Help! CenturyLink sent me a modem I didn’t want

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By Christopher Elliott

When CenturyLink sends Mark Schrader the wrong modem, he calls for help. Is anyone listening?

Question

CenturyLink sent me a modem I didn’t order after I clearly stated before I signed up for its service that I would buy my own modem. I called CenturyLink to resolve the issue of being billed for a modem I did not order, and I had to waste my time returning the unrequested modem via UPS.

After repeatedly calling customer service, they assured me that they had resolved the matter and that they had noted on my account that I didn’t order the modem. My bills say otherwise.

Reaching CenturyLink is difficult. On several occasions, CenturyLink disconnected my call on their end after I waited ten or more minutes. I never received a return call from the customer service department.

After I finally got through to a customer service rep, he passed the call to somebody else to fix the problem, who then repeated the same non-productive, robotic reaction as the person who answered the phone.

As a new customer, my impression of CenturyLink’s customer service support is that it suffers greatly from a lack of accountability. The automated system appears to be efficient at generating new customers or sales, but not for handling customers’ billing issues or complaints.

I want assurance that all modem lease charges have been removed and verification that my modem has been returned. I also feel I deserve several months of free Internet service as reasonable compensation for my time and frustration in dealing with this matter and for having to bring this to your attention. — Mark Schrader, Puyallup, Wash.

Answer

You’re in luck, because CenturyLink happens to be my Internet service provider, and you aren’t the only one who is frustrated with the company. (Related: Wireless company failed to deliver modem, then pocketed my money.)

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I’ve also spent long hours on the phone with CenturyLink, and have experienced the same thing — impossibly lengthy hold times, random disconnects, transfers to a different department that can’t or won’t help, and errors that always seem to favor the company, never the customer. (Read here about Will Leeper’s experience when CenturyLink abruptly disconnected his account, prompting him to search for answers and the hope of getting back online.) (Here’s how to resolve your own consumer problems.)

Your experience raises a bigger question. When a company tells you something by phone, can you trust it? Some would say it’s the equivalent of an oral contract, but unfortunately, there’s no proof the conversation happened. The company can record the call for “quality assurance purposes” but you don’t have access to those recordings. The remedy isn’t to pick up the phone, but to contact the company in writing. You know the drill, right? Here are the names and numbers of CenturyLink’s executives. Why not share your frustrations with one of them?

In this particular case, it really was that simple. Although I was happy to help, your email to CenturyLink worked like magic. Within 24 hours of your sending a written complaint, CenturyLink adjusted your bill and acknowledged the return of the modem.

Do you trust what a company tells you by phone?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in São Paulo.

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