Consumers Speak: Covista Sneaking Money Out of Customer Account

Reader Scott G got burned by long-distance provider ‘Covista.’ Here is his woe:

I read a Newsweek article in I think 2003 about low-cost long distance providers, and one they recommended was Covista/Capsule. The service was fine, but when I later tried to cancel to back with SBC, they refused to stop charging my bank account.

Here’s the timeline:

– 2-21-2005: I cancelled Covista service and switched to SBC; SBC confirmed that they notified Covista of this.

– Approx. May-June 2005: I noticed that I was still being billed $3.26 monthly for a total of $13.02. I called Covista, asked a customer service rep that my account be cancelled and my money be refunded. They agreed.

– 7-21-2005: Still being billed and no refund issued; talked to Shawndra at Covista and asked for a refund and cancellation; she refused to do the entire refund but promised to refund the most recent month and cancel the account.

– 9-16-2005: Still being billed and no refund issued; called Covista and spoke to manager Cory, asking for refund, cancellation, and written confirmation of both; he refused to give written confirmation but promised cancellation and refund of $13.02; got a $6.52 refund 9-23-05.

– 12-11-2005: Still being billed and full refund not issued; called Covista and asked to speak with a manager; after much hemming and hawing manager refused to speak to me, and eventually rep told me manager had just gone on break. I notified the rep that I would be calling the Chattanooga police and asked for rep’s name and Covista’s business address; rep refused to give either one and hung up on me.

It probably goes without saying, but this is so not about a lousy $13.02. A bit of research shows that I’m not the only one who’s dealt with this from Covista – leaking small amounts of money from the accounts of former customers is pretty clearly SOP for them. My bank also told me that their refusal to provide written confirmation of account cancellation makes it more difficult to stop payments to the company without cancelling my debit card (“they know what they’re doing”, she said). And even if I cancel the card/bank account, I’m afraid Covista will send it to collection and screw with my credit rating.

In short, the reason I’m doing stuff like filing complaints with the BBB and TN attorney general’s office and contacting Consumerist is because, simply put, there’s no way a company should be allowed to profit illegally in this way, and my understanding is that it’s not uncommon, either for Covista specifically or low-cost long-distance providers in general. Hopefully they can be stopped from doing this, and if it’s publicized, maybe they’ll lose business.

For what it’s worth, I don’t use SBC for long distance anymore, either – I use my cell phone.