wenhaver (wenhaver) wrote in bad_service,

the run around

When I first moved into my current apartment, I got a new phone number. We have one of those weird business-like exchange things (I have to dial 9 to get an outside line). Anyway. I pay $20 for the line to my apartment complex and then a nominal amount to the phone company for each call I make. (My phone bill now is about $2.00 a month, btw). So imagine my suprise when I get my first bill, and it's over $120! I called the phone company about this weird charge from a company I had never heard from, for about $115.

The nice lady at the phone company told me that it was from a billing company that will let you charge goods/services to your phone bill if you don't have a credit card. I tell her that I didn't authorize those charges, and she tells me that there's nothing she can do; I'll have to call this other company. She then gives me the number, makes a note in her call log and wishes me good luck.

I run to class, and afterwards call the billing company. The billing company tells me that the charges are for an AOL account that the previous owner of my phone number had set up. I told them that I didn't authorize those charges, the previous owner of my number was no longer the current owner of the phone number, and I would like them to stop billing my phone number and I would like them to credit all charges to my account since I took over the number.

After a half an hour of them telling me that they CAN'T STOP BILLING ME, and that if I want to stop being billed for charges to MY phone number, I have to track down the previous owner of the number and make him call into AOL and cancel the service. It doesn't matter that they are billing the wrong person. It doesn't matter that I never, ever authorized these charges. I've had the call bumped up to a third level of supervisor, and she finally gets on the phone with my phone company to verify that I had just gotten ownership of the line a month previous. This was confirmed. The final supervisor I talked to then confirmed with me that she would credit my account and I would receive no further charges. I thought the matter resolved.

But no! The next month, there was indeed a credit for the $115. And a new charge for $25 for the same thing! So I call the billing company AGAIN. This time, I spend over 2 hours on the phone with them. Basically, it came down to me needing to call AOL to get them to cancel the account, because AOL would keep billing this company, and the company would then keep billing me. The did agree, eventually, to credit my account again for the new $25 charge. I tried to put a block on my number so that no one could use their service to bill me for charges, as I have a credit card and use that to pay for things, and have no need for this wacky phone bill payment option. Of course, they simply can't do that. No reason was given for why, they just can't. Fine, I'll just take my credit and watch my bill like a hawk.

I grit my teeth and prepare to call AOL. Now, I've had dealings trying to cancel an AOL account for my grandmother before, and had friends who had worked for that particular company. So my opinion of AOL's ability to provide customer service was low to begin with. But... just wow.

After 3 hours on the phone, being transfered from department to department, I finally get someone claiming to work in billing fraud. By this time, I'm basically at my wits end. The guy on the phone tells me that I will have to have the previous owner of the number call in and cancel the account. I told him that was impossible, as I only had the name of the person and I didn't have any idea how to reach him. I also explained, for the millionth time, that I had not set up this account, I was receiving no services for this account I was being billed for, I had no need of their services as I have cable internet service, and that I had in no way authorized AOL to bill me via this third party or directly. This guy asks to speak to a rep from the phone company, to verify all this crap again. The TDS rep is again very nice, and very patient with this guy who can't seem to understand the concept of "she's only had the number for 2 months".

Finally, finally, finally the AOL guy decides that I can't have possibly authorized those charges and that continuing to bill me would be a bad idea (at this point, I had pulled out the "Jr. Lawyer Badge", as the Dean of my law school calls it).

He agreed to close the account, and assured me that I wouldn't get seeing anymore charges from them.

Total time spent between my phone company, the billing company, and AOL: 7.5 hours. What kills me is that not one of these companies cared that they were billing the wrong person. No one cared that they were essentially committing fraud. It was all someone else's problem... namely, mine. Now, the phone company had some very nice reps, but that doesn't get them off the hook for passing along these charges without any sort of verification. Same for the billing company. I've had my credit card number stolen and used to buy porn, and all I had to do was call up and say "wasn't me!", and that was the end of it. Why was this such an issue?

The icing on the story? The AOL guy then told me at the end of the call that as a "valued customer" I was entitled to 90 free hours of AOL service.... would I care to give him my credit card number to active my free hours? I burst out laughing, managed to choke out "no, thanks", and hung up. I know he was probably just following procedure, but damn! I had just spend a significant portion of time establishing that I was not and had never been a customer and that I didn't WANT to be a customer. sigh.

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