Qwest Messes Up, Demands I Pay For It

Joe convinced Qwest to put his internet service/DirecTV bundle on vacation hold and noticed his old monthly credits continued to show up on his bill. After months of letting it slide, Qwest wants Joe to pay back the money for which it mistakenly credited him.

He writes:

My name is Joe, and up until recently I was bundled with Qwest/DirecTV. I wanted to leave and bundle with the local cable competitor but they held me up with a phantom two year verbal contract (that I never agreed to, but after some internet research on the subject found there was little recourse) but that’s a story for a different day. After some work, they agreed to work with me and put my services on vacation hold for 6 months until this contract was up. Great, at $10 a month for just internet I am still saving money with my cable services. Then I notice they are inadvertently still applying a 36.50 a month credit to my account offsetting my 9.99. “Great!” I said, that’s justice! Now I won’t be stuck with a bogus $200 early termination fee and Qwest is covering their sham internet! They’re getting their just desserts!

Not so fast; I received a bill today for 63.46 and a warning that my account was past due. How could this be? Well Qwest decided to include three separate charges on my bill titled “Adjustment to correct over-credit of discount on…” for the last three months totalling $86.00 (including a partial month of July where they found their error.)

What nonsense, sure they caught the mistake, I can’t begrudge them that, but holding up a customer for the dough? Saying they’re past due? Surely they can’t do that. So I called customer service and got to “Marcus” in the Salt Lake City office. I explain the situation very politely explaining the situation and the outlandishness of asking me to fix their accounting error. Marcus tells me that I should have called them to report the problem earlier and that “If you went to a store and bought a $10 item but accidentally gave them a $100 you would want your money back.” I said, yes of course, but his reasoning was bogus. Using the same analogy, with the roles corrected if I bought a $100 item for $10 due to a pricing mistake, completed the transaction and went home I wouldn’t expect the store to bill me for the remaining $90. He couldn’t form a contrary argument but still wouldn’t reverse the charges so I e-mailed Qwest:

“I recently received a bill for 63.46 which included three separate “adjustment to correct over credit of discount” charges which added up to a whopping $86.

This seemed outrageous to me, surely when a company makes a mistake they don’t expect the customer to cover for it. I have never dealt with a company who would demand money from me to correct their accounting mistake, I’ve told probably a dozen people about this situation, and none of them have ever heard anything like this either!

I called customer service, because clearly this isn’t ethical business practice and I expected a swift resolution. Marcus, at the Salt Lake City office did reverse SOME of the charges, but he contested that if I went to a store and bought a $10 item and inadvertently paid with a $100 then I would want my money back, regardless of the completed transaction.

While this is true, it’s fallacious reasoning. In the same analogy, but with the customer and service provider in the correct rolls, I could have purchased a $100 item at only $10 through a store’s pricing error. Once the transaction had been completed it would be unheard of (and equally ridiculous to this situation) that the store would then come to my house and demand the remaining $90.

(I told Qwest to) please own up to the mistake your company made and re-apply the credits to my account, it was not my error and I should not be liable for it. This is not my first negative dealing with Qwest, but I’d like it to be my last.

Do you think Qwest should work out a compromise with Joe since it was the company’s error or that Joe should have to pay in full?


Edit Your Comment

  1. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    If I am buying a $100 item and the stores rings it up for $10, I point out the mistake. Often they will let me have it for $10, but sometimes I have to pay full price. Sorry Joe.

    • Pax says:

      Let’s say you were shopping online, and bought three things for $20 each. You pay for it, select the shipping solution you prefer, and they ship it to you.

      THREE MONTHS LATER, they send you an email saying “Oh hey, we just noticed, that was supposed to be a $50 item. Th price yu were charged was (our) mistake, but that means you owe us another $90. If you don’t pay us immediately, we’re going to send the debt to a collection agency.”

      Wouldn’t you be PISSED …?

      Or would you, as you seem to be advocating here, climb down onto your knees and happily lick the undersides of their feet??

      • El Matarife says:

        Completely different scenario. Joe knew he was getting away with something he shouldn’t have, the internet buyer simply sees the price as displayed.

        • jiubreyn says:

          Exactly, Joe realized he was being credited for something he should not have and did not point it out because he enjoyed the benefits. Now that he is being held liable, doesn’t want to own up to his part.

          Due to the situation, I believe the fault lies with both parties and therefore an agreement between the two on an acceptable amount should be discussed.

      • THINK_before_posting says:

        The big difference is you and the vendor (website acting as it’s agent) agreed to a displayed $20 charge. The OP blatantly states that he had reached a special agreement for the lesser charge and then the credits were accidentally left on and showing on the bill. It isn’t even a close comparison. IF the Qwest agent would have said, “Here is your new price AND we will do credits…” THEN he has a leg to stand on.

      • Not Given says:

        I only point out the error if a friend is ringing it up and might get in trouble because she was distracted by visiting with me. If I don’t know the cashier, tough shit.

  2. DariusC says:

    OP used the same situation twice… We get the point, you got shafted and you don’t want to pay them. How about this situation? Basically they gave you something worth 10 dollars for 15 and want their change back.

