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Call Kurtis: Unbundled Confusion

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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When you bundle services, you pay one company for everything, then they make sure the money gets to the right place.  In this case Karen and Darrell Smith paid AT&T, but their money seemed to vanish.

Its cramped quarters for the Smiths.  They’re hunkering down with their nine-pets in a trailer while they wait for their dream home to be built on their five-acre property.  But the excitement has been hindered by what they say was a billing blunder at AT&T.

They had cell service, landline, and DISH Network satellite bundled through AT&T for years.  Then in September the couple decided to cancel their AT&T landline.

Darrell says he was told it would be no problem.  “She did say that once we cancel the landline then we wouldn’t be eligible for the bundle anymore, but we’ll just get a bill for it and just pay that.”

The Smiths say they paid their AT&T bills online in September, and October.  But then they received past due notices from both DISH Network and AT&T.  So what happened to the payments they have proof they paid?

“They said they had no way of knowing where the money went,” says Darrell.  “Once it comes in it’s gone,” says Karen.

The Smiths say the billing issue didn’t seem to surprise AT&T.

“He said, ‘All you had to tell me was that you were having trouble with the bundled billing department because everybody in this company knows that money gets lost there all the time,'” says Karen.

She tells us that customer service representative claimed to fix everything.   But a few days later more overdue notices showed up from both AT&T and DISH.   At one point their cell phones were even shut off.   They say they’ve spent hours on the phone trying to figure it all out and it’s still not fixed.

“Help me. I’m between these two giant companies.  I can’t solve their problems,” says Karen.

So we got in touch with AT&T and DISH.   DISH said it was an AT&T issue, but credited the Smiths for their outstanding balance with them.

After contacting AT&T they apologized and also zeroed out the balance.   But we were still wondering: what happened to those payments?  Where did they go?   AT&T never answered that for us.

“How can a large company like this operate with such disjointed departments and such a lack of ability to communicate?  She said that they’re working to improve that,” says Karen.

Is AT&T having issues with their bundled billing department?  A representative got back to us today and said he’s not aware of any problems.  He also told us it was inappropriate for the employees to tell the smiths that.

It’s always a good rule of thumb to keep a close eye on your bills after unbundling them.

AT&T’s official response:

AT&T is committed to providing our customers with an outstanding experience, so we appreciate the opportunity to assist this customer. As way of background here is what I learned:

Mrs. Smith states she had bundled service then cancelled the local service in September. She continued to be billed and payments were automatically paid after the cancellation. She received a past due notice for DISH and AT&T even though payments were made. AT&T records indicate Mr. Smith called on 9/9/10 to cancel the local service with a 60 day referral to xxx-xxx-xxxx. The first final bill was dated 9-22-10. Three revised final bills were generated due to payments made on the account. The first final bill separated the combined Mobility and DISH accounts. It appears the consumer did not understand that separate bills would be rendered from DISH and AT&T Mobility after the landline disconnection and the customer evidently did not notify their financial institution of the account changes for automatic payments.

Importantly, an AT&T customer care representative spoke to Mrs. Smith on 12/14/10. Mrs. Smith now understands the DISH and AT&T Mobility charges were billed separately since 9-15-10 and are correct. Mrs. Smith requested that a representative from AT&T Mobility contact her to review the monthly billing. We will be doing that in the coming days.

As such, it appears that this customer’s concern has been met with her satisfaction.

Thank you, once again, for the opportunity to assist this customer.

Steven Smith, AT&T spokesperson

DISH Network’s official response:

This appears to be an AT&T issue. According to the agent I spoke with, AT&T unbundled her bundled account when she disconnected her land line phone and she was then receiving separate bills from AT&T and DISH Network. She stated she paid two bundled bills in September ($172.26) and in October ($156.15), but AT&T was unable to locate the payments. She advised she recently spoke with an AT&T Representative who was willing to enter credits for the two payments listed above. We have credited her for any outstanding balances, so she should be good to go.

Francie Bauer, DISH Network Corporate Communications Manager

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