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Unnatural AT&T Bill My 85-year-old father, whom we call "Pappy," has his land line telephone service with AT&T.  Last spring, AT&T sent Pappy a DSL modem and a brochure with a cheery welcome to its internet service.  But he hadn't ordered it.  And when we realized that neither had any of his children ordered it, Pappy sent the modem back -- but by then it was beyond AT&T's return deadline. Pappy called AT&T and told the lady he reached "I don't even have a computer."  She told him that the matter would "be taken care of."  But AT&T sent its next bill with the DSL charge.  Pappy called AT&T again, and the gentleman said to scratch out the DSL line items, and just pay the rest -- and that's what Pappy did.  AT&T sent the next bill with an additional monthly DSL charge and a late fee. Pappy called again, and got passed from one person to another for an hour. Next, AT&T made a robo-call, warning Pappy of possible service cut-off or collection action.  For five straight days at 9 in the morning, AT&T robo-called him with that message. Again, Pappy called AT&T, but this time demanded to talk directly to the billing department.  "I am the billing department," said the lady.  Soon after, Pappy noticed some fine print on his phone bill: "Residential customers may also contact the Ohio Consumers' Counsel for assistance with complaints and utility issues at 1 877 742 5622  (toll free)."  So he called the number and told his story.  The next day, a lady from AT&T called Pappy, apologized, deleted the DSL and late charges, and gave him the amount to pay. The company offered nothing for his time and trouble, but it was a relief nonetheless -- problem solved.

   

That was how a state agency, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, worked under the administration of the Democratic governor, Ted Strickland.  But now Ohio has a new, Republican governor, former Fox News host and Wall Street bank exec, John Kasich.1 +2  Gov. Kasich is at the fore among Republican office-holders that are now swinging a meat axe at the commonwealth: public health, safety, schools, transportation, the social safety net, and so on.3 +4  In addition, Kasich calls for cutting the Ohio Consumer Counsel's budget by half -- even though its funding comes not from the state, but entirely from the utility companies.5 Should that go through, then next time there may be no one to goad AT&T to ease up on somebody's old pappy.

(From The Paragraph.)

Sources


   

(1) 'John Kasich's Work at Lehman Brothers Connected to Hit That Ohio Seniors Have Taken in New TV Ad' SEIU, 2010-09-09

   

       

According to the Columbus Dispatch (May 12, 2010), Kasich "tried to persuade two state pension funds in 2002 to invest with Lehman Brothers while he was the managing director of the investment banking house's Columbus office."

Despite only claiming two contacts Kasich also called a third pension fund in 2002 and tried to pitch Lehman's brokerage services.

Following the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Ohio pensions took a $480 million hit, according to the Associated Press (April 2, 2010).

Kasich, who is now running for governor of Ohio, made nearly $590,000 in salary and bonuses as a Lehman Brothers managing director in 2008 before the banking giant collapsed later that year (Associated Press, 4/2/10)


   

   

(2) 'Fox platform gives Kasich a boost', By MICHAEL CALDERONE, Politico, 3/2/10

   

       

... But in the meantime, it is Kasich, host of "Heartland With John Kasich" from 2001 to 2007 and guest host on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," who is running against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio and finding that the old ties to Fox can be very handy.

   

   

(3) 'REPORT: In 12 States, GOP Plans To Slash Corporate Taxes While Increasing Burden on Working Families' - Paul Breer and Kevin Donohoe, Think Progress

   

       

Gov. John Kasich (R ) has proposed cutting 25 percent of schools' budgets, $1 million from food banks, $12 million from children's hospitals, and $15.9 million from an adoption program for children with special needs. A Kasich staffer revealed yesterday that these cuts are more about politics then budget-balancing, telling the Cincinnati Dispatch that "even if there weren't an $8 billion deficit, we'd probably be proposing many of the same things." The plan includes tax cuts for oil companies, a repeal of the estate tax and an income tax cut for the rich that former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) halted last year because of the state's fiscal crisis.