    However, its a big company… stick it to em.

    • whgt says:

      It’s a failing company. I am the controller for 4 companies and 2 of them use Qwest. Due to the fact they use payment processors outside of their company some payments take up to a week to process. They will literally call on a $20.00 bill that is 3 days past due that is actually either A) in transit or B) sitting in their lockbox.

      This does not surprise me coming from Qwest at all. Honestly, it isn’t worth the combined time of all parties involved to go after this $63 or so.

  3. howie_in_az says:

    Qwest should be going after the CSR that messed things up and taking it out of their paychecks.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I like his argument and analogy – just not sure it will fly with anyone.

  5. sayahh says:

    Personally, I don’t always check my credit card statements until it’s time to pay, but if I had noticed the credit, I would have called them back, just like if my bank’s ATM were to give me more money than I requested to withdraw, or if the balance was somehow higher than I knew it was, by a lot or by a little.

    Change the name of the company of this article from “Qwest” to “Bank of America,” and then ask for people’s reactions and what they would have done in that situation, knowing full well that BofA sometimes does that, seemingly on purpose, to bait people into withdrawing that money and have to pay it back with interest (since they wouldn’t otherwise use the high-interest checks they get in the mail with their credit credit bills).

  6. Dover says:

    Pay your bill, deadbeat?

  7. THINK_before_posting says:

    Wait, are you serious questioning Qwest’s ethics?!? You KNEW you were getting more than you deserved in credits. You KNEW it was an error on their part. You KNOW that if it was reversed you would have been screaming from the word GO.

    This is what is wrong with consumerism. If everyone tries to screw over the companies then what reason do they have to believe us? Don’t get me wrong, I hate Qwest and will NEVER do business with them again but to knowing steal from them and then question THEIR ethics? Where are yours sir?

    • ovalseven says:

      Well… Joe’s the kinda guy that would pay $10 for a $100 item and not say a word.

      Yes, his ethics lesson is a bit amusing.

    • FredKlein says:

      Didn’t you ever play Monopoly?

      “Bank error in your favor. Collect $200”

      If a company charges too much, the company is the one who screwed up.
      If a company charges too little, the company is the one who screwed up.

      In both cases, the company needs to eat the difference. They shouldn’t’ go around blaming the customer for not noticing and reporting the company’s mistakes. Is he their bookkeeper? If so, they own him a salary. (That would be funny- send a letter pointing out their mistake, and then a bill for accounting services for twice as much as the mistake.)

      • ovalseven says:

        If you accidentally overpaid a bill this month, would you expect a credit toward next month’s bill? Or, would it be ok if your utility company said “Cool, you screwed up. Thanks for the cash”?

      • superberg says:

        Monopoly rules ≠ law.

        If that were the case, our prison system would be a lot less crowded.

  8. Dragon Tiger says:

    My bank did this several times, and yes, it did get rectified. Was I perturbed when they caught on and pulled the money I owed out of my account? Yes. Was I supposed to give them the money anyway? Yes.

    Billing mistakes happen. If you don’t fix them sooner, they’ll fix you later.

  9. Destron says:

    karma? You noticed they was under charging you and you let it go. Marcus is right, you should have called them to report the mistake and had it fixed so that they were charging you the correct amount. You tried to take advantage of the mistake and it caught up to you – so pay up. You owe the money and you know you do.

  10. bbf says:

    Qwest *could* write off the error, but they don’t have to.

    Let’s put it this way. Company A charges you $200 for $100 of service and you pay the bill. Two weeks later you realize that you paid $200 and ask for your $100 back. According to your logic, you shouldn’t get anything back since the transaction has been completed and it was your duty to not over pay in the first place. But if one uses sane logic, you should get the $100 back. So if sane logic is used, should Qwest get its money back?

    • Judah says:

      His point was Qwest shafted him by extending his contract for 2 years extra. This whole ‘gaffe’ area is one where he wants to pay as little as possible for reasons of being screwed in the first place.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        And for that reason I may have also tried to see if it would slide, but I wouldn’t whine when I was called out.

  11. CountryJustice says:

    If you aren’t entitled to the credits, then you shouldn’t have received them. If you shouldn’t have received them, you are liable for making the situation right.

    Yes, the service-ly thing for QWEST to do is to say “Hey, it was our fault, don’t sweat it.” But they don’t have to. Pay your bill.

  12. pegr says:

    Had you ended your business relationship before they caught the error, I’d agree with you. But since you still have an on-going business relationship, they have the right to call for their money.

    It’s $86. It’s not a fortune. You have collectively wasted the time of readers of this by ten times that amount. Pay it and move on.

    • koalabare says:

      I read the whole article and comments in under 5 minutes. I don’t think that he has come anywhere close to wasting $860 of our time. Although I think it is “outrageous” and “outlandish” that he is upset over this when he is clearly wrong.

