"Comcast Treats My Bank Account Like A Cookie Jar"

Of all our random corporate screw-up stories, this is one of the funniest, if only because it’s so random and so persistent. Oh wait, Kelly’s out over $100 now and Comcast keeps debiting her account whenever they feel like it. Maybe that’s not that funny after all.

Kelly writes:

I purchased a new home last November, and signed up for COMCAST’s telephone, internet and cable service shortly thereafter. I wish I knew beforehand that the choice would cost me hundreds of dollars in overcharges and countless hours of stress.

I used COMCAST’s online chat to schedule an appointment for installation during the first week of November. The representative told me the charge would be around $60, and said to have cash ready when the technician showed up.

The installation went fine, and I was pleasantly surprised when the technician didn’t request any money. He said the bill would come in the mail. When the bill arrived, I noticed that instead of being around $60, COMCAST charged me $107.45.

When I called later to inquire about the fee, I was told that the online representative’s original quote was incorrect, and that the $107.45 was actually their normal installation fee. It struck me as a classic example of “bait and switch,” but I decided to let it slide.

In March, I purchased a new computer that required installation of a cable card. A COMCAST service technician came to my house on the morning of March 26. I mentioned the situation to him, saying it was important for me to get everything on paper because I didn’t want to experience any more surprises. He told me installations were normally free, and that I had most likely been overcharged. He recommended I call COMCAST’s 800-number to request a refund.

I did so that afternoon. I talked to Lauren, rep 7K5, who somehow determined that I was overcharged $59.90. (I never understood where she got that figure, but I wasn’t about to complain.) She said she would refund the money and it would come off my next bill.

I received my monthly bill a week or two later. I noticed that not only was I NOT refunded the $60, there were also $5.16 in additional, unnecessary charges. (For two digital starters and additional outlets, neither of which I had.)

I called customer support again around 2 p.m. on April 3 and spoke with Helen, ID FFD. She agreed that I was owed $59.90 plus $5.16 in additional charges, and said she would put a new bill in the mail with a refund of $65.06.

Several days later, I received a copy of the same bill in the mail. I called customer service again, this time at 6:30 p.m. on April 8. I spoke with Dan, ID I2C, who told me that the refund would actually be added to the next statement.

I have not received that statement to see if Dan was correct, but I did receive another surprise when I logged onto my online bank account this morning (April 26). There I noticed that only one day after cashing my payment (by check) of $123.29, COMCAST deducted $74.86 out of my bank account for no discernable reason.

I called customer service this morning and reached Monica, ID N1-J. I expressed confusion about the mysterious charge – not only had I just paid my bill, but I paid by check, like I had every single month since I purchased the service back in October.

I realized that COMCAST had gotten my bank account information back in December, when I signed up for automatic payment withdraw. But I cancelled that service shortly afterward, and never processed a payment using that method. Somehow COMCAST had taken the bank account information I gave them in December and used it to siphon money from my account in April.

Monica could not find a reason why my bank account was charged, nor could she identify what the charge was for. She told me she would refund the money back into my account within four to five business days, but by then I had had enough.

It’s bad enough to be stuck with over $100 in overcharges. But now I know that COMCAST has access to my bank account, and could pull money from that account without warning or reason. (Is this even legal?) In any case, my trust in COMCAST has been completely shattered. I can only thank God that the unexpected charge didn’t cause me any overdraft fees.

Right now COMCAST owes me $139.92. But how many hours have I spent calling customer service, waiting on hold and checking and rechecking bills? Surely that is worth something – as is the unnecessary stress this continues to cause me. Right now I have little faith that COMCAST will even reimburse my $139.92 – but it will take far more than that to convince me not to take my business somewhere else. I’m not talking about getting additional money, but I would look kindly on a goodwill gesture of free or discounted service. If COMCAST is truly interested in keeping me as a customer, then I believe it’s only fair.

(Photo: melinda josie)

Comments

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  1. SkyeBlue says:

    I don’t know if this kind of problem happens alot but it is the MAIN reason why I would never give permission for anyone or any business to be able to take money out of any of my accounts. They can take it out ALOT easier than you get get refunded for any mistakes they might make.

  2. The installation went fine, and I was pleasantly surprised when the technician didn’t request any money. He said the bill would come in the mail. When the bill arrived, I noticed that instead of being around $60, COMCAST charged me $107.45.