   

   

(4) Plunderbund - Kasich budget

   

(5) 'Kasich's budget gives utilities a tax break by slashing consumer watchdog agency. Corporate Win-Win' by ModernEsquire, Plunderbund, on March 17, 2011

 * * *

By Quinn Hungeski, TheParagraph.com, Copyright (CC BY-ND 3.0) 2011

   

Originally posted to The Paragraph on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 03:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  He Wants us To Take Everything to Jeebus (8+ / 0-)

    maybe.

    In that way, closing down all government services and checks would be doing us a favor.

    I'm trying to get with the thinking of our new overlords.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 03:58:50 PM PDT

  •  Good diary. Thank you. (28+ / 0-)
    The company offered nothing for his time and trouble, but it was a relief nonetheless -- problem solved.

    Just to take one point from your diary, I would love to see state and federal law say that if THE company is the one who made the mistake, THE company must reimburse the consumer after, say, 15, 20 minutes' of time the consumer spent trying to rectify the problem.

    If the consumer has to spend any more time than, say, 15 or 20 minutes, there should be a fine levied against THE company who caused the problem and took forever to correct.

    Consumers are rarely, if ever, given the luxury of making a mistake.  Sure, sometimes consumers can be forgiven for their mistake if they're lucky, but that decision is THE company's alone to make.

    I hope this is one of the issues that Elizabeth Warren will be able to address.

    Many, if not all, have our nightmarish stories where THE company made a mistake and it took us forever to get them to correct it.    That has got to stop.  THE company has to have an incentive to quickly correct their mistakes.  And the "incentive" certainly isn't competition.

    To every millionaire who decries they don't want their grandchildren paying for the deficit, I say: PAY MORE TAXES NOW and your grandkids won't have a deficit burden.

    by gooderservice on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 04:04:34 PM PDT

    •  I had a problem with AT&T (21+ / 0-)

      that took me nearly a year to resolve.  I spent hours on it and only resolved it with the help of our public service commission.

      I did send AT&T a bill for my time.  As of today, they're about 200 days past due on that bill.

      Midwest political crises brought to you courtesy Citizens United.

      by Ophelia on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 08:47:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I sent Chase a bill and got paid! (11+ / 0-)

        About 6 years ago, Chase misapplied a payment on my credit card, and tried to charge me a late fee and a massive amount of interest (I pay my full balance every month--so cc interest is anathema).  

        They could not find the misapplied payment, and asked me to send a copy of the front and back of the canceled check.  I told her there was a $25 charge for that service.  She said it was their policy to reimburse me only for direct costs I incurred.  I told her hard luck.  When they though I made a mistake, they wanted to charge me $39 plus interest.  I thought I was being generous charging only $25 for the work I would have to do as a result of their mistake.

        I eventually got paid.

        I did the same thing years before in the same situation with Encyclopedia Britannica.  When I called to tell them they were at risk of incurring a late penalty if they did not pay promptly, they cut a $25 check.  A week later another $25 check processed through the normal channels arrived.  Cashed them both.

        Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

        by RickBoston on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:26:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  the fair-dealing scenario (17+ / 0-)

      This topic came up tonight when I was visiting Pappy & Mammy.  If fair-dealing were the rule ...

      Pappy: You sent me this stuff I didn't order.

      AT&T: We'll send someone over and pick it up.  Sorry for the trouble, Sir.

      That saves the victim the trouble of running to the post office.  Throw in a month's free phone service, and we'll forget all about it.

    •  The additional benefit is that it removes the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RickBoston, DavidW, hungeski, Lujane

      "ah, fuck it - it's not worth fighting" aspect from their overcharges.  Right now, I'll admit that if I see an overcharge that amount to a couple of dollars, I'm not going to bother arguing it in most cases because the process is just too time consuming.  It's not worth $10 of my time to correct a $3 mistake.  They've conditioned us not to fight by being so goddamn difficult.  They know that.   And I have no doubt that some companies use that to their advantage.  A bunch of $3 charges scattered among even a small percentage of a few million customers adds up quickly.

      If I knew that they'd have to pay me if they wasted my time straightening things out, I'd go after them every time.  And if they knew it, they wouldn't be so quick to screw their customers.

