AT&T promised it would lower my bill. Then it almost doubled it.

By | December 8th, 2016

Why is Susan Andzeski’s AT&T bill almost $200 a month higher? The wireless company isn’t saying, and now her immaculate credit scores are in jeopardy.

Question: Please help us understand why we just received an email for a bill of $438 from AT&T.  Our usual bill amount is $243.

AT&T recently offered to “lower” our bill by combining our AT&T and DirecTV accounts. We were supposed to pay $10 a month less. Then we received our first bill, and we’ve been haggling with them ever since.

This nonsense has been going on for several weeks. Now it’s to the point that I fear the dispute may affect my primo credit score. We have exceptionally high credit scores — so high that at the time of the last loan we took, the loan officer stated that he had never seen such high scores.

Many of the representatives we’ve spoken to have no clue how to handle the payments of our combined AT&T and DirecTV accounts. Can you help? — Susan Andzeski, Northampton, Pa.

Answer: First of all, congratulations on your stellar credit scores. Everyone should be so lucky. Big companies know that with customers like you, dinging your credit scores is an effective way to pressure you into paying (well, that and also the threat of a collection agency or lawsuit).

AT&T should have reduced your bill by $10, as agreed — not raised it by almost $200. Did they think you would not check your next month’s bill?

Your first step should have been to contact the company in writing through its website. You did that and shared the paper trail with me. Your next step would have been to escalate the complaint to an executive. I list names, numbers and email addresses of AT&T’s customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site.

It appears you skipped straight to the credit card dispute, which is really the nuclear option in a billing dispute. If they win, you pay. If you win, they will cancel your account at best and send a collection agency after you, or sue you, at worst. You have better choices.

I love the resolution on this case. You found the executive contacts on my site and emailed the CEOs office on a Sunday. Within five minutes, you had a call from a manager, promising to resolve your billing dispute. AT&T fixed your bill, charging you what it had originally promised.

  • sirwired

    I agree that a credit card dispute was not the best next step. Because once you initiate that dispute, your account is in arrears, and from their perspective you are a deadbeat. Which means you get to talk to the battle-hardened folks in the delinquent accounts department (who generally don’t believe anything a customer says besides their checking account number) instead of the folks paid to at least pretend to believe customers.

  • jim6555

    There is a lesson to be learned here. Never participate in billing that combines usage from two or more entities that normally bill separately. Back in the 1990’s, I worked in business sales for GTE, a company that was the local telephone service provider in several regions of the country. The folks at GTE came up with the idea that business customers would love to receive one invoice for all of their local phone service, long distance, wireless and paging. What they didn’t expect was that customer service reps. would not be able to easily grasp the intricacies of each product. Detailed training was required and the company was unwilling to spend expend the time and money to provide proper instruction. Customers became dissatisfied and the entire experiment blew up in GTE’s face.

    AT&T’s having mobile phone reps. selling the wireless product and Direct TV falls into the same category as the GTE experiment. It is doubtful that this quasi-marriage can provide the best outcome for a customer who has both services. My advice, as a seasoned communications professional, is to forego the convenience and the possible small discount offered for combining your invoices and to deal with each entity individually. Doing so will save much grief in the future.

  • Mel65

    I’m glad she got it resolved; I’ve had issues with our ATT U-verse billing, as well. But, the story doesn’t tell us how ATT explained the price hike and I’d like to know why? Did they fail to give them a bundled price, or what?

  • The Original Joe S

    liars. DirectTV is off my radar.

  • cscasi

    Good questions. Can we get answers? Probably not.

  • AAGK

    People who brag about their credit scores annoy me. Meanwhile, she remarks her loan officer complimented them. That goes to show high credit scores are only useful for people who want to take on more debt and not an indicator that someone lives within their means.

  • AAGK

    I switched to time Warner triple play about 10 years ago and it has been great in cost, service and convenience so that’s not always the case.

  • AAGK

    A credit card dispute with a company you do business with regularly is a waste of time and tarnishes your account with that company. It’s just pointless. I could a win a card dispute against ATT or Apple but when I go to use my phone or download an app, it won’t work unless I pay the amount anyway.

  • greg watson

    I am so, so, out of touch. I pay $10 for a landline phone, $29 for high speed internet, $7.99 for Netflix, on a monthly basis ($Cdn). Susan is paying ~ $315Cdn a month. What am I missing here ?

  • Bill___A

    You’ve probably got no long distance or other features on your landline phone, not very fast internet, and don’t have a whole whack of movie channels/ specialty channels and the like. I’m sure you will respond that your netflix works fine. Most people spend way too much on that stuff, it is good you don’t. Even better is if they would package it so we all could get away with paying a fair price for ONLY what we need and not a bunch of other crap they bundle in and claim to “give us a choice” but don’t.

  • greg watson

    Actually, I have call display, call block & next to nothing for long distance. I am not a gamer, so internet speed is just fine & Netflix is OK. I too, would like to be able to customize a ‘package’ ( which the CRTC said it was going to make the cable companies do several years ago), but that option does not really exist. I realize that we are getting off topic, but come on you consumers……….wouldn’t it be great to have to pay for only what we want to watch ?

  • AAGK

    I live in New York and credit does not affect employment here. You are right to an extent if someone were to rent an apartment but it does not need to be great, just normal, and definitely not bragworthy. I am not sure what kind of insurance you are referring to. My homeowners didn’t check my credit.

  • RightNow9435

    regarding the credit-card dispute, that says she pays the ATT/DirecTV bill automatically from that credit card….something I would never do. Mainly to avoid things like this happening. If you pay them manually thru online billing at your bank, then there is nothing to “dispute” and hope you win. If they don’t have your money yet, you are in a much better bargaining position.

  • Vicki

    That the rest of us don’t live in the socialist utopia but are stuck with the worst-of-both-worlds system with little regulation and less competition for landlines and cable service? I was paying more than $10/month for a landline even in the 1980s.

    Also, a lot of Canadians are paying more than you because they find cell phones useful or even essential; how much more depends partly on what province they live in.

  • PsyGuy

    I get the feeling that as evil as AT&T is (I will never do business with them EVER again, I would rather be raked over the coals at Comcast then deal with AT&T, they are literally that evil), but I have to think this was just incompetence and not malice.

  • PsyGuy

    Well this is 2016 and normal humans have mobile phones, I suppose that’s what you’re missing.

  • PsyGuy

    Not really, you would end up with a bunch of channels that no one wants but subsidize the other channels and high prices for a handful of channels with high popularity.

  • Fishplate

    I have a very high credit score* precisely because I have so much credit available, yet I live within my means and do not utilize it, except to keep it active. Use a card, pay it off the next day… Someday, in the event that I do need a loan for whatever reason, I’ll be happy that I get complimented instead of getting worked over by a loan officer.

    *Yes, I bragged. I worked hard for it. I’m proud of it.

  • greg watson

    It’s sad when you don’t think I am normal & no, I don’t miss not having a mobile phone (or the bill attached to it). I may consider one when the wireless providers stop making a tri;;ion dollars profit, for something that is minimal cost to them. By the way, I use to love playing Atari with my kids, but alas, I don’t have a play station, or whatever is popular today & the only online games I play are free. I guess it is about priorities, & I just prefer to splurge on a great steak & a bottle of red or a trip, now & then

  • PsyGuy

    Shhh, be quiet you will scare away my Pokemon, gotta catch them all.

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