    When I called later to inquire about the fee, I was told that the online representative’s original quote was incorrect, and that the $107.45 was actually their normal installation fee. It struck me as a classic example of “bait and switch,” but I decided to let it slide.
    ================================
    First mistake. From what I’ve been hearing, Comcast makes Time/Warner Cable look good. Once I discovered I could finally get Verizon DSL in my corner of New York State’s backwoods, I fired the cable company once and for all. Not one problem with either Verizon or DirecTV that couldn’t be resolved relatively painlessly. Want the cable company to fix your cable? Get in line. For about two weeks. Enough was enough.

  3. JeffMc says:

    I too am curious about the legality of them randomly pulling money out of her bank account.

    What if that had caused an overdraft?

    What if she couldn’t afford her insulin that week?

    4-5 business days to put money back always strikes me as a travesty. If I needed 4-5 more days to pay my bill they’d be charging me a late fee and/or dinging my credit.

  4. Jevia says:

    If I were her, I’d contact the bank and change my account number immediately.

  5. bohemian says:

    This is why I never give anyone access to my bank account, ever. If I have to do one of those auto draws, like our health club. The kind where they want to pull the money, I use my debt card as a credit card (only if I have no other options). At least that way I can still do a chargeback through my bank. It is also easier to get a new debt card with a new number than it is to have the bank close and reopen your checking account under a new number.

  6. yetiwisdom says:

    I never set up automatic withdrawl for the reasons seen above, plus it robs me of the “float” when service providers withdrawl on the day billed. I much prefer using my bank’s online BillPay service (by CheckFree) to set up payments to post ~2 days before the bill is due. Added up, that equates to a nice chunk of cash I keep in my account to earn interest on that normally wouldn’t be there if I paid when billed.

  7. yetiwisdom says:

    Oh yeah, also, by paying every bill possible with Credit Card (Comcast allows this), you effectively tack on another 30 days to your float, as well as gathering whatever reward points your credit card might be offering.

  8. amyschiff says:

    I hated Comcast when I had them. Right off the bat they were disappointing: somehow scheduled installation for 1pm when I chose 8pm as well as charged me for a modem I wasn’t renting.

    Even worse, when my internet service went down and tech support couldn’t figure out why, they wanted to schedule an appointment for A WEEK later. What if I had been doing freelance web design from home at the time? That’s a lot of lost revenue.

  9. SkokieGuy says:

    If she cancelled the automatic payment and has proof of the cancellation, this is theft, and if Comcast’s billing department is in a different state, then it’s regulated by interstate commerce laws and is a felony. She doesn’t need small claims or a lawyer, these are criminal charges. Contact the FTC and / or your local police.

  10. Fist-o™ says:

    Well, you’re going to get a lot of “That’s why you shouldn’t ever give any company direct access to your checking account”, and you shouldn’t, but it’s ILLEGAL for them to have removed this fundage after you have canceled their ability to do so!

    I know it’s pain in the butt, but could you open a new account, transfer everything over to there, and close the old one? That way their account numbers & routing numbers won’t work anymore.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    I’ve never had a problem with bait-and-switch, but I’ve been consistently charged for a second cable box when I’ve only got one. I’ve always been able to get a credit for the overcharge, but I’ve never been able to get anyone to stop the charge from appearing on my bill. I think I’m going to have to cancel and sign up again in order to get things worked out for good.

  12. LisaMarie says:

    I’ve had cable with 3 companies in my life:
    Cox – the best
    Time Warner – hated it at the time
    Comcast – I wish I could go back to Time Warner. Thankfully my contract with Comcast is up in July and I’m moving, so I can rid myself of their *awesome* service.

    I’ve also had a service provider (phone and DSL) wrongfully take money from my account, which caused my rent check to bounce and I incurred late fees as well as overdraft fees. The phone company paid for all of those fees, as well as crediting back the original debit amounts. However, I had to send copies of my bill and my bank statement showing that the wrongful debits did not get applied to my bill (which they didn’t). So basically, had I not said anything, the phone company would have made $200 profit from me.

  13. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @PunditGuy:
    You’re right, that’s not Bait & Switch, that’s Mail Fraud.

  14. Teh bank account debiting is quite simple to fix. Instigate a chargeback through your bank. When I worked telephone customer service for a company that would auto-debit accounts, a chargeback would remove that (specific) method of payment as an option.
    It is possible that somebody else has setup a new account using her bank info, so that is worth checking as well.

  15. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I realized that COMCAST had gotten my bank account information back in December, when I signed up for automatic payment withdraw. But I cancelled that service shortly afterward, and never processed a payment using that method.

    Identity theft is Comcastic!

  16. I would have Called up the bank and declare the charges fraudulant. Would not have bothered with the company. Maybe filed a police report for theft.

