Charged $29 a month for no AT&T service

By | April 21st, 2016

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.

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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.



  • Ben

    There’s a typo in the question , it says “Nov. 21” instead of “Nov. 27”

  • Ben

    Can you confirm that $29 is Zhenqiang’s monthly rate? The wording of the original question (“service fee”) could be taken to mean some sort of residual fee rather than a charge for a whole month’s service.

  • Mel65

    Wait… why would he be “on the hook for 29 days, plus or minus a few hours, and another month”?? I get the need to pay for the month he cancelled in, but what’s the deal with the next month, as well? I’ve cancelled services, including cellular, before and never got stuck w/ essentially 2 months of non-service payments…
    Why am I so confused this morning??

  • MarkKelling

    Still confused. If I cancel my service mid month or any other time during the billing cycle, I pay for that month and that’s it. There is no additional trailing month. That is how it has always been with AT&T. The $29 must be for something other than actual phone service.

  • John Galbraith

    Hi Mel

    He had to give a months notice. He did so on 28 November which means the notice would expire on 27 December. Problem is his billing cycle starts on 27 of the month. So when he gave notice on 28 November he got charge in full for that cycle. Unfortunately his notice expired on 27 dec on the day his new cycle starts and presumably they charge for a full month if have the service during that time. not saying it is right!

  • John Galbraith

    Hi mark

    He had to give a months notice. He did so on 28 November which means the notice would expire on 27 December. Problem is his billing cycle starts on 27 of the month. So when he gave notice on 28 November he got charge in full for that cycle. Unfortunately his notice expired on 27 dec on the day his new cycle starts and presumably they charge for a full month if have the service during that time. not saying it is right!

  • Mel65

    Ahh I didn’t see in the story a mention of 30 days notice. I’ve never had to give 30 days notice…or if I did, I didn’t pay attention to it!

  • RightNow9435

    Of course, a major way to avoid anything of this nature is to go pre-paid…..no monthly bills, surprise charges,and when you are ready to drop service, you just stop paying.

  • cscasi

    I agree. One just has to ensure they do not wait until the day after the cycle date (which is what happened to him). He owed for the next month, which is billed in advance), but after that he should not have gotten a second month tacked on (the December 27 to January 26). He owed one month and AT&T should not have charged him for the second month. Glad he got the second month’s charge back after Chris intervened.

  • John Galbraith

    Hi Mel – you didn’t miss it! I guessed that would be reason and then checked the Terms of Service which state the 30 days notice.

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