Time Warner Cable Keeps Calling Me At 5:30 A.M. Because It Has No Idea How To Read A Mailing Address

More and more of us are going wireless-only when it comes to personal phones. Which means that the cellphone number you had in New York will follow you to Texas, or Montana or anywhere else in the country. Apparently the folks at Time Warner Cable haven’t quite absorbed this idea since they continue to call a customer at 5:30 a.m. because he still has an East Coast area code.

Consumerist reader Eric says he has been doing a bit of back-and-forth with TWC recently over a billing dispute. He was promised a rate of $40/month but is getting billed at $52.

After a handful of calls, it appeared to be sorted out. Then magically, after two more billing cycles, it reverted back to the higher amount. Thus, while this issue gets resolved — again — Eric has been withholding full payment.

“Now TWC calls me at 5:30am to tell me that I need to pay,” he tells Consumerist. “I’ve called them now twice and told them not to call me anymore at that hour. They insist that the problem is due to the fact that I have an East Coast cell phone number, but live on the West Coast.”

“They obviously know that I live on the West coast since they provide Internet service to my house and send me a bill every month,” he points out, using logic that usually draws a blank stare from telecom customer service. “It’s difficult for me to believe that they had no way of knowing that I don’t live on the East Coast.”

If anyone out there, especially a current or former TWC employee, can explain — or at least take a good guess at — why the company has all Eric’s billing information but still thinks he’s on the East Coast, we’d love to hear it.

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  1. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My theory is that the reps who are calling him demanding payment see just his name, phone#, account#, and how much he owes. They’re not going into the system to verify his physical address.

    What I can’t understand is why one of them hasn’t put a note in his file that he’s on the West Coast and not to call until it’s time appropriate.

    I used to call customers about past due invoices, but my past due list included the address along with the phone number, so I’d know if my customer was in California (I’m in PA) not to call them at 9:00 AM my time. It’s just common sense.

    • bennilynn says:

      The rep probably doesn’t get to choose who to call or when. Usually you just log in and the system automatically dials. If the program they’re using doesn’t have the capability to set specific calling times for an individual customer, then there’s probably no way to stop it.

  2. sorta savvy consumer says:

    Here is how these systems work.

    The batch of calls that need made are queued up into a server. The selection process is apparently done by phone number taking into account the area code to determine which ones to batch when.

    The system then starts calling (robo dialer likely) and routing calls to available agents when live answer is detected.

    This is at least how I did it when I worked in IT for a large (now gone) telecom company. When we set stuff up we were using our customer land line numbers (since we sold them the number we were pretty sure on the location). It sounds like this is a job for an EECB since complaining to the reps will get you nowhere, it’s an IT problem and in the 5 years I worked there the only “hot” issues I ever got tasked with were ones that came via the CEO’s office (i.e. via an EECB).

    Good luck

  3. Captain Spock says:

    the number portability law means people DON’T change their phone numbers anymore… A telecom should know this… Also, Long distances is all but eliminated so there is no need.

    • Captain Spock says:

      Also, when I changed my number with Verizon, they asked me what Area code And Exchange I wanted… I gave them an area code for a city (chicago) that I’ve never actually lived in, although I live in a Suburb. Additionally, Google Voice lets me pick a number from anywhere in the country.

  4. Driblis says:

    Amazingly he could stop the calls by paying the bill.

    • Rexy does not like the new system says:

      Read…

      “he has been doing a bit of back-and-forth with TWC recently over a billing dispute. He was promised a rate of $40/month but is getting billed at $52.”

      “it appeared to be sorted out. Then magically, after two more billing cycles, it reverted back to the higher amount.”

      • chiieddy says:

        He needs to make full payment and sort out the issue after the fact.

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Thanks for supporting a business’ right to take however much money they want in the moment, and require you to fight for it back after the fact, month after month.

          • TrustAvidity says:

            It’s what I’m in the middle of doing with Time Warner as we speak. I upgraded my internet from Turbo to Extreme which required mailing me a new modem, but they’re billing me for both connections even after I promptly returned the old modem.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              Back in 2005, I closed an account with AT&T and had them send the final bill to a mail drop. They kept the old account open and claimed I had requested they start new service at the mail drop.

          • chiieddy says:

            He owes the money and has been invoiced for it. No money, no service. Time Warner has that right.

        • ScottG says:

          @chiieddy – Ummm No. He is disputing the charge, there is absolutely no reason he should pay a bill in full. If you received a service/utility bill in which the decimal point had been shifted; so instead of 100.00 the bill says you owe 1000.00, would you pay it in full and then argue to get the money back?

