Comcast Incorrectly Bills Customer $1,775, Tells Him To Figure It Out With His Bank

from the customer-is-always-wrong dept

At this point it’s pretty much a monthly event: Comcast does something stupid, then only bothers to correct the problem once the press gets involved. We then get a breathless explanation from Comcast about how this sort of thing is the exception instead of the norm, despite being able to set your watch to the dysfunction.

Comcast’s latest screw up comes in the form of a $1,775 early termination fee (ETF) that the company admits should never have been charged in the first place. A Comcast business-class customer was incorrectly charged the fee after his long-term contract had already expired. When he contacted Comcast to complain, the company quickly admitted the error and stated that the check was in the mail. This continued for two years with no actual check ever being sent:

“Robert says that when he called Comcast, ?the rep actually laughed when I told her I didn?t get a check yet. She said it would take three months.” The check still didn?t come, and repeated attempts to get an answer or an actual refund from Comcast went nowhere. When he called again in June 2015, Robert says the response was ?Ohh sorry, we messed up but the check is getting sent out now.” He says Comcast repeated that sentiment again in Aug. 2015, then again in Jan. 2016: ?We made a mistake and this time the check is really getting sent out.”

The original ETF was incorrectly charged in 2014. But after two years of promising that the check was in the mail, the customer was suddenly contacted by someone in Comcast’s “Executive Customer Relations” team who takes the screw up to another level. The employee informs them no check will be coming, and that the customer needs to tackle the problem with their bank:

“?[I]t does appear the Early Termination Fee (ETF) applied to your Comcast Business account was done in error,? reads the email, confirming what Robert had already been told, but at least this was in writing, so Comcast has to do something, right?


?I understand you?re claiming that someone advised you Comcast would send a refund check for the last payment that was debited but this is generally not the way we handle these situations,? continues the condescending email. ?We generally only issue a refund check for a disconnected account with a credit balance leftover. For your situation, you would have to dispute the payment with your bank.”

In short, Comcast incorrectly billed a customer $1775, promised to refund the amount for two years, then backed away from the refund promise and effectively tells the customer to go to hell. As usual with these kinds of stories, it’s only once contacted by the media that Comcast does an about-face and promises to really mail out a refund check (which still may or may not ever actually arrive).

While Comcast does appear to be making some modest strides in customer satisfaction ratings (recently going from apocalyptically awful to just abysmal), you’ll know they’ve truly turned a corner when monthly reports on their blistering incompetence stop being as reliable as the full moon.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “Comcast Incorrectly Bills Customer $1,775, Tells Him To Figure It Out With His Bank”

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Jason says:

Re: Re:

Absolutely agreed. No matter how many hoops I have to jump through (and some places I used to have to deal with made a lot of hoops) I never connect my primary account to a vendor’s system. I go through my bank’s online bill pay site instead.

All it takes is one screw up like this and someone has a pile of my money they shouldn’t have gotten, and it’s going to be a nightmare getting it back. (Funny how quickly it can turn nasty when it’s you who owe something to them.)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

What would Comcast do to someone who owed them that much money for so long and kept playing the check will show up?

One wonders how many times they can screw up on peoples accounts, before there are like some sort of industry watchdogs who would I dunno bar them from access peoples accounts until they get their shit together.

They have access to withdraw money and do so without any rhyme or reason… how is this different than theft?
As someone known to randomly steal from customers, one would think someone might cut off their access until its fixed. The behavior is unacceptable, and to finally condescend saying make the bank fix it shows that they shouldn’t have this sort of access if they are going to demand customers & banks expend resources to fix Comcast being unable to handle its own affairs correctly.

PaulT (profile) says:

“We generally only issue a refund check for a disconnected account with a credit balance leftover”

Well, I would hope that you’re generally not charging a $1,775 fee that you shouldn’t be charging either. So, by definition this is an exceptional situation, and therefore you have to take action outside of your normal procedures, perhaps?

This is what a lack of real competition looks like, I believe. Not only don’t they care about you when you’re subscribed, they have no need to make themselves look good in front of other existing or potential customers. So, a major PR disaster for someone else is just another day at the office…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Odds are good that like all smart/sleazy companies they’d forced him to sign a contract with a ‘binding arbitration’ clause prohibiting him from bringing them to court over the matter, leaving only an insanely biased arbitration ‘court’ to go to if he wanted to go legal, which would have been no different than trying to get the money from them directly at best.