      They only call it Class War when we fight back.

      by lineatus on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 08:29:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am one of those idiots who fights on principal (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hungeski, Lujane, Naniboujou, lineatus, Arenosa

        I have called dozens of times to protest charges less than a quarter.  I once spent almost two hours on the phone with two different Cingular reps when they charged me for two text messages to Germany as "domestic" rather than charging them against my international text plan.  I told them that I knew the quality of schools in Texas was appalling, but Germany was definitely NOT part of the United States ("at least not since 1955", I said, but the joke was lost on them).  They kept insisting the texts were domestic because they had been flagged that way, but could not tell me the phone number they went to.  I asked them repeatedly if they did not know the phone numbers, how did they know they were domestic?  We went around on this almost two hours, and finally they credited me the 20 cents.

        In my defense, I was having lots of fun doing this.  I can't believe they let someone spend almost 2 hours fighting a 20 cent credit for a charge they could not defend.

        Last week I noticed Amazon overbilled me by a penny for two CDs.  Also known as the world's best scam: Overcharge 10 million customers by 1 cent and get an unearned $100k.  Who is going to complain?  I did.  They processed the credit of 1 cent, but could not tell me how it came about I was overbilled.  

        Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

        by RickBoston on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 09:03:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm glad that you do. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RickBoston

          I probably push back more than most, but at a certain point, it's just too much aggravation.  I'm sure that's why Cingular was willing to spend two hours trying to grind you down for 20 cents - it would make the average person think twice about doing it again.  It's not a bug, it's a feature.

          They only call it Class War when we fight back.

          by lineatus on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 11:06:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Netflix instant play went down ... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RickBoston

          for an evening about a week ago.  A few days later I got an email from them saying to click here to claim a 24 cent credit against the next bill.  (I think they pro-rated the downtime over the month.)  It may have cost them tens of thousands, but it helps keep their good name.

  •  Good deal beating the "Death Star" (14+ / 0-)

    (what the old AT&T logo was called).

    Sounds like y'all finally invoked what was/is termed an "executive complaint" with your PUC.
    If you're getting nowhere with them, just threaten one of those, it usually works. Not because they much fear it, but it comes with formal paperwork that they just hate. Of course, if all these regulatory safeguards get gutted out, we'll never win.

    "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Es ist nicht mehr Angelegenheit.

    by Bluefin on Fri Mar 25, 2011 at 04:25:52 PM PDT

    •  It is not just the paperwork they hate (6+ / 0-)

      Utilities fear complaints to the PUCs because they can hurt them with future rate-setting, and can put at risk potential performance incentives (that will show up at tiny fractional increases in rates--but mean big money for the utility).  For quasi-utilities such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, complaints to the PUC are ammunition for more regulation.  PUCs can be a very powerful tool when used wisely.

      Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

      by RickBoston on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:38:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely Right... (5+ / 0-)

        I have had good success by telling the Utility or Insurance representative tht I would file a complaint and every time they asked for a rate increase I would be there to complain.

        Once I even had a representative from Southwestern Bell call me at night just to apologize.  It is best to know your rights and remedies before dealing with anyone.

      •  You're"Absolutely Right", like Trees says. (0+ / 0-)
        complaints to the PUC are ammunition for more regulation.  PUCs can be a very powerful tool when used wisely.

        That's why they are trying to gut all regulations so hard, especially their 'very special' little assistants, the GOPers.

        "Double, double, toile and trouble; Fire burne, and Cauldron bubble... By the pricking of my Thumbes, Something wicked this way comes": Republicans Willkommen auf das Vierte Reich! Es ist nicht mehr Angelegenheit.

        by Bluefin on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:17:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The Ohio Consumer Counsel... (21+ / 0-)

    Is an immensely helpful agency, when the governor lets them do their job. Without them, consumers don't have much leverage against huge, powerful utility companies who have a monopoly.

    •  I Think That's The Idea..... (16+ / 0-)

      Republican Governors are not on the side of the consumer, they are corporate driven.  Regulations offend their core principles.  They feel regulations interfere w/ the free market or whatever it is they're calling corporate graft these days.  

      We get in the way of corporate profits when we exercise our right to consumer counseling agencies.

      The goal is corporate profits not consumer comfort.  

    •  Siding with the big and powerful... (4+ / 0-)

      ...is what Republicans do.

