AT&T charges Zhenqiang Su an additional $29 for just one day of service; he reluctantly agrees. When it charges him another $29 for another month’s service, he balks. Should AT&T do that?
Question: I need your help with an AT&T billing problem. I canceled my phone on Nov. 28, 2015. My billing cycle starts from 27th to 26th of next month. But AT&T charged me a full month fee for the service period from Nov. 21 to Dec. 26. The next month, AT&T charged me an additional service fee of $29 for Dec. 27 to Jan 26.
I have no problem paying AT&T a full month service for one day of use. But it’s unacceptable that AT&T charged me an additional $29 for nothing.
I have disputed this with AT&T, but AT&T insisted that the $29 charge was right because of its billing cycle. They even admitted that AT&T didn’t provide any service for this charge.
I want my $29 back, but I also want AT&T to correct its system to protect customers. — Zhenqiang Su, Watertown, Mass.
Answer: It was really generous of you to let AT&T charge you a full month for just one day of use, but you’re right, you missed the billing cycle cut-off by a day. A deal’s a deal. I’ve already covered AT&T’s billing cycle in a previous column, and it remains a frustration to consumers who cancel their bills. If you don’t cancel at the right time, you could be on the hook for a whole month of service.
But two months of service? That’s a new one to me.
As always, the best way to resolve this is with a brief, polite email to one of AT&T’s executives. I can see that you tried to reach someone higher up, but stopped short of putting it in writing.
I had to get to the bottom of this one, since AT&T’s wireless customer agreement doesn’t specifically address this issue.
An AT&T representative called you and explained your mistake: You tried to time your cancellation to the minute, but missed by a day. You canceled on the first day of your next billing cycle — precisely the worst time to cancel — meaning that you were on the hook for 29 days, plus or minus a few hours, and another month.
As an aside, it goes without saying that the way AT&T calculates its billing cycle favors the carrier and puts all but the most attentive customers at a disadvantage. The company is, in effect, saying you have to time your cancellation to the minute, or they’ll punish you with up to two months of addition billing.
That shouldn’t be legal. But changing the law is beyond the scope of this column. You asked the representative why AT&T won’t change the way it calculates the next billing cycle, and she said it was “beyond my responsibility.” That’s an unfortunate attitude.
AT&T agreed to offer you a “one time” refund of $29.