Comcast canceled my service after it agreed to a late-payment plan

Karen Flanagan is having a communication breakdown with Comcast. Can our advocates fix the problem?

Flanagan made a late payment for her cable TV, phone and internet service provider in January 2016. As part of a payment agreement she had set up, Comcast said there would be “no service interruptions.” But there were.

This summer, Flanagan learned during a conversation with a Comcast representative that her account was overdue by $800 and that if she didn’t pay up within 30 days her bundled services would be cut off. With late fees added on, the tab had increased to $1,200.

“I’ve always paid on time and whatever and whenever Comcast asked,” she says. “I was not notified that late fees were being accrued and believed no late fees would accrue during our agreement.”

Her case serves as a warning for consumers who try to fix a billing problem. There are also plenty of lessons for the rest of us bystanders, including: assume nothing, keep a paper trail and always read a company’s service terms and conditions.

Flanagan asked our advocates to help restore her services and the amount past due to reflect the actual services she received.

In order to assist Flanagan, we asked her for written documentation, specifically billing information, payments made and whatever payment agreement she made with Comcast. We never received any such documentation from her despite repeated requests. She also admitted that she “had a past due balance” and acknowledged she had not made any payments to Comcast since June.

Needless to say, that complicated this case considerably.

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As the old adage goes, it pays to read the fine print and also check your billing statements to make sure there are no erroneous charges. Comcast, for example, has a 16-page Agreement For Residential Services

In Comcast’s (Xfinity’s) case, these terms clearly outline that the company expects its customers to pay monthly on the due date on their bills. If they don’t, Comcast has the right to bill the customer for “fees, charges and assessments related to late or non-payments if for any reason we do not receive payments for full amounts billed to you by the due date.”

The agreement also provides that in cases where the customer fails to pay the full amount due, Comcast may in its “sole discretion” legally suspend or disconnect service the customer receives without a reduction in the fee or charges for services. If a customer has service suspended, Comcast may also require them to pay new activation fees which are “in addition to all past due charges and other fees” in order to restore service.

Comcast’s agreement also says if customers intend to “dispute a charge or request a billing credit,” they must contact the company within 120 days of the date on the bill or customers “waive any such disputes or credits.”

We declined to take Flanagan’s case. We can’t advocate that a company should continue to provide TV, voice or Internet service to a customer with a large outstanding balance. Flanagan disputed the amount Comcast said she owed, but was unable to provide any written evidence or documentation as to why she does not owe the balance.

Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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