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AT&T Ripoff: 15,000 Tennessee Customers Getting Overcharged Thousands for “Unlimited” Long Distance

Phillip Dampier April 29, 2010 AT&T, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Public Policy & Gov't, Video 14 Comments

AT&T Customers in southeastern Tennessee continue to get bill shock from company mistakes

AT&T continues to bill some of its customers across Tennessee for long distance calls that were supposed to be free under the unlimited long distance calling plans.  Stop the Cap! first reported this story back on April 12th, with company officials apologizing for what they called a “computer glitch.”  But the bills just keep on coming.

One Clarksville woman has been forced to call AT&T almost daily to address overcharges now exceeding $3,o00 for an AT&T Unlimited Nationwide Calling plan that is supposed to cost her $25 a month.

Although AT&T keeps crediting the overcharges on her account, Belinda Horton is exasperated having to first confront an inaccurate bill and then deal with AT&T customer service to credit back the charges.  That has been part of her routine for at least four months, with no resolution in sight.

“I’m not trying to get anything off of then and I don’t except charity, I just want them to fix my bill and fix it correctly,” she told WKRN News 2 in Nashville.  A reporter sat in on a typical call Horton makes to AT&T’s customer service to cope with the routine overcharging.  At the end of the call, the customer service agent tells Horton she’s sorry she can’t completely resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

Company officials continue to blame the billing error on computer problems.  Although Horton’s calling plan is supposed to let her make unlimited long distance calls for a flat monthly rate, the company keeps billing her calls by the minute at standard long distance rates.  The result has been staggering bills in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Belinda Horton from Clarksville, Tenn. is exasperated to learn she has been overbilled yet again while she speaks with AT&T customer service (Photo: WKRN News - Nashville)

WKRN News talked with Tom Jarkovitch at AT&T, who admitted the glitch has impacted 15,000 Tennessee residents.

“There were a few folks, those are the ones were working on manually and again, as a sub set of people that were not captured for whatever reason we think that’s going to be corrected in a matter of days,” he said.

Unfortunately for AT&T, there are indications the problem is impacting a larger number of customers than Jarkovitch admits.

Another customer in the Nashville area also being overbilled every month since last October said they had enough — they disconnected their AT&T service and went with a competitor:

“I have had the same problem since October of 2009. Every month, I have to call AT&T and ask why the problem has not been fixed. Again and again I am told that it should be fixed before the next billing cycle.  It is now nearly May and I still have to call them on a monthly basis. As a matter of fact, I just received my bill yesterday, and again, same thing. Well, that is my last bill because as of last month, I changed my home phone service carrier. I will no longer use AT&T services.”

With complaints like these still rolling in, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) Monday compelled AT&T to appear to discuss the ongoing billing problems and AT&T’s plans to resolve them once and for all.

AT&T’s legal counsel, Guy Hicks, apologized for AT&T.

“It has already gone on too long, and for that AT&T apologizes,” Hicks told the Authority.

Month after month, many AT&T Unlimited long distance customers in Tennessee are billed by the minute for every long distance call, leading to staggering bills like this.

But Hicks also claimed the problem only impacted customers from periods ranging from August 18 to September 8 and October 31 to December 2, a claim that doesn’t ring true in light of Belinda Horton’s ongoing billing issues.

When asked specifically whether every dime unjustly charged to Tennessee customers had been refunded, Hicks did not say yes, instead claiming that “the vast majority of credits or refunds have been made and are continuing to be made.”

“As late as Friday, we were called and charges were still on their bill,” said TRA’s Tevin Thompson. “She didn’t have a paper bill yet, but she was quoted a total, and there were still errors on the bill.”

Our Take

It was disappointing to see the TRA praising AT&T at the end of Monday’s meeting.  This is an ongoing nightmare for some customers, and TRA officials seemed all too ready to applaud the company for its promises to fix the problem while Tennessee residents continue to be overbilled.  The time for praise comes after the company resolves the issue and every customer has been credited for every error.  AT&T has promised it would resolve these billing problems for nearly a month, with complaints still arriving even as the Authority met.

The Leaf Chronicle, the daily newspaper serving Clarksville, notes TRA officials seemed satisfied with AT&T’s Apologypoloza:

State regulatory directors appear to be satisfied AT&T has made an effort to correct a billing glitch that could have affected as many as 15,000 customers.

AT&T officials were called before the Tennessee Regulatory Agency on Monday to explain why some customers have been incorrectly billed for services since the fall.

“From what I gathered, the response they received (from AT&T) was satisfactory,” said Shirley Frierson, senior policy adviser to the TRA chairman. “That is as long as in a month or so, we don’t get more complaints about the same problem.”

At this point, appropriate compensation for impacted customers that have coped with overcharges for months on end should be more than simply crediting back their mistakes.  For folks like Belinda Horton, a year of free long distance calling would go a lot farther to demonstrate AT&T’s goodwill.  After all, she had to spend countless hours trying to fix a problem that wasn’t her fault.  Take it out of AT&T’s massive lobbying budget and do the right thing by your customers.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WKRN Nashville ATT Overbilling in Tennessee 4-27-10.flv

WKRN-TV in Nashville spoke at length with Clarksville resident Belinda Horton who faced months of staggering phone bills.  The reporter even sat in on a call Horton made to AT&T customer service.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WSMV Nashville ATT Answers To Long-Distance Billing Errors 4-26-10.flv

WSMV-TV in Nashville also spoke with Horton and covered Monday’s meeting with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, a public utility commission, over ongoing AT&T billing problems.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WTVF Nashville ATT Meets With Regulators Regarding Overcharging 4-27-10.flv

Finally, WTVF-TV in Nashville also ran a report showcasing Horton’s billing problems and interviewed an AT&T representative about what will be done about it.  (2 minutes)

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Currently there are 14 comments on this Article:

  1. jr says:

    Stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family is a crime in TN but a corporation stealing thousands from a customer isn’t

  2. Mark says:

    Add NC to the list….we’ve been battlng AT&T for the same billing issue since Oct. 2009. Still not corrected.

