Charter will pay my early termination fee, but how do I prove I have one?


When Judd Hollander switches cable companies, Charter agrees to pay his early termination fee. Only problem? AT&T, his former subscription TV company, won’t tell him how much he paid in writing. Can this advocate help?

Question: I recently canceled my AT&T home phone and internet and DirecTV service to switch to Charter.

Charter has a program where they will pay my early termination fees. However, that program requires me to furnish a bill that clearly states what the early termination fees are.

AT&T refuses to provide any such bill. Instead, they simply gave me a bill that said “DirecTV” and had an amount. When I speak on the phone with them, they clearly state that I had $200 in early termination fees, but no one I’ve spoken to is able or willing to send me a written statement to that effect.

As a result, I also have no proof that I’ve actually paid those fees, and can’t access any sort of itemized billing in order to ensure I was properly charged.

I need a copy of the entire final bill from previous provider with early termination fees, account holder name and service address clearly marked. I also would like to shed light on this policy of AT&T’s of obfuscating the final bill. A simple online search shows that it is commonplace for AT&T to treat cancelling customers horribly. — Judd Hollander, Glendale, Calif.


Answer: AT&T should have offered an invoice with your early termination fee clearly disclosed — if not when you left, then when you asked for it.

Why wouldn’t it? It’s difficult to say. Companies will include a fee in your price when it’s convenient, and exclude it when it isn’t. (The airline industry wrote the book on this one.) Perhaps this is all about revenge. Maybe AT&T knows that you need to show proof of your early termination fee and is intentionally obfuscating it on your final bill, just to stick it to you.

Related story:   Is Facebook about to shut down my account?

Nah, I’m probably being paranoid.

It doesn’t really matter. When you contacted AT&T, it should have told you in writing about the $200 fee, which should have been enough for Charter to issue the refund. When it didn’t, you might have reached out to one of the AT&T customer service executives I list on my consumer advocacy website.

It appears most of the communication with AT&T took place by phone, instead. In response, AT&T sent you the same vague bill five times. The phone may be convenient for you, but it is also convenient for AT&T, because there’s no proof a conversation took place, no paper trail. Sending an email to the company fixes that.

I contacted AT&T on your behalf and it sent you the proof you needed to get your refund.


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.

  • PsyGuy

    It’s absolutely about passive aggressive, sticking it to the consumer. It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

  • greg watson

    gotta love it…………………..team Elliott comes through again !

  • Don Spilky

    That’s just plain bizarre. I’ve used both Verizon FiOS and Cablevision Optimum and both provide monthly itemized bills that show every penny of the amount that I owe.

  • jim6555

    I just went through the same problem with Direct TV. I left them for Spectrum (owned by Charter) and was charged a $240 early termination fee. When I asked for a written receipt for the transaction, the sent me a copy of the previous month’s bill which did not include the ETF. I called back again and hit a brick wall. Direct TV was unable to provide me with the invoice that I wanted at that moment. I decided to wait for the end of the billing period and see if the charge appeared on the new invoice that would be created. Three weeks later my “final” Direct TV bill came in the mail and clearly showed the ETF. I scanned and emailed that invoice to Charter and a few days later received an email message that my request for $240 had been approved and would be sent to me as a check in about 15 days. It’s been just about 15 days and I still have not received the check, but I expect it to arrive shortly.

    If anyone else has the same problem, I suggest waiting until your former provider’s next billing period begins and you will have the proof that you need to get a refund.

  • The Original Joe S

    Direct TV lied to me no less than twice; maybe more. Jettisoned them.

    We’ll Forego bought out local bank, and they immediately proceeded to treat the customers like a vampire treats a victim. Adios. Credit union time. We’ll Forego jerked my friend around on a re-fi, asking multiple times for paperwork they already had. On my avoid list……….

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