      Note, for example, that tort reform is always about making it more difficult for the small and weak to sue the large and powerful.  Because it's an absolutely horrid abuse for an individual customer to sue a large company...how will that company possibly survive such a vicious antbite?

      On the other hand, have you noticed that Republican tort reformers are very, very quiet about the larger number of lawsuits that are between businesses?  When businesses sue each other, Republicans step aside and let it happen -- but when individuals sue businesses, it must be stopped.

      So of course a Republican governor will attempt to defund the consumer counsel -- allowing it to continue is simply an affront to the natural order that says that the small and weak should be kept as powerless as possible.

      Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

      by TexasTom on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 08:35:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  AT&Spy (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GAladybug, snazzzybird, Dopeman, DavidW, Lujane

    Glad your Pappy got out alive.
    Look what JEB! the jerk and Lehman did to Floorduh's pension funds on his way out the door.
    bu$he$ appear, jillions disappear.

    If you believe "government is the problem," then getTF out of government, douches!
    I spit on Ronnie Raygun's grave.

    by OleHippieChick on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 04:45:17 AM PDT

  •  American Terrorists & Troublemakers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GAladybug, RickBoston, DavidW, Lujane

    Well, maybe I wouldn't go THAT far, but AT&T has been, well... let's just say "arrogant" and this is an especially egregious example.

    As an aside, my girlfriend and I both own iPhones we purchased when AT&T was the only service provider. (You can now get a Verizon iPhone)

    Anyway, lately, we've both noticed something about our "service". I'll be sitting at home with my phone 6 inches away from me. She'll call. My phone won't ring. Anywhere from 5 minutes to a couple of hours may go by, when my phone will "ding" -- indicating I have voice mail.

    In other words, the call never went through in the first place, even though only about a mile separates us, geographically.

    My own theory (and that's all it is) is that when AT&T's wireless network gets overwhelmed - this usually happens during peak hours - your call doesn't go through. Instead the caller is allowed to leave a voicemail message which is stored on a hard drive somewhere. Once the network traffic dies down, the voicemail is delivered.

    I think we'd have better luck communicating using smoke signals.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:05:09 AM PDT

    •  I just got rid of my old AT&T phone (6+ / 0-)

      The logo on the phone after Cingular took over was "Emergency Calls Only."

      For a while they tried to tell me it was my phone, and that handsets are designed to last about a year and a half.  To which I replied: "Really, and you force us into a two year contract knowing the phone will not last?"  The woman on the other end of the phone was speechless.

      Finally when I threatened to file a complaint with the FCC, they send a software update to my phone and I again had access to all the towers.  But every year on my anniversary my phone would lapse into "Emergency calls only."

      Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

      by RickBoston on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:44:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The cell phone business model (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Snud, DavidW, Lujane, Naniboujou

        There's actually plenty of information out there that shows that the average contract cell phone customer replaces their headset every year and a half.  Consequently, the manufacturers of these devices know that the build quality doesn't need to be all that good...cell phones just aren't expected to last very long.

        And, yeah, the two year contracts figure into this business model, as well.  The idea is to ensure that the average customer will never be out from under a contract.  They'll generously offer you the opportunity to upgrade your phone without penalty before your existing contract expires -- and thus tie you down with another two year contract.  If you're the "average" cell phone customer, you'll thus never be out from under a contract, and will be unable to switch carriers without paying a termination fee.

        Myself, I don't play that particular game -- my cellphone is a cheap prepaid unit, which means that I never am tied down by a contract.  The "cost" to the customer is that there is no massive upfront subsidy on the phone, but the net result is a big savings.

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 08:39:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  CREDO will buy out your contract (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hungeski

          They used to be called Working Assets.  We switched to them from Verizon two years ago and I couldn't be happier.  It's a much better company to deal with, their customer service agents have been great and I know my money is supporting a progressive company rather than one that sold my info to the Bush regime.  And they donate 1% of my bill to progressive causes.  We're sticking with CREDO from here on out.

          •  If one wants... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Lujane

            ...a cell phone with traditional two year contract, CREDO seems to be the way to go.

            For myself, though, I'll stick with my prepaid phone -- I don't use it heavily, and the result is that it costs me only about $8/month to have and use that cellphone.

            Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

            by TexasTom on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 01:07:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Exact same story w/Macys v. the MA Consumer Agency (11+ / 0-)

    Massachusetts has a very strict item pricing law, by which a store can be fined if they try charging you more than the marked or scanned price.  Last fall, I had an incident where Macy's not only overcharged me for an item, but when I went back to register to get the price difference back, the original cashier hassled the cashier who was making the refund.  I contacted the store, and some dweeb called me and told me all the wonderful things they did that would preclude me being charged the wrong price.  He was unable to explain why their "precautions" did not work, and in the end determined that the burden of ensuring that advertised prices were charged was solely on the consumer.

    I sent a letter and the copies of receipts to the Massachusetts office for consumer protection, as well as to Macy's corporate office.  Within a week I had a professional, personal letter back from the state office telling me that on the basis of the information I had provided, they had issued a citation and $100 fine to Macy's.

    A month later, I got a letter from Macy's corporate office telling me that they would look into my complaint, but wanted to send a interim letter "quickly" to let me know it was being investigated.  A month after that, I got another letter telling me that it is not Macy's policy to overcharge customers, and they have referred the matter back to the local store manager (who happened to be the dweeb who I complained about in the letter).  I guess they wanted him to give himself a stern talking to!

    I called back the automaton who sent the letters and left a message that I hoped they would invest the millions of dollars and years of training so that one day Macy's could offer the same professionalism and level of service as the government.

    I love me the office of consumer protection, and I believe in the power of the government to make the world a better place.

    Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

    by RickBoston on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:13:38 AM PDT

  •  With Any Utility (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sark Svemes, DavidW, Lujane, Arenosa

    Here are the processes that can be used:
    1. the internal customer resolution department- goes by different names i.e. executive services, consumer services, escalations, NOT CUSTOMER SERVICE if you can't find it, sent your complaint through the investor relations link - they usually forward it. 2. File a complaint with you state public utility regulatory board, the attorneys general office or your congressional rep. 3. File a complaint with the FCC.

    compensation is an internal thing by company. Although we did not compensate time, a credit on the account toward the next bill was usually sufficient.

    The 2008 election was a changing of the guard. Now, we must guard the change. --Duvall Patrick

    by MsDrema on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 07:55:57 AM PDT

  •  ATT - their world not ours (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DavidW, Lujane

    My mom was sick (she passed away last year) and I was trying to keep up with taking her to the doctors, paying her bills and going to the market for her while doing my stuff, too. I wrote a diary here. Another person wrote one before me, (flyonthewall) but was intimidated into disappearing from DailyKos by the hacks paid for by ATT's corp. assoc..
    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    Sen. Jay Rocket-falla put out feelers saying that he was "going to look into the scams (cramming) by the corp dogs of ATT".... Seeing that Rocket-fella is really a mouth piece for ATT (consider this story by Greenwald: http://www.salon.com/...)

    ...we desperately need someone else to look into the corp. malfeasance of ATT....

    http://www.walletpop.com/...

  •  They have monopoly!! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hungeski

    If the FCC or PUC does not require some sort of standard they will not do anything. In the olden days, there was an actual building with office hours, staffed with some people from your town or neighborhood. What a difference it makes if you see the same person at PTA, Rotary, bowling etc. to the level of service one gets.
    If the telcos are allowed to be monopolies, one of the conditions should be a publicly accessible office in all  of the service area that are open evenings and saturday. Also, there should be a penalty paid to the consumer in the form of a credit if they have to wait longer than 30 minutes to speak with a rep.
    This would create a huge incentive for them to enable disputes to be resolved quickly either by phone or online as the cost of dealing with complainers in person is astronomical in comparison.
    When I worked for a regional ISP, a good portion of our customers chose us even though we charged almost twice as much as AOL, because they knew they could come downtown and bitch us out in person if needed. Trust me, you do NOT want to deal with angry ISP customers in person. We were extremely motivated to resolve issues by phone as a result.

    Do not become a sausage made of many things which are useless, and do not become a guide on behalf of your blind ignorance -Silvanus

    by pithaughn on Sat Mar 26, 2011 at 09:35:21 AM PDT

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