The Tickled Trout says:

Re: Re: Re:

Aren’t those unfair contracts in the US?

Personally I make a habit of looking for lines like that in the small print of the T’s & C’s, and I run a biro through them. Sometimes I get some funny looks, but so far, no-one’s said this is a deal-breaker. They want a sale, after all…

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Considering the numerous times that the non-disclosure agreement in the TOS for the use of Stingray cell-phone spoofers have been used to justify denying their involvement in locating / searching a suspect’s cell phone without a warrant has been used in courts of law to slip evidence past a judge, I’d say yes it can, and this incident with Comcast is small potatoes.

David says:

Nothing unusual actually

Waiting out the charge contestion period (3 months or so) before issuing a refund check for a contested payment in a terminated business relationship is playing it safe: otherwise the customer can just cash the cheque and contest the charge, making it much harder to recover the extra payment, particularly since the charge contest was legit and the refund check was legit as well, and only the double cashing was illegitimate and could even have happened by a mixup at home.

Now making this three-month delay an exercise in story-telling is quite distasteful but saves real money: a refund cheque comes with much lower costs than a contested charge.

So laying the groundwork for screwing the customer over was all sort-of legitimate and understandable business practice. The main question now is where “hey, in our efforts to save money after a fault of ours we have maneuvered the customer into a situation where screwing him out of all the money becomes feasible and he likely can’t even sue us for it because of an arbitration clause” turns into “let’s just do it”.

And I bet that we have a regional management or department where the balance ended up rather than this being accountable to corporate billing.

Basically corporate structures rewarding crooks and more likely than not quite uninterested in getting bothered with details.

A friend of mine works as a union representative in a travel agency and they recently had to ok an immediate termination of an agent who had booked travels on the account of a coworker on maternity leave with credit data from customers. Apparently this wasn’t the first time and he also managed rerouting the resulting payment contests when they occurred and probably hiding some parts in surcharges. Totally meek and inconspicable colleague, wife and family (who actually went to travel on those vacations).

Now this guy really had to do some serious book cooking and account misuse to screw over company and customers to his advantage. Depending on how the company is set up, this might be much easier.

I suspect that Comcast rather encourages overbilling in its corporate structures, controls, and rewards. Or one would not get to hear so many stories.

And they probably don’t tie complaints to the originator. Particularly not if the complaint was about making Comcast more money than legal.

Hitler's One True Ball says:

Re: Living in the UK...

Ditto here in Ireland. Comcast won’t ever get a look in – your market, like ours, is far too competitive.

Comcast would have to actually have to work for a living, and they’d have zero influence with the associations & regulators, who here, actually have some balls.

Anonymous Coward says:

This guy was way nicer than most people would have been, first letting them tell him a check will take 3 months and then allowing them to do it for 2 years. If they said all they’d do is send a check out in 3 months I would have gone directly to the bank and disputed it that day.

Putting everything else aside for the moment, there’s no realistic way it can ever take 3 months for a check to be issued and mailed out especially because of them stealing money from your account and admitting it. In 3 months they could have had someone making the paper from scratch by hand for the check and then print it out and still have plenty of time to send the check on a road trip to visit all 50 states(including flying it out to Hawaii and back) before finally being hand delivered to the person and still have plenty of time left over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Putting everything else aside for the moment, there’s no realistic way it can ever take 3 months for a check to be issued

Corporate practice is to take at least 3 months from receipt of a bill to actually issuing the payment, some take up to 9 months. It is built into their computer systems, as a date filter on transactions to be paid this month.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Isn't this exactly the kind of bullshit for which we demolish monopolies?

Is this not exactly the reason for which we need competitive services to whom dissatisfied customers can go?

Or, if the system is better served by a monopoly (not saying it is, but hypothetically) shouldn’t it be fiercely and cruelly regulated so as to prevent situations like this?

At one point, I’d have said Comcast needs its windows bricked.

Now it deserves its workplaces Molotoved.

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