          TWC should mark his account as “in dispute” and stop collection attempts on it until they can correct the billing. I would say he probably should not “withhold full payment” and pay the amount he believes is correct and argue the remaining balance.

      • Driblis says:

        Yeah, but they call because he’s behind on payments. You can’t just stamp your foot like a child and refuse to do anything until you get your way.

  5. dourdan says:

    “Eric has been withholding full payment”

    because that always ends well…….

    My mother in law loves to say “you can’t take blood from a stone” (meaning, if she can’t pay the price she wants, she won’t pay.) but they CAN threaten to take your house and car (which she 100% owns.)

    As for the time zone issue- i think they really don’t care. My mother in law gets calls from bill collectors any time from 6 am- 11pm. they just want their money.

    • 401k says:

      Remember the story of the guy who stopped paying his mortgage to spite the bank over some credit card related issue, then wrote to consumerist asking how he can avoid foreclosure?

  6. elangomatt says:

    I have an idea on how to get them to stop calling at 5:30 am, pay the bill! At the very least you should be paying the $40 you think you owe. I don’t see any reason to withhold the entire payment just because you think you owe less.

    As far as the time zone thing goes, I can only assume that there is a computer algorithm that looks at the area codes and spits out a list of when it is ok to call someone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound as if there is a way to override the system. Time Warner will need to make a system wide change to start looking at zip codes or something in order to fix the issue. I doubt that will get fixed anytime soon. That is just a side effect you’ll probably have to deal with having an east coast phone number on the west coast.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      R…T…F…A

      He is NOT witholding the entire payment. He is witholding the additional $12 they are charging him. He is paying them the agreed-upon $40/month.

    • 401k says:

      Not everyone uses their location as their billing address either. Unless you want everyone to be chipped and tracked by the companies they do business with your best bet is to get a local number.

  7. bennilynn says:

    Maybe Eric could get a Google Voice number with his local area code and update his billing information with that. It would most likely stop the early morning calls.

  8. donjumpsuit says:

    Cable companies are the worst offenders of the phone call to tell you your bill is late. They are one of the only companies that requires payment before services are rendered, frequently offer new subscribers lower rates than loyal customers, and never bill a price that is quoted. They also send a bill to collections when it is about 45 days late.

    What gives?

    • chris0306 says:

      all new subscribers are offered an intro rate. When you were a new customer you also got that same offer. After the first year the new customer pays the same as the “loyal” customer.

  9. mbd says:

    Most commercial computer dialers know only the phone number to be called. When the phone connects to a human being, the call is transferred to a call center person, and a different computer is notified to bring the customers information up on a screen.

    The dialer determines the when it can call based upon the area code. It generally does not have any other information other than the phone number, especially if it is an older dialer. If you have an area code in a different time zone, you are going to get calls based upon that time zone. That’s just the way they work, and short of an act of congress, companies are not going to replace their very expensive dialers. Something to consider if you plan on keeping your phone number when moving to a different time zone.

    • Snapdragon says:

      This, exactly. There is a queue, filled with numbers that the auto-dialer is programmed to dial. There is no one being a jerk and making a decision to call him regardless of his physical address being on the west coast. The auto-dialer is programmed to assume that area code = where you physically are.

      Probably, this logic needs to be changed, and programmers need to update the software to allow the CSR to adjust your preferred contact hours and separate your area code from your physical location in the new mobile/cell phone reality. I won’t hold my breath, though–my last CSR job was still using DOS-based systems for account management.

      • 401k says:

        FDR is DOS based and the majority of credit card transactions are processed through it. DOS is one of the most stable platforms there is.

  10. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    The bill-pestering system is probably fully automated in that it just makes attempts to call, and if someone picks up the phone it then connects that call to an actual CSR. There likely isn’t an actual CSR initiating the call.

    …and the system is simply looking at the phone number itself when generating the calls. It would take effort for the company to change it, and we know that isn’t going to happen.

  11. kevinroyalty says:

    IIRC (and IANAL) isn’t there a law about calling between certain hours of the day from bill collectors? if so, then OP should file a complaint with their state’s AG about the violation, and take TWC to small claims court about the violation (yes, call records for the judge to look at as evidence) and bam! you win! enough of that and TWC will update their software.

    • mbd says:

      isn’t there a law about calling between certain hours of the day from bill collectors?

      Yes, there is, but it applies only to 3rd party marketers and collection agencies. It does not apply to a company that you directly do business with. Further, when you give a company a phone number to call you, you are telling them to contact you based upon that number. Double lose.