  17. quirkyrachel says:

    Lol. I mean, I know it’s frustrating, but that’s about normal for my experiences with Comcast. Be ready for even more randomness. The year that I was a Comcast customer, it felt like things were just appearing and disappearing on the horizon, like little bits of logic just out of reach. All of my experiences were like that, where the answer changed based on time, day, and possibly the weather.

  18. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Fist-o: Yes, and Kelly should also let her bank know she’s doing this to stop fraudulent charges from Comcast since we’ve also heard stories of banks allowing charges sent to a closed account to go to the new one.

  19. BrianH says:

    @SkyeBlue: EXACTLY. That’s why I never give any third-party the keys to the kingdom. It’s often very painful to get your own money back from a 3rd party once they’ve sucked the funds out of your account like a cheap Hoover vacuum.

  20. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    Sue them in small claims court. Sue them for the money plus interest plus court costs plus your time. Make them waste time sending a rep to court. Send letters detailing why you are suing to their executives. Contact your local paper, TV news, etc. Cause them so much trouble they will jump to make it stop.

  21. capnpetch says:

    If Comcast doesn’t recognize the debit from your bank account, it might be that your account was compromised. There was a string of similar occurrences a while back that resulted in a number of consumerist readers suffering similar fraudulent charges from places like Sprint, Comcast, etc.

  22. Dobernala says:

    @bohemian: You’re a little confused. Debit cards are not protected by the same laws that protect credit cards. A company can make a charge against your debit card and put you into overdraft as a result (thanks to most banks happily letting you draft more than you have and charging you $30 fees each time it happens). A bank may, in its good graces, cooperate with you and give you a credit for fraudulent transactions, but it doesn’t have to.

    Credit cards, on the other hand, are much better protected and will allow you to dispute these sorts of fraudulent transactions without you losing any money.

  23. bobblack555 says:

    Bad Decision #1: “It struck me as a classic example of “bait and switch,” but I decided to let it slide.”

    Bad Decision #2: “I realized that COMCAST had gotten my bank account information back in December, when I signed up for automatic payment withdraw”

    Bad Decision #3: YOU CHOSE COMCAST.

    What were you thinking?

  24. BugMeNot2 says:

    “…how many hours have I spent calling customer service, waiting on hold and checking and rechecking bills? Surely that is worth something – as is the unnecessary stress this continues to cause me.” Not legally it isn’t. If you’re unhappy, you need to call and cancel. Continuing to put up with their customer service – regardless of how poor – is your decision and not subject to restitution.

  25. adamcz says:

    I think the police report is the best retaliation. Second best would be stealing a computer from their office for colateral.

  26. MeOhMy says:

    Maybe not giving authorization for direct payments helps but at the end of the day everything the company needs to make a withdrawal from your bank account is right on your check. In fact, these days a lot of companies don’t actually cash your check, they use the check as the authorization to make an EFT from your account!

  27. heavylee-again says:

    Maybe I’m just in a bad mood right now, but:

    OP Kelly, why haven’t you taken it upon yourself to escalate this to resolve it, rather than writing to the Consumerist and hoping that the situation magically fixes itself? Yes, your story being posted here may help get the attention of someone at Comcast who actually cares to help, but I can think of a number of things you could do/should have already done.

    - Prevent Comcast from withdrawing any more money from your bank account: either by closing the account, changing the number, or asking your bank to somehow block any electronic debits from Comcast.

    - Contact Frank Eliason, whose info is already all over this site.

    - Look in to filing charges against Comcast for theft, or equivalent, for taking money from you they weren’t due (make sure you keep a copy of that canceled check you have and all bills you received from them).

    - When talking to reps who acknowledge that you have a credit and agree to mail a statement indicating so, ask them to fax it to you while you are on the phone with them. If they can’t fax a statement, then some kind of document indicating so.

    - Cancel your account.

    -

  28. theczardictates says:

    I’ve been reading here for a while (and posting… not that my comments appear to go anywhere…) and one thing has become increasingly clear to me: Americans demand the lowest possible price for every product and service, and then act surprised when the quality is poor and the service non-existent. Why is that?

  29. mobilehavoc says:

    “I can only thank God that the unexpected charge didn’t cause me any overdraft fees.”

    For real? $80 and you’re worried about overdraft?

  30. taka2k7 says:

    - eecb
    - police report
    - lawsuit
    - cancel account
    - use your credit card or bill pay in future

  31. Buran says:

    @mobilehavoc: Please explain how you’re familiar with her finances and what her upcoming bills are vs. what is in the account.

