Maybe I Owe Cablevision Money, Maybe Not: They Don’t Know

David, a Cablevision customer, recently moved outside of their service area. They were evidently sad that he left, because they just can’t let him go. Or figure out whether he owes them money or not. First he had a zero balance, then it was weeks overdue, then he had a small balance from his last month of service, then he received a letter from a collection agency. He called in to verify whether he needed to pay this bill or not, and learned that Cablevision isn’t able to send him a document stating that his balance is paid in full. Because they just can’t.

Two months ago, my wife and I moved. Prior to moving, I called Cablevision to give them my new address and was told it was outside of their service area, so I would be released from my contract and have to find a new provider. I paid my bill, went to the service station, dropped off my equipment, and received a receipt showing that I had a balance of $0.00.

Three weeks ago I received a letter from Cablevision that my bill was seriously overdue and in danger of going to collections. I called Cablevision immediately and asked to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor got on the line, and I told her that not only was I signed up for electronic billing so there was no way I was late for a payment, but I had a receipt from Cablevision showing that my final bill was settled. She told me that the bill wasn’t correct, and that I had a pro-rated outstanding balance to cover, and that when I cancelled my account they turned off my electronic withdrawal. I told her that I should have been notified, and that if I had simply received a bill I would have paid it. She apologized for Cablevision’s mistake, and I paid the bill over the phone.

A week later, I received a letter from a collections agency that due to an unpaid bill to Cablevision, I was in jeopardy of having my credit damaged. I called the collections agency who told me that if I had already settled the bill (I confirmed for them that I had receipt of payment from several days before their letter was written and postmarked) then I had to take it up with Cablevision.

I called Cablevision yesterday, who confirmed that payment was received, my balance was settled (again), and my credit would not be affected. I asked for a new final bill showing a zero balance or some kind of documentation showing that my account was settled, and was told that ‘it is not Cablevision’s policy to provide any documentation’. I asked how I am supposed to verify that my bill is paid in the event that there is another issue, and I was told that I should call back and have the call pulled if I ever need any record of the conversation.

I work for a company that runs a call center, and this is absurd. She said there was nothing further she or I could do, and then asked me to take a customer service satisfaction survey and hung up on me before the survey began.

This is when it comes in handy to live in a one-party consent state for taping communications, and then record your own calls. Normal people aren’t about to do that, though. They just want a piece of paper saying that they aren’t going to receive any more bills. At Cablevision, this is too much to ask…well, unless it’s an inaccurate receipt when you turn in your equipment.

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  1. JJFIII says:

    Write the collection agency and say you dispute this bill. THEY will then need to go back to Cablevision. Remember it is their responsibility to prove you owe the bill, not the other way around. If you had auto deduct, and you paid with a check by phone or credit card you have all the proof you need.
    DO NOT CALL. Everything should be done in writing. In most situations that escalate it is ALWAYS best to write. Having a paper trail is the key.

    • scoutermac says:

      I tried this with an apartment complex once.. It did not work. There was no proof I sent them the letter. So I sent it certified mail. The office simply refused it.

      • Auron says:

        I wouldve gone with a process server as the next step. If they somehow managed to refuse delivery then, then its on to small claims court. You can then say that you attempted to deliver the letter by both certified mail and process server. Their refusal to accept the letter should weigh in your favor.

        • kpsi355 says:

          Plus you should be able to ask for the cost of the filing, sending by certified letter, and the cost of the process server.

      • JJFIII says:

        If they refused, that is evidence. I would love to be in court when the landlord said, we never received it. Then you pull out the refusal of delivery from the post office and the judge says to the landlord YOU LOSE. Not accepting certified or registered letters does NOT make them go away. I stand by my original post

        • scoutermac says:

          I would have done this. The problem is the amount of money they owed me was less than the fee to file in small claims court. So at that point it was not worth my time to take them to court.

  2. PhiTauBill says:

    All too familiar a story in Kabletown… Always keep those receipts for returned equipment and any and all bills you receive, as well as evidence for payments you make, the last few months prior to disconnection. They simply never seem to get it right, and its amazing to me how a seemingly simple process is made so alarmingly complex through either sheer incompetence or a concerted effort to make cancelling service or switching providers an absolute nightmare.

    • PhiTauBill says:

      And, another thing, just because you don’t hear from them for a year doesn;t mean you shoudl discard that documentation. On several occasions, I’ve had supposed Kabletown debts appear on my credit report years afterwards. The credit bureaus really put the onus on you to work it out with the creditor to prove you don’t have a debt. Paper is always best best proof you have in the fight against the horribly inaccurate systems employed by Kabletown providers.

  3. Yankees368 says:

    We had a similar issue with Cablevison when we switched to FiOS. We had a zero balance and dropped off all our equipment and ended the service. Several weeks later, we received a bill for a months service and it was due right away. When we called them, they let us know there was a billing glitch for leaving customers, and just to ignore the bill and wait for a zero balance notification. Sure enough, we did get that a few weeks later.
    Also, Cablevision has no contracts, so I don’t know what the person in the article is talking about.

  4. Mxx says:

    Shahab Sohail
    Cablevision Call Center Supervisor
    Direct Line 973-230-5178

    I had a multi-month saga fighting Cablevision’s billing mistakes and cutting off my security cameras feeds. Only when I managed to escalate my issue to this call center supervisor did things finally get resolved. He even emailed me a screenshot of their internal screen showing the current status of my account.(they still use some ancient DOS-based application).
    David, another tip when talking with Cablevision reps is to always ask them for their “Operator ID”. It’s a 3 character alphanumeric code. With that info the next time you can find that specific “Michael” with whom you talked last time.