      • kevinroyalty says:

        so what you are implying is that any company i do business with can call me 24x7x365? and does the billing/collections department not fall under the collections rule?

        • mbd says:

          Yes. 24x7x365 and they do not fall under the collections rule.

          However, there are still laws against harassment, which is why a legitimate company would not do so.

          • kevinroyalty says:

            interesting but that sucks. so the OP could still file a complaint with the AG of their state for harassment at 5:30am, but couldn’t do much else right?

      • ScottG says:

        The law/rule you are thinking of is the Fair Debt Collections and Practices Act (FDCPA) and as mdb indicated it is only for 3rd party collectors. Here’s the link to the text of the law: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.shtm

    • jsibelius says:

      Even if they are following the law (which they probably do), I’m sure the law has not caught up to technology (since it never does until massive problems result). Even a 3rd party collection agent would be able to call you at 5:30 a.m. because the rules that go with enforcement require callers to go by the assigned area code and local exchange info rather than a conflicting street address. It runs on the assumption that you ARE wherever they call you, not that the call follows you wherever you ARE.

      Which is to say – make sure you don’t travel to Hawaii because they’ll be calling in the middle of the night.

  12. necrosis says:

    OP better change his area code or his provider will be the one calling him.

    I moved only from DE to MD and after 3 months of 90% of my calls (also the address change on my bill) they made me get a MD area code.

    This is AT&T BTW.

  13. dullard says:

    Call management at TWC’s Colorado Springs Office, 719-457-4449 and get your billing sorted out. The calls will stop.

  14. Steevo says:

    TWC has automated collection calls going to cellphones all over, they used to call me. ‘Your bill is due”.

    I told them over and over “This is a cellphone and the penalty is $500 for placing a collection call to it, $1500 after I notify you”.

    They just wouldn’t stop the phone calls.

    Just notify them and sue them under the FDCPA, if you are in California you can use the Rosenthal act. I dumped them instead of suing, but today, I’d just wait until I have three calls and I’d sue them in small claims court for $4500.

    They have just nowhere to go.

    • jumbojeepman says:

      This law should probably change. When it was written cell phones were billed by the minute, and each minute was very expensive (maybe over $1.) Now that people get 100’s or 1000’s or unlimited minutes, businesses calling your cell phone both doesn’t cost you nearly as much, and with many people dropping their land line, it’s the only way to reach many people.

  15. 401k says:

    The dialer only knows your phone number and assumes your time zone matches your area code. Some solutions:

    Pay the bill
    Change to a local number
    Block there number
    Set your phone to silent at night
    Write in bitching to Consumerist about it

    wait…that last one doesn’t solve your problem and opens you to ridicule from douchenozzles such as myself.

  16. bbb111 says:

    “…If the program they’re using doesn’t have the capability to set specific calling times for an individual customer, then there’s probably no way to stop it.”

    Sure there is – the company has to get the phone software company to reprogram the system to track addresses/time zones instead of just using the area code. Then put the changed software through a few rounds of testing before rolling it out into service.

    Of course the bank will happily pay for all these changes because they believe in good customer service………………

  17. superml says:

    I wouldn’t want a call at 8:30am either.

  18. wwwww says:

    The answer is simple: They don’t care.

    If they cared they would have fixed the issue instead of telling you a bunch of reasons without fixing the actual problem.

  19. floyd fan says:

    The law is on his side. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991:

    It shall be unlawful for any person within the United States – (A) to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party)

    using any automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice –

    (iii) to any … cellular telephone service.

    The law provides for $500 in damages to each violation.

    The law also provides damages for call made before 8am and after 9 pm, local time.

    The consumer should sue.

    • ScottG says:

      “or made with the prior express consent of the called party” – since he has given TWC his contact number he has either explicitly consented (if he signed something with such wording) or effectively consented by the act of supplying the contact number. It would be a tough suit to prove that he did not consent.

  20. jim_c says:

    Seriously… have you folks never heard of vacation homes, or paying the utilities for an elderly parent? My folks had a condo in south Florida for 15+ years, and EVERY SINGLE MONTH the cable, power and phone bills came to their suburban Atlanta address. Their contact phone numbers on the accounts were for the Atlanta address. Of course, Atlanta and Florida are in the same time zone, but it makes no difference, really.

    And I once housesat for a friend of mine. I got the mail, and saw a strange bill from BellSouth Mobility. Come to find out, he was paying for his grandmother (in Alabama) to have an emergency cell phone, which was billed to him (in Atlanta).

  21. Sean says:

    Solution: Get a Google Voice number (or something similar) with a west coast number and have it forward to your cell phone.