When you’re caught in the middle of a corporate merger, you lose

By | March 27th, 2016

Corporate mergers make sense if you’re a corporation. But what if you’re a person? That’s what Christopher Gomez wants to know.

Gomez disconnected his AT&T U-verse service shortly before the merger with DirecTV and moved to DirecTV. Along the way, he encountered several billing errors that neither company can seem to fix. To our advocacy team, it looks like a merger-related issue.

We know what that looks like. As a site that handles a lot of travel cases, we’ve had a front-row seat to the mergers of once-great airlines like Northwest and Delta, Continental and United, and, most recently, American and US Airways. We’ve heard all the excuses, witnessed the machinations, and felt the pain.

(And frankly, we’re done with mergers — we’ve never seen one that benefits consumers. Not a one. But I digress).

Even if I’m wrong, and Gomez’ case is just a garden-variety billing error, it still makes me wonder: Who should fix a merger-related service problem? Is it the acquirer, the acquiree, or is the customer just outta luck?

For Gomez, the amount of money at stake is not insignificant. Between AT&T and DirecTV, he estimates he’s owed $708.

“I’ve called over 30 times and have already been helped by office of the president,” he says, “But nothing’s been fixed.”

Here are a few details: In January, he pulled the plug on his AT&T U-verse Internet and TV service “since the price was going up a lot. It almost doubled.” He wanted to stay and asked U-verse to match a competitor’s price, but it wouldn’t.

So he switched to the competitor. He signed up for DirecTV.

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Of course, DirecTV was acquired by AT&T. So effectively, he was dealing with the same company.

The DirecTV installation didn’t go so well. It took almost nine hours, and his service wasn’t set up right.

“They ended up giving me a $265 credit to make up for it after I called several times and talked to a bunch of rude people,” he says.

Then he noticed a problem with his U-verse bill. Specifically, it kept coming even though he’d canceled it. U-verse billed him for two months of service he didn’t want or receive, charging him a total of $488.

And then, to make matters worse, DirecTV charged him the full rate for his service — $220 a month instead of the promotional rate of $72 he’d agreed to.

“Looking at the bill, I’ve been charged full price for everything, including items that I was told would have promotional pricing,” he says.

Wow, talk about a mix-up.

Again, to me this looks like one company getting its wires crossed with another company it’s acquiring, but you know, it could just be two companies that don’t understand customer service. I hope it’s the former.

Anyway, we’ve put Gomez through our obstacle course, asking him to supply our advocacy team with a paper trail. But the bigger question remains: When two companies merge, do you lose?

I mean, is there anyone out there who thinks we’re better off with three legacy airlines instead of six? (Other than maybe the shareholders who are reaping excessive profits, of course.) But is it asking too much for a company that merges to take care of its customers when they get caught in the cracks?

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I don’t think so. Neither do consumers like Gomez.

Some of you defenders of big business will say, “Tell him not to worry. The merged company will get this squared away … eventually.” You’re probably right. But should he have to wait that long?

“This has been the worst experience with an business I’ve ever had,” he says. “Nothing comes close.”

Should I take Christopher Gomez' case?

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