From November, 2011 to February, 2012, AT&T demanded that Dave pay them for a service they had failed to provide.
They had promised to supply him with Uverse high-speed Internet–at 25 MBPs a second. Instead, he had gotten only 6 MBPs a second. And a big dot in the middle of his computer screen when watching YouTube videos.
Finally, an AT&T rep told him the blunt truth:
His geographical area was not yet supplied with fiber-optic cables that could provide high-speed Internet service.
Dave canceled Uverse–and began getting a series of bills from AT&T.
First one for more than $400.
Then a reduced bill for $260.
Then another for $140.
And still another for $126.95.
After getting a phone call from a collections agency, Dave asked me to intervene with AT&T on his behalf.
So I decided to go directly to the Office of the President.
Long ago I had learned a crucial truth:
The man at the top of an organization cannot fob you off with the excuse: “I can’t do it.” He can do anything he wants to do. And once he decides to do it, everyone below will fall into line.
I already had the phone number: (800) 848-4158.
I had gotten this via a google search under “AT&T Corporate Offices.” This gave me a link to “Corporate Governance”–which provides biographies of the executives who run the company.
And at the head stands Randall L. Stephenson–Chairman of the Board, CEO and President of AT&T Inc.
I didn’t expect to speak with him. One of his chief lieutenants would be enough–such as a woman I’ll call Margie.
First, I introduced myself and said I was authorized to act on Dave’s behalf. Then I handed the phone to Dave (who was sitting next to me) so he could confirm this.
I then briefly outlined the problems Dave had been having.
Margie–using Dave’s phone number–quickly accessed the computerized records documenting all I was telling her.
She said she would need three or four days to fully investigate the matter before getting back to me.
I said that, for me, the crux of the matter was this:
An AT&T rep had told Dave the company could not supply high-speed Internet to his geographical area because it had not yet laid fiber-optic cables there.
1.There was a disconnect between what AT&T’s technicians knew they could offer–and what its customer service reps had been told;
2.Or, worse, the company had lied when it promised to provide Dave with a service it couldn’t deliver.
I said that Dave wanted to resolve this quietly and amicably. But, if necessary, he was prepared to do so through the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The PUC regulates phone companies at the State level. The FCC regulates them at the Federal level.
Just as I was about to hang up, I said I couldn’t understand why Dave should have kept getting billed, since he had been assured he wouldn’t be.
Margie said that the company felt he owed $150.00 for “breaking” the two-year contract he had signed.
I immediately noted that AT&T had not lived up to its end of the contract–that is, to provide the promised high-speed Internet service. As a result, they could not demand that Dave pay for something that had not been delivered.
Clearly, this set off alarm-bells for Margie.
When I asked her, “How soon can I expect to hear from you on your company’s investigation into this matter?” she said there was no need to conduct one.
In fact, she added, she was writing out a credit to Dave of $150.00 that very minute.
Previously, she had told me it would take three or four days.
Thus, Dave did not owe the company anything for his disappointing experiment with its Uverse service.
I felt certain that Dave’s experience with a rapacious AT&T was not an isolated case. Just as banks use every excuse to charge their customers for anything they can get away with, so do phone companies.
I knew that AT&T didn’t want the PUC and FCC to start asking: “Is ATt&T generally dunning customers for money they don’t owe?”
I believe the answer would have proven to be: “Yes.”
And I believe that Margie felt the same way.
So, when dealing with a predatory company like AT&T:
1.Keep all company correspondence.
2.Be prepared to clearly outline your problem.
3.Know which State/Federal agencies hold jurisdiction over the company.
4.Phone/write the company’s president. This shows that you’ve done your homework–and deserve to be taken seriously.
5.Remain calm and businesslike in your correspondence and/or conversations with company officials.
6.Don’t fear to say you’ll contact approrpriate government agencies if necessary.
7.If the company doesn’t resolve your problem, complain to those agencies, and/or
8.Consider hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit.