AT&T Relinquishes Vicegrip On Ex-Customer's $500

Consumerist reader Teighlor and her boyfriend tried to sign up for AT&T U-verse but after 20 days of missed appointments and it never getting installed, they returned the equipment and canceled the service. AT&T then deducted $500 from their account for unreturned equipment.

They called customer service who eventually said the money would be returned within a month – but as they’re not people of means, that’s a long time to wait for such a sum. Their appeals to AT&T fell on leaden ears.

I put them in touch with a higher-up AT&T rep. Success!

“I got a call from AT&T’s executive “customer loyalty” department,” writes Teighlor. “They worked with us over the next four days and got our money back.”

She added, “Thank you so much for your help. I won’t be using AT&T anymore, but it’s such a relief to have this resolved.”

So much for the loyalty part!

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  1. slim150 says:

    If a company has authorization to withdraw funds for services when the user enrolls in “auto-pay”. Does that give them the authority to make other charges like this one, legally?

    • Shadowfax says:

      No. It was not a legitimate charge because they *had* returned the equipment.

      Therefore it was actually theft.

      Corporations get away with theft because they’re only legally considered to be people when its advantageous to the corporations to be people. All other times they’re a non-entity that can’t possibly be guilty of stealing anything.

      • DanRydell says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theft

        “The actus reus of theft is usually defined as an unauthorised taking, keeping or using of another’s property which must be accompanied by a mens rea of dishonesty and/or the intent to permanently deprive the owner or the person with rightful possession of that property or its use.”

        There was no intent to permanently deprive the owner of the money, nor was there dishonesty. It was a MISTAKE.

        • ktetch says:

          Try that in court and see how long the judge gives you

          • bwcbwc says:

            From law.com Law Dictionary —
            conversion
            n. a civil wrong (tort) in which one converts another’s property to his/her own use, which is a fancy way of saying “steals.” Conversion includes treating another’s goods as one’s own, holding onto such property which accidentally comes into the convertor’s (taker’s) hands, or purposely giving the impression the assets belong to him/her. This gives the true owner the right to sue for his/her own property or the value and loss of use of it, as well as going to law enforcement authorities since conversion usually includes the crime of theft.

        • Difdi says:

          Suppose your wallet and mine are the same make & model. I see yours sitting on a counter, and mistakenly believe it to be mine, so I take it.

          You see me take it, inform me it is yours, and upon checking, I discover that you are correct.

          I inform you that I need time to process the return of your wallet, and that I will return your wallet within a month, and walk away.

          By your logic, I would not have committed theft, but merely made a mistake.

          Your logic fails.

  2. apd09 says:

    That picture both scares and intrigues me.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      I once worked with a woman who could put her entire fist in her mouth. At a work junket with a bunch of video game magazine editors, we convinced her to show off her “skill”. My favorite comment of the night: “I’m strangely repulsed and attracted all at the same time.”

  3. travel_nut says:

    I wish I could just steal someone’s $500, and if I get caught say “Oh, hmm, okay, I’ll give it back…sometime in the next 30 days.”

    • RogerX says:

      IANAL, but technically, it’s not theft, it’s breach of contract. A very important distinction– they were entering into a contract for service, and paid as requested. If service was never provided, it’s incumbent on the couple to pursue the company in court to recover the money. Theft is when the company takes the money without authorization.

      • obits3 says:

        RogerX there is a problem with your reasoning. The company did NOT have authorization to charge an “unreturned equipment” fee for returned equipent. That’s like best buy charging you a restocking fee for an item that you still have at your house (i.e. that you have not returned).

        Companies never have “authorization” to charge for something that did not happen. Remember, AT&T “deducted $500 from their account” AFTER they returned the equipment. This is not a security deposit that they are trying to get back. That would be different.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    Vice Like Grip

    Car dealerships do this all the time, you put a deposit down on a car (why I don’t know) and you decide not to buy the car. Not only will it take a long time to get your money back but a lot of times they will charge your credit card again and say it was a mistake all the while they collect interest on your deposit.

  5. thatblackgirl says:

    It’s “vise” not “vice.”

    /pendantic.

  6. GMFish says:

    They worked with us over the next four days and got our money back… Thank you so much for your help

    Wow, they steal 500 bucks from you. They refuse to give it back. They make you wait to get it back. And when you finally get someone on the phone with the authority to help, it takes them four fricken days to straighten it out.

    I sure hope the “thank you” was sarcastic. Because if we’re giving thanks for that sort of BS, we’re screwed.

  7. cccpr says:

    Teighlor? Wow.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Yeah, I was about to say the same thing. I wonder how it’s pronounced. Technically, it should be Teelor (Teigh should rhyme with Leigh[female version of Lee].) Somehow, I’m guessing it’s pronounced Taylor and her parents made a mistake when they were trying to be creative with the spelling as so often happens when people try to be different.

      I had had a student named Messi. It was pronounced like Masai. Lots of people thought it was pronounced Messy.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I guess they could mean it to rhyme with Neighbor. Someone had to try really hard to come up with this spelling.

    • levelone says:

      LOL, that’s nothing. Today on Apartment Therapy I saw a post about a woman named Typhanie. Every time I saw it I thought “Typhoid Mary” or “typical”. Special snowflake names, ugh.

  8. Warren says:

    Just this year I tried to switch phone and internet service to AT&T and was unable to because they couldn’t figure out how to get the service wired in my unit. Despite this, they billed me for the first month of service anyway and even as their customer service reps told me this was a mistake, they sold the debt over to a collection agent after less than a month, and this person had no authority to correct the balance. It’s sad because their customer service reps were so nice, but the company’s practices seemed very questionable to me.