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

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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.

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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.

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.

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