AT&T lured me back with a great rate, so where is it?

When Kim Wacek switches from AT&T to Comcast for a better rate, AT&T counters with a better offer. Then the company fails to honor its new rate. Can this bill be fixed?

Question: Can you help me get AT&T to honor the contract it promised? My one-year AT&T internet and TV contract ended recently. Before that, I had tried to negotiate a new contract, but the prices were outrageous. So I switched to Xfinity.

An AT&T representative called and offered two years of service at $83 a month — as the representative said, less than I had been paying for exactly the same service. Plus, he threw in a $100 gift card for my problems. I switched back.

I received the gift card, but my bill, with taxes, went from $95 to $120. I spent hours online and on the phone with AT&T. Although they offered $120 credit, they refused to honor the $83 rate. It seems like AT&T makes promises but you can never, ever, ever, ever get them to honor them. Can you please assist? — Kim Wacek, Wilton Manors, Fla.

Answer: AT&T should have honored your $83 monthly rate. This backpedaling with a partial refund doesn’t work for you, and it doesn’t work for me, either.

Allow me a minute to talk about prices “with taxes.” AT&T has the capability of quoting you an all-in rate on your TV and internet service, and you were under the impression that it had. Companies that quote prices before taxes are lying. They want you to believe the price is lower than it actually is. But everyone must pay taxes. Until a company can figure out a way for you to avoid taxes (like a VAT refund on European purchases) it has no business — none whatsoever! — quoting you a before-tax rate.

Related story:   'We should be helping our customers, not forcing products on them they do not want'

Here’s the real problem, though. You didn’t get AT&T’s promise in writing. It was, in your words, a “verbal contract.” You need to get rate offers like this in writing, of course. Otherwise, only the company has a record of it, as a call recording kept for “quality” purposes. And unless you have a court order, you can’t access that recording. Convenient, isn’t it?

A brief, polite, written appeal to one of AT&T’s executive contacts — I list them here on my consumer advocacy site — might have helped. But without that promise in writing, it would have been difficult to prove the AT&T employee actually offered you the $83 rate.

Fixing this took a while. I contacted AT&T on your behalf and after weeks of back-and-forth, it finally agreed to honor the rate it had promised, more or less. The company reduced your bill by $51 per month and offered you a $99 credit, which you accepted.

Should companies be required to quote rates with tax included?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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