Cingular Database Has Convenient Billing Glitch

Gee, I wonder why Cingular’s profits are up 267%. See anything wrong with this breakdown of reader D.B.’s Cingular bill for last month?

We’ll give you a hint. Actually, an answer: his pool of ‘Anytime’ and Rollover minutes overfloweth, while all of his daytime and nighttime minutes were drained.

D.B. (but his friends call him ‘Dog’) writes, “As yet another Cingular CSR said today: “I’m seeing this a lot”. I’ll bet Cingular is booking significant ill-gotten revenue against the current quarter. Too bad they will have to give it all back, but by then, the accounting sleight of hand will have done it’s work.”

D.B.’s email after the jump.

To be clear, I’m not a former AT&T customer – I switched to Cingular in 2003.

My old account, upgraded to “family plan” was made ineligible for anytime minutes from the new plan, but apparently is still associated with my “new” phone. When I use my new phone in my upgraded account, it accrues daytime minutes against the old user device – or a “ghost” user.

It’s only a theory, but look at the enclosed billing detail. Seems that it’d be a simple thing to fix in the fancy database they’ve got – what with it being capable of determining who is worth keeping and all, I figure it can be used to actually resolve customer problems, right? I guess their IT resources are concentrating on which users are worth retaining.

Note that in the accompanying spreadsheet excerpt (right off my billing detail page), no anytime or rollover minutes have been used to date, but overage has accrued to the tune of over $100.00 this month.

As yet another Cingular CSR said today: “I’m seeing this a lot”. I’ll bet Cingular is booking significant ill-gotten revenue against the current quarter. Too bad they will have to give it all back, but by then, the accounting sleight of hand will have done it’s work.

What a mess. Looks like AT&T’s attempt at re-animation has succeeded, with the accompanying loss of competence and service. Too bad – I actually liked Cingular for the first two-and-a-half years I used them. Hello, Verizon!


Edit Your Comment

  1. bigroblee says:

    This has been a glitch in the billing system Cingular uses, and it seems to be affecting people who changed to a family talk plan mid billing cycle in May or June. It will be taken care of, and you won’t be held responsible for the charges. I understand that at the present time it is annoying, but do you really have a customer service complaint? It seems that you have been helped when you called about it, and have you actually been billed for these charges yet, or are you copying the details from your online account summary? Usually I see these issues repaired when the bill is generated, and the unbilled minute summary is then corrected also.

  2. Falconfire says:

    I would call this a customer service complaint. Any dolt could see something was wrong here, but Cingular went right ahead and let it through. If it was one or two people, then ok. But from the sound of it we are talking thousands here which is more sinister.

    Truth be told Verizons not much better (I constantly get charged for bullshit fees that they then refund.) But its cheaper… for the cost of my current plan at verizon I coudlnt get unlimited nights and weekends on Cingular.

  3. bigroblee says:

    It actually hasn’t “gone through”. This is a copy of unbilled airtime from the online account access. I’m sure it will be fixed before the actual bill goes out.

  4. Amy Alkon000 says:

    For a while, I’d see these charges showing up on my Cingular bill…a few cents here, a few cents there in what were supposed to be free minutes. It was a huge pain in the ass to correct it, and they gave me a really hard time. If they were taking a few cents from millions of customers who didn’t notice, they’d have huge, ill-gotten profits. I wonder if that’s still happening. I couldn’t have been the only one.

  5. lpranal says:

    A similar thing happened to me this month. I discovered that the text messages which give you your minutes remaining are NOT reliable at all. Mine had indicated that my overage was 8 minutes over when in fact I had over 56 minutes of overage, right until the HOUR which my billing cycle ended. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if there was actually a way to check the amounts of minutes used on the website, but apparently this would allow people the ability to not go over their monthly usage (thus forcing them into horrendus overages or upgrading plans unnecessarily.) They’re definately going to be hearing from me, though I doubt it’ll do much good- but I’ll be damned if they take my 147 dollars from me without a fight.

  6. bigroblee says:

    I know from experience that it can take 2 to 5 days for actual minute usage to show up, and not just with Cingular’s system. If it wasn’t this way, they could bill you the second your billing cycle ends. The following is taken directly from the agreement you have with Cingular; and when I was with Verizon their disclaimer was nearly the same word for word.

    Quote “Important Information: There are delays in reporting and processing call records. It may take up to two to five days for airtime usage on the Cingular network to show up in any Minutes “Used” category. Additional delays may occur due to technical difficulties. Further delays may apply to roaming usage, which is based on call records received from other carriers. A delay of a minimum of two to ten days for roaming usage is usual and up to 60 days or longer is possible. During the time your invoice is being processed, you may not be able to view your usage or you may experience additional delays in reporting of usage. Minutes used in excess of those available will either be deducted from available Rollover or from another category of usage for which that call is eligible. Minutes “Used” may reflect airtime for unanswered voice mails, administrative calls, and other calls for which you are not billed. This usage information is only an estimate and, regardless of what is shown, your next invoice will be determined by the information contained in our billing system, not this usage information.”

  7. lpranal says:

    Good information, thanks for saving me a call!

    The nice thing about verizon is they actually say “this is an estimate” on the text, which is alot simpler than having to dig through pages of legal information to find the actual important stuff.

  8. ACurmudgeon says:

    No offense bigroblee, but are you on the clock when you are posting here? Maybe you have said it before, somewhere but I think you should let people know that you are a Cingular CSR. Not that it isn’t obivious to me, but…

  9. bigroblee says:

    No, I’m not on the clock. I’m actually on vacation right now. I just like the record to be straight. Cingular has policies and procedures I have problems with, and I do what I can to change those and bring them to light. I just like the record to be straight. Every cell company has problems, although the problems are different. Cingular has a long way to go to create raport with customers alienated by some bad moves upon the ATT wireless purchase, and there have been a lot of updates to our billing system this year that have caused problems with invoices, but most reps and management actually do care and we do what we can to help. This paticular situation however, is not really a problem. The worst that could happen to the original poster is that it isn’t corrected when the bill comes out and he needs to call in for an adjustment. Now, being a consumer also I understand those calls can be frustrating and painful… but I am not like the AOL reps that attacked Vinnie. I am all for customer service, and I actually enjoy my job. Anyway… just wanted to clarify so there is no confusion, I do work for Cingular, like nearly all companies it has good points and bad, and I think it is impoving. Time will tell.

  10. ACurmudgeon says:

    hey, no foul, just wondering. It is not like your hiding that you work for Cing or anything. I was more wondering if you could get away with some surfing consumerist at work by saying “I am providing Customer Support!”

  11. bigrolbee, thanks for the input, but I beg to differ – I’m firmly convinced that forcing customers to call month after month to avoid charges that would gladly have been forced down the ol’ AutoPay gullet is a “customer service problem”.

    I do understand your position, having once worked as a CSR myself, but Cing’s gotten some bad habits lately.