  13. Destron says:

    This reminds of a situation when I worked for Burger King in high school. A new girl had just started working there and had only worked two days of the pay period, but when payday came around she got a check for over $600. Several of us tried to tell her she should report it but she didn’t she decided to keep it. Fast forward two months and another guy we thought had quit came to claim his final paycheck, turns out he has been in jail this whole time. He got his check and it was MUCH smaller than he expected. After talking to the payroll dept it was discovered that somehow, he received the new girls pay and she received his. So naturally they deducted the overpayment from her next paycheck. The real irony in the situation is that she had gotten a ticket and was due to pay it on that paycheck but she couldn’t because they took all her money. She ended up doing a couple days in jail for not paying. That’s Karma kicking you right in the ass.

    If you get overpaid – over credited – or otherwise receive something that’s not yours – GIVE IT BACK. Sometimes it works in your favor. When I did my last T-Mobile upgrade it came with a $50 gift card – the inadvertently sent me two. I called them and told them and they told me to keep it. Had I spent the damn thing without saying a word I probably would have found an extra $50 on my bill 5 months down the road.

  14. aloria says:

    ROLES. In the correct ROLES.

    I don’t often nitpick on grammar, but if you’re writing a letter that you expect someone to take seriously, you should take care not to make such simple mistakes.

    • Twonkey says:

      I don’t think anyone but the most extreme pedant is going to dismiss his letter because he spelled role wrong. That’s just ridiculous.

  15. e065702 says:

    The only thing Qwest can expect from the consumer is to pay the difference back on the same schedule as he was charged, not some sort of accelerated schedule as it appears they are expecting.

    • artichokeheart says:

      I’m sure they would let him pay it in payments if he asked. Don’t think that ever came up in his conversations with them.

  16. jen says:

    well, you should have to pay them – it would have been a nice thing for them to do to let it slide once they realized their mistake, but ultimately Qwest is not obligated to do that. So you owe the money. But claiming that your account is “past due” is just nonsense – if they have just now realized their mistake and informed you that you owe them some more cash, then they have to give you a little time to pay it, just like a normal bill, say, 30 days or so.

  17. georgi55 says:

    1 things to check – does your agreement have 60 day dispute clause, saying any dispute in billing errors must be done in 60 days? If it does, then you should be off the hook for anything older than 60 days, because if the situation was switched they will most likely say though shit to you, but anything newer than 60 days, just pay up, damn.

    • greggen says:

      Exactly.. If OP had found out he had overpaid 3 months ago they (and 50% of commenters here) would tell him to pound sand and lecture OP about reading bills better..

      Depends on how old the credits are..

      Strange thing about letting them know about their mistakes, the times I have tried it has backfired.. The either call you a liar, or take back the credit, then take it again. Then you are in a mess where you try to explain about their original mistake, then you are a liar again..

  18. nsj says:

    If Joe had his bill set up on EFT and they had forgotten the “vacation hold” I am certain he would want his money back. Nice try at getting something for nothing. It’s called karma and it does come back.

  19. sirwired says:

    If they were overcharging you for months on end, you absolutely would have wanted them to give you the full credit back for the entire time. The reverse is true too.

    Sorry OP… cough up the dough.

  20. TasteyCat says:

    Joe noticed his bill was wrong. Rather than trying to get it corrected, he hoped he would get away with it. Shady move. It was corrected. Now he needs to pay what he owes. The charges are valid. If they were charging him incorrectly, that’s a different story, but he is being billed for services rendered. If I worked in their billing department, I would have done the same thing, and I would refuse to reverse the charges.

    That said, someone probably will be willing to reduce the charges if you complain loudly enough. You’d be a bad consumer for doing so, but it could net you a bit of cash.

  21. JohnnyP says:

    If they never indicated that he would loose the discount its their fault. If it is their fault then he should be clear of their previous mistakes and going forward be billed to correct amount.
    If they told him he would loose the discount and they decided even though it was bad customer service to back bill him for a discount they gave him then it should not become “past due” since they never billed him for it how is it past due anyway?

  22. peebozi says:

    How much time is the customer expected to spend on the phone trying to rectify a corporation’s mistake?

    If I have a pay per minute cell plan (because i don’t make/receive many calls) am I required to spend those minutes attempting to assist a corporation whose only reason for existence is to profit as much as possible? If so, what is a fair credit to take for this…the actual cost of the minutes or the perceived VALUE (like text message pricing) that I deem they will pay me?

    • consumerfan says:

      You make a reasonable effort to contact them. That means, if they don’t answer their phones during business hours (outage), you find a different way to let them know.

      You don’t get anything in return by right, any more than they get anything for their administration.

      It’s down to you whether you own a pay per minute cell plan, a landline or a bunch of envelopes and stamps.

      • peebozi says:

        They get compensated for their administration, lawyers, attorneys, bonuses, bad debt, etc. It’s built into their pricing and business model.

        you’re putting the onus on the customer to administer the corporation’s accounting department for no benefit to the customer.

  23. EcPercy says:

    So you post a story to Consumerist about how you are a criminal and think you should be able to keep money that you already knew wasn’t yours…. just pay the money back and move on.