I thought we had a deal, AT&T. So where is my credit?

Gerald Golden upgrades to an iPhone 7, with the promise that it will be “free.” It’s not. Can he get the company to do the right thing?

Question: I hope you can help me with a problem I’m having with AT&T. Late last year, I upgraded to an iPhone 7 through AT&T’s “free upgrade” program. Per the contract, after three full consecutive billing cycles, I would receive a credit for the full amount of the monthly phone payments until the phone cost was paid. This was confirmed to me by an AT&T customer service representative in December, and should have resulted in a credit to my account. It didn’t.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection -- Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection covers consumers and their travel dreams, backed by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company’s financial strength and security. Choose travel insurance designed specifically to your trip and travelers, plus the fastest claims payments in the travel insurance industry. Get more information at Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection.

I contacted AT&T again by phone, and a representative confirmed that I should receive a credit. Today I checked my bill online and found the credit still hasn’t been made. Not only that, but my bill has increased!

I have no desire to continue contacting AT&T’s customer service department, since my previous two attempts have accomplished nothing. Can you help? — Gerald Golden, Philadelphia

Answer: AT&T should have done what it said it would. But wait, does this story sound familiar? Yep. We’ve seen a couple of recent cases of AT&T saying one thing but doing another. And when you catch it in the act, it often does nothing.

Let’s have a look at the terms of your “free” upgrade, which can be found on the AT&T site.
AT&T says the following will be due at the time of upgrade purchase:

Sales tax on the total sales price of the new device. The required or optional down payment, which reduces the monthly installment cost. If you select the option to Pay to Upgrade or Pay Off the installment agreement, the applicable balance due on your old device is required. If service is canceled, balance on new device is due.

Also, “A one-time upgrade fee of $25 may be added to your next bill.”

Hmm, that doesn’t look free to me.

But in this case, what AT&T told you on two occasions should have overridden whatever fine print was in the contract. So, when customer service representatives assured you that you’d have a credit in your account, that should have been the end of the story.

You probably know what I’m going to say next. Paper trail! Your interactions with the AT&T reps happened by phone. There’s no record of them except the call center recordings for “quality assurance” purposes — but alas, not yours.

These AT&T customer service contacts might help. In fact, they did help. You used them to contact one of the managers, and the company responded with an apology and an offer of a $650 credit to cover your iPhone 7. That’s a more than generous resolution, and one with which you are happy.