AT&T Lets You Close Your Account, But Not Stop Paying For It

Reader Steaming Pile is waiting, not so patiently, for AT&T to give him back his $160. He had an account set up with automatic bill pay, and when his contract was up in September he canceled the account. This should have been the end of his dealings with AT&T. A few months later, he was perusing his post-holiday credit card bill when he noticed a charge from AT&T. Reviewing his statements more closely, he noticed that while he was successful in terminating his service, he hadn’t convinced AT&T to stop taking his money every month. Thanks to automatic bill pay and (let’s admit it) his own negligence, AT&T had pocketed $160 for a closed account. In fact, when he called to terminate the automatic bill pay, not only did he have to argue for the credit, he’s still waiting for his money three months later. Check out his very angry email below.

I canceled my wireless service with The New AT&T (the old Cingular Wireless) last September when my contract expired. Since I had automatic bill pay, they took their sweet-ass time stopping the auto-pay part of the deal, which I noticed when going through my credit card statement. I called them, sounding quite irate, and asked them rather bluntly why they were still billing me after my account has been closed at my request. I was informed by the guy on the other end, who could have been the technician in the health clinic from the movie Idiocracy, that my number didn’t work anymore, and he was having trouble bringing up my account. I said, “duh, Einstein, it doesn’t work because the account is closed. My problem is that you’re still billing me every month for a service I no longer need or use.”

Suddenly, this brilliant rocket scientist managed to bring up my closed account, stop the automatic bill pay, and ask me if there was anything else I wanted. “How about a credit for the erroneous billing since September?” I asked. They were just going to pocket my money if I didn’t explicitly ask for it, so I was getting really, really upset. I got back something like, “oh, yeah. I can do that. (click click click) There you are.” He then connected me with another rep, this time a woman who reassuringly sounded like she had at least an average IQ, who started a “case” where I would eventually get my money back – $160.

Two months pass. It is now March, and I get the second of two monthly statements showing the $160 credit balance and no other action on my account. I call them again, and I am informed that since the final bill had not yet been generated when the “case” was submitted, it was denied. Some computer system they have over at The New AT&T. It reminds me of last year when it was Time-Warner Cable who neglected to stop billing me for two months after I canceled their service, which took six months before I got my refund check.

I guess the moral of the story is, never, EVER sign up for automatic payments on ANYTHING. You will have no end of aggravation at the end of your relationship with these companies, who will forget to stop billing you, sit on your money, hire morons as customer service reps, and cause you to expend more time and effort than you’d expend making the same amount of money at your job to get your money back in your hand. It was far less trouble back in the Stone Age just to write checks and send them out via snail mail. At least when I had to fire one of these people in the old days, they could send out all the bills they want, but they wouldn’t get another dime out of me.

We’d argue the moral of the story is “If you sign up for automatic bill pay, you have to double check your statement”, or “you’ll catch more flies with honey that vinegar”. We get his anger, which is justified, but low paid CSR’s have little incentive to help you when you treat them poorly. In any case, should the refund not appear, we suggest you contact CEO Randall Stephenson and talk to him. Nicely, this time.


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