    • Jay Ovittore says:

      Mark send me your info at the contact us link (above in the toolbar) so I can talk to you about this issue. I am in Greensboro.

      Jay Ovittore

    • Beth says:

      I’m in Charlotte, NC and I’ve been calling ATT every month for 5 months trying to get this overcharging of long distance corrected. I cannot even get them to process a credit! It is so frustrating! What can we do?

      • Jay Ovittore says:

        Beth,

        Send me your contact info at the above “contact us” link and I will reach out to you privately to try and put you on a path here in NC to fix your problem.

        • Brian H. says:

          Yup, me too, Greensboro, NC. I call every single month to contest the bill before I pay. It’s a huge pain in my arse, but they keep saying it should be fixed soon.

          The first time it happened I paid it, since when I called to ask why the bill was so high they said I was paying for two months. When I finally realized what had happened, they said they couldn’t refund me the money, although they would “audit” the account to find out if I’m owed any money back (um, yes, take a look at my bill history, and you’ll notice in Mid 2009 I paid 70 dollars more than usual).

          I’m going to be switching to Time Warner Cable as soon as possible.

  3. Wendi Schubert says:

    I am in Tennessee. I have been over billed since I changed my service in August of 2009. When I first got the wrong billing I was told that the CSA who assisted me did not set up my account properly and that she (the CSA helping me at the time) would correct the problem. I have had the problem ever since. In the beginning they made me think I was nuts. Then they admitted that there was a problem. I have been calling every month since then to either try to get my bill fixed in the beginning to having my bill adjusted up until now.

    I spoke with a woman who was supposed to be a supervisor month before last and she had the audacity to tell me that the billing problem only went back 2 months (once again indicating that I was nuts) and that there was no way that I had problems before that. When I asked to speak to someone directly in billing or a manager she told me that it would be impossible for her to let me do that. She was very rude the whole time.

    I have recently printed all of my billing since August 2009 and plan to go back through everything. I am pretty sure that they owe me money from back when I first changed my billing and were denying that there was a problem. Lucky for me I kept everything. I even sent them an email back on August 29th that they replied to on August 31 to clarify my long distance charges. The response email clearly states that I am on an unlimited long distance plan. Even if I go online and check the description of my plan it states it is unlimited long distance.

    When I have called up until last month to get the proper amount of my bill the next bill indicates how much I paid and the credit adjustment with the new wrong charges. Last month when I called it was same old, same old. I just got my bill this month and the amount I paid is there but no credit so now I am accruing charges. I am hesitant to cancel my service, because I feel if I am no longer a customer I will have problems getting them to work with me. Right now I am still a long standing customer. Whether that means anything remains to be seen.

    What I want to know is can we sue them. They obviously owe us money and they are obviously over charging us. For all we know this is also affecting our credit ratings. There has to be something we can do. Looking at the news footage the
    government doesn’t seem to be doing anything. We must have some rights.

  4. [...] For customers that cannot afford higher rates, the Illinois Citizens Utility Board fought for and won a three year rate freeze and reprieve for AT&T’s budget-minded Consumer’s Choice telephone packages that were slated to be discontinued.  These packages don’t bundle unneeded calling features or extra services, instead providing affordable basic telephone service.  But after three years, AT&T can cancel these packages and raise prices at will, particularly in rural areas where competition is minimal to non-existent.  State oversight of AT&T is also history, leaving little recourse for consumers who suffer through poor service or AT&T’s legendary billing nightmares. [...]

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m dealing with this in NC too. I am filing my FCC complaint and a complaint with the BBB. I am also not paying the bill until they get it right. This is absurd.

  6. Paul says:

    I live in Florida and have the same issue. It has been happening since late 2009. Every month I call and they tell me that they are aware of the billing issues and that it is their problem.

  7. belinda horton says:

    yes, that is me I have left AT&T as of June 3, 2010 and NO the Bill is not correct

  8. belinda horton says:

    AT & T has once again charged me for Unlimited calls my long distance charge is $121.56 my total bill is $165.18 they show on my bill my Unlimited Long Distance Plan line (9.) Unlimited Nationwide Call Advan 2- Part Mo Fee 05/10-05/10 $7.00 (10.)unlimited Nationwide Call Advan 2 Moth Fee 05/10-06/10 $14.00 that is wha……t it suppose to be I have 65 long distance calls total $94.71 plus taxes bring it to $121.56

    lastest Bill for JUNE 7, 2010 Last bill I am now a CHARTER GIRL

  9. [...] mistakes just keep on coming, ranging from ongoing billing errors amounting to hundreds of dollars to threatening customers with cease and desist orders just for e-mailing concerns to the company. [...]

  10. mike m says:

    At&t promised me internet only ( I have no tv or phone) for 14.00 a month and is charging me $35.00 I am in california

    This is outrageous, how do they get away with this?, they outright lied..

    What should I do? Where do I file a claim?

    mike m







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