacs says:

    @abkad: clarification question (if anyone is still even reading this one): Did the $63/month you mother was paying include the AT&T long distance? Does the $66/month they now want her to pay include long distance? If she was on an Old Skool pay-by-the-minute long distance plan, is her new long distance rate the same as her old one?

    I just want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples; no matter what the answer, it’s still not an excuse for charging for the modem and attaching a new contract without telling her.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Something similar happened to me.

    I agreed to something on the phone, received a bill that was twice as high, and was told that although the amount I was quoted was “incorrect” I was still bound in a two year contract at this new higher rate. I was informed that were I to cancel I would be charged a $200 early termination fee unless they can verify my claims against a recording they ‘may or may not” have. At present I am still waiting to see if they can “find’ this recording.

    I don’t know how such a thing can be legal. How can there be any contractual agreement without records?

    Usually when you sign a legally binding agreement you know what the terms are, you can read the fine print, and you take a copy home with you. Under this current ’shake on it’ system the customer has no guarantee of anything.