  5. Lyn Torden says:

    When you want to ask a company if you owe them money or not, send it by certified mail with return receipt requested. In the letter state that if you do not hear back from them in writing within 60 days, you will owe nothing.

    • Moniker Preferred says:

      It might make you feel good to tell someone that “I owe you nothing” after 60 days, but any contract you have, and state and federal commercial laws take precedence over one’s personal feelings. Just because you want it to go away in 60 days doesn’t mean it will.

  6. cryptique says:

    My Cablevision story is different, but I offer it as another glimpse of post-Cablevision issues.

    I moved out of a Cablevision service area thirteen years ago and paid my final bill in full, but a few years after moving I got a notice from a collection agency about an unpaid balance. Cablevision themselves had never contacted me (a former roommate still lives at my old address and never received anything for me from Cablevision, nor had any Cablevision mail been forwarded to my new address).

    I asked the collection agency for proof of the debt and they refused to provide it. Consequently I refused to pay. I told them that I’d also noticed that they’d waited to contact me until just before the expiration of the period under which they were legally able to collect an old debt, and that I suspected it was a scam and there never was an unpaid Cablevision balance. They sent me a vaguely threatening letter in reply but still refused to provide proof of the debt.

    During all this I contacted Cablevision and they claimed that because it had been sent to collections there was no longer anything they could do, and they also could not provide me with evidence of the outstanding balance.

    The collections agency tried again two or three times over the next few years, then finally gave up after I remained steadfast in my refusal to pay a debt that I knew to be false. Nothing ever appeared on my credit report, which only confirmed for me that it was a scam, or at the very least an error in their records. The name of the credit agency was AFNI.

    Because the OP only recently ended his association with Cablevision, his circumstances may be quite different, but that company definitely has some fishy history with its former customers.

  7. Crank says:

    Except for the collections part, I had a similar experience with my local newspaper.

    The newspaper name won’t be mentioned because Consumerist is obviously scared silly of lawsuits.

    Anyway, it started when I took a one year Sunday only home delivery. It was a 50% off offer for new subscribers.

    A month before the subscription was to expire, I called the paper, and asked if they would like to extend the subscription for another year at the same price. They said no. Fine, I said, no hard feelings but cancel the subscription.

    The CSR said I needed to do nothing, and the paper would stop when the subscription ran out.

    So the subscription ran out but the papers didn’t stop.

    I waited a few weeks (always expecting each paper delivered to be the last) but the papers kept coming.

    I called to let them know they were delivering newspapers after the subscription expired. The CSR thanked me and said she would put in a “stop service order”.

    The papers kept coming, and I called two more times. Each time I was assured that the papers would stop, and that I owed nothing for the papers delivered in error.

    Now six months have gone by, a sizable amount bill at a non-discounted rate. However, I had not received any bill or statement since my subscription expired.

    In fact the papers stopped coming only after I sent a letter to the carrier (he had left a Christmas card with his return address).

    A few months later the clowns at the paper are calling me to say I owe them for the delivered newspapers.

    I was livid. I canceled the subscription four times, five times counting my letter to the carrier.

    After expressing my anger, and giving the CSR all the information expressed above, she put me on hold to consult with a supervisor. They did come to conclusion that I owed them nothing.

    That was four years ago. Just to prove that I do hold a grudge, I laugh every time they lay off more people. I would not resubscribe it were 99.9% off the regular price.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Same for my paper, although they didn’t hound me afterward. I just kept quiet and read the papers until they stopped.

      The reason I canceled was because they could never seem to actually get it to me. Once I did so, they always showed up. Trying to keep me? Well, it didn’t work. And now they have a paywall, so I stopped reading them online too. I only get the Sunday occasionally for the coupons.

  8. Eagle Eye says:

    Does Cablevision have an online customer service area where one might be able to grab a screen print of the $0 balance?

    • Mxx says:

      The way CV’s billing system works is any change they make on your account doesn’t show up for you until your bill gets generated for the following month. Also after you close your account they disable your login so you can’t see your account balance.

  9. attackgypsy says:

    As a former Cablevision employee, here’s a hint…

    They record EVERY incoming call. Every single one. And supervisors can pull them up to review. They do it in order to do service evaluations. They get 3 every month.

    And, just so you know, resolving the call doesn’t matter. As long as they use the key words like apologize, sorry, and emphasize with the customer, they’ll get a perfect score.

    So you can go ahead and record the call, because you already have their permission just by them recording the call themselves.

    • Mxx says:

      New York is a 1-party-concent state, so people can record calls w/o asking permission.

    • Difdi says:

      That’s a good way to end up in prison in Washington state.

      If the CSR actually tells you the call may be recorded, that’s one thing. But if the automated phone system says it, before transferring you to the CSR, then you need to notify the CSR of what the phone system stated in order for the recording to be legal in Washington state. Because if you record anyway, and the CSR in fact didn’t know, well, hope you like your cellmate.

  10. Difdi says:

    > This is when it comes in handy to live in a one-party consent state for taping
    > communications, and then record your own calls.

    Actually you can do that in two-party/all-party consent states too. Depending on the state, you may not need to explicitly notify the other person you are recording.

    For example, saying “I live in a two-party consent state, and since I don’t want you to get in trouble for felony eavesdropping due to that bit in the automated message in your phone system about calls being recorded, I hereby give my consent for this call to be recorded.” makes recording legal in Washington state. Simply knowing the call is being recorded and not hanging up equals consent to the recording. Even if you verbally refuse permission, not hanging up after all parties involved know the call is being recorded means you really consented, regardless of what you actually said.