Help! My phone’s been disconnected!

Question: I need your immediate assistance. Tonight at 5 p.m. Comcast disconnected my phone service without a verbal or written warning. When I asked Comcast agents why this transpired, none could provide me with a valid answer or fix it.

I’ve talked to several Comcast employees via online chat, and they were not able to assist me with getting my phone line restored today, as they promised. Nor would they provide me with a valid explanation as to why Comcast disconnected me.

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My accounts are current and are in good standing with Comcast. Please help me correct this issue. I need my home phone service restored immediately. — Linda Brown-Westmoreland, Fresno, Calif.

Answer: Comcast shouldn’t have disconnected your phone without a reason — and without ample warning. When you reported the disconnection, it should have restored service quickly, as promised.

I reviewed the chat transcripts between you and a company representative. (And, by the way, nice work on getting Comcast’s responses in writing, and kudos for saving it.) It appears the representative had absolutely no idea what was going on with your phone line, and was in no position to assure you of anything.

This is one of those rare times when having written documentation is helpful, but when it’s even more helpful to get on the phone and sort this out. If you have a backup line, like a cell phone, or can borrow a friend’s phone, then call Comcast and explain the situation. A service outage like this is a serious thing, and it should be fixed quickly.

I’ve had the misfortune of a sudden, unexplained shut-off myself. A few months ago, my power company cut the electricity to my home with no explanation. A technician pulled up to the curb in a truck, cut the power, and drove off with hardly a word. I felt ambushed. It took most of the day to restore power to my home.

It turns out someone had erroneously applied for new service at my address, which didn’t require any warning or verification. To call the experience “frustrating” would be an understatement — I was livid.

I contacted Comcast on your behalf and a representative said they were “not entirely sure” why your phone went down. “But I know the team is looking into it, as well as to why the chat agents weren’t able to assist the customer,” she added.

Comcast restored your service and offered a $20 account credit or a free premium channel for three months by way of an apology.

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14 thoughts on “Help! My phone’s been disconnected!

  1. A fair resolution, although it should never have happened in the first place. Scary how cavalierly these utilities turn people off. Recently came home to no water. Building management mistakenly turned off the water in my unit instead of the one above, for non-payment. Sigh.

  2. I had the same power problem as Chris once. Someone applied for power and used my address as their old address, and mine was shut off. I wish they would verify it first. How hard can that be?

      1. Disqus seems to have eaten my attempt to post, trying again.

        Chris, I’m never going to understand what happened in your case. At least emanon256’s example can be explained as them just getting confused and thinking the current resident was moving (doesn’t excuse their not checking, but I can see what they thought was happening).

        But your case made no sense to me at all. Even if there really was a new owner moving into your home and starting service, why would the power have needed to be disconnected? Even if the start date on the new account wasn’t for a while, since there’s an active account at the address, wouldn’t billing have just switched over when the new start date rolled around? It created extra work for them to disconnect the power and cost them revenue because they could have kept billing the old account. The only possible explanation I can come up with beyond total stupidity is that they’re so uncertain of what they’re doing they believe there are households on the grid that they’ve failed to shut down from prior moves, etc.

        1. Really good point, why would they turn it off if someone was going to start power there? They must be extremely grossly incompetent.

          In my case they restored it later that day, but I kept wondering what would happen if they did this to someone who had a home oxygen generator or other powered medical devise? Those batteries won’t last very long.

        2. If the power were left on, there wouldn’t be a way to ascertain who was responsible for which portion of the day — the previous customer or the new one. If you were completely moved out of a place at 8 a.m. you would not want to pay for power for the rest of that day, right?

          The usual procedure (at least up here in the suburbs of DC) is for the power to be shut off at the request of an outgoing customer on the date of his choosing and then reconnected for the new customer on the date of his choosing, even if it’s the same day. It’s meant to ensure that the former user isn’t paying for power on a property he no longer owns or rents.

          In Chris’ case, while it was obviously a huge mistake to do it to his house, the idea of a cutoff was logical to start service billing for the purported new owner. But the company should have made sure it had the right location!

          1. I own a rental property and the power gets switched between me and the various renters constantly. I’ve never once had to have the power shut off to accomplish that.

  3. Here in Arkansas, our public service commission actually has the public in mind! A few of their rules include not disconnecting power when the forecast high temps are in excess of 90 degrees, not disconnecting electricity or gas when the forecast low temps are below 40 degrees. They have regulations governing payment arrangements, and requiring a utility to renegotiate existing arrangements. Also, they are required to mail notices of disconnect at least 10 days prior to disconnect, and then requiring the utility to make contact with someone at the residence and attempt collection of the balance, or leave 24 hours notice prior to disconnect! The only things not governed in Arkansas are utilities supplied by municipal governments, those are not required to follow the regs, but generally they do!

  4. Sounds like utilities use as secure information as the credit reporting agencies do. Things would work a lot better if credit bureaus didn’t store a bunch of crap and utilities stopped taking people’s word for it when they change service. In some developed countries, not to mention any names, but it is not the United States apparently, they actually chedk with the person beforehand and don’t switch on the basis of one person’s word alone.
    As for a $20 credit, this shows no appreciation of the time and effort involved to fix this. Not a Comcastic perfomance if you ask me. Or maybe it is “comcastic” since the expectations are low.

  5. Wow, I wouldn’t help anybody who starts a request with, “Help, I need immediate assistance.” Chris, do a lot of your requests start this way? How sad. It appears your constituents could stand to read Miss Manners.

      1. Most people have cell phones and she had computer access, so she wasn’t completely shut off from the world. But to answer your question, yes, I could survive and have.

        1. Yes, but if the disconnected phone was her primary line, lots of people were shut off from her. Maybe her employer or kids’ school typically calls her on that line. Maybe she was trying to sell some stuff on Craig’s List and that was the number she had listed. Lots of reasons that it would be something she’d want fixed immediately.

    1. Because if your phone service were shut off, you’d start the letter with “Chris, there’s absolutely no hurry to this case whatsoever…”?

      I didn’t realize Miss Manners was against descriptive phrases. If this person had been waiting to get a credit back for something, that really isn’t that time-sensitive a matter. Utilities or phone being shut down? That reaches the level of needing immediate help.

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