  32. EyeHeartPie says:

    @mobilehavoc:
    Maybe that’s an account she uses to only pay bills, and transfers money to it when she needs to pay a bill so that if the account is compromised, she won’t lose that much. With an extra charge she didn’t know about, she could have been overdrafted.

    If you don’t know her situation, then don’t comment on it.

  33. AMetamorphosis says:

    I’ve said it before & I’ll post it again:

    Lazy people allow companies the ability to ” put their hands in the cookie jar. “

    Anyone stupid enough to allow this is going to get ripped off.

    Simple solution: When the bill comes in, sign onto your bill paying service and issue the payment.

    You control your account & YOUR money that way.

  34. meeroom says:

    I’m sending this article to my husband, who constantly jeers at me for paying my bills by check/credit card only and not online or with a debit card. I’ve made almost $1000 this year with my rewards card from Amex and I’ve never had a dime taken out of my account without my knowledge.

  35. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @meeroom: Why should you pay with a debit card instead of a credit card? I can see why he’d think it’d be better or easier paying online but I don’t see why anyone would argue a debit card is better for paying bills.

  36. Sanveann says:

    @bobblack555: Not everyone has a choice. Here, I have three choices: Comcast, Dish Network (which we had HORRIBLE experiences with) and DirecTV (which seems just as bad as Comcast, based on the stories here). It’s not like there’s a super-ethical cable company out there that is available to everyone (or even anyone).

  37. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @mobilehavoc: I would think anyone would be relieved that money suddenly disappearing from their account didn’t result in an overdraft or any other problems (other than the money being gone, of course).

  38. Jmatthew says:

    Call your bank.

    File a Reg-E claim against that extra debit. A Reg-E claim will backdate everything, so if the charge DOES result in any kind of service fees, those get reembursed too. If Comcast just reverses the payment and it takes even a few days, then your bank won’t waive those fees for you and you’ll be stuck trying to recoup them from comcast.

    Let your bank know that Comcast doesn’t have any authorization from you to withdraw funds electronically.

  39. Coelacanth says:

    @mobilehavoc: The way people manage their money is none of your business. Why keep extra money in a non-interest bearing checking account?

    The OP could be very solvent and not want extra money lying around in their checking.

  40. scoosdad says:

    @yetiwisdom: Aw, c’mon, the money we’re talking about here in terms of your extra “float” on a montly cable bill may amount to an extra $10 in your pocket over your lifetime. Get over it. :-)

  41. Oface says:

    You can usually get a form from your bank to fill out to block any further withdrawals from Comcast. *I had to do this back a few years ago with AOL*

  42. yetiwisdom says:

    @scoosdad: Sure sure. But cable + phone + mobile + water + electric + credit card + mortgage + auto loan + … adds up to a nice float in my case adding up to some thousands of dollars. Extend those thousands over the last fifteen years and guess what, it’s a lot more than $10.

    And if it were just $10, I’d still do it, because it’d be my $10.

    If you folks want to extend short-term loans to Comcast, go right ahead. I prefer to squeeze every penny out of the money I have.

  43. schadenfreude says:

    @JeffMc: the bank will basically tell you it’s your problem if money gets pulled out by a company you do business with and willingly gave your account info to. I had this problem (to the tune of almost $1000)and got no help from my bank.

  44. YuFongPi says:

    Comcast continued to charge for sevices months after I discontinued my cables services and returned the equipment. This was all due to the ineptness of the person at their service location.

  45. @schadenfreude: Don’t you have to authorize any debts? The bank can’t say you paid they once so their entitled to empty your account can they?

  46. Everyone laughs at me for still paying my bills via check every month. This is why- There are very few companies I trust with full access to take money from my accounts.

  47. p1davidj says:

    File a Regulation E claim with your bank since Comcast seems to be having difficulty resolving your account issues. Make the bank go after your money.

    [ecfr.gpoaccess.gov]

  48. spaz-a-lot says:

    I would be going after your bank for allowing an unathorized transactions to occur. It is their mistake they should be fixing it and giving you something for this the imconvience

  49. thorshammer says:

    The Image says it all.

  50. thorshammer says:

    Erm, this image:

    (For some reason, the image doesn’t work if a closing bracket is present?)

  51. ComContractor says:

    Personally, I would skip a bill if they owe you more then you owe them.

  52. crankitupyo says:

    In her entire rant she never indicated that she called to cancel her automatic checking. It appears that she probably never did it and the problem happened because she did not follow up on the original order.