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SOS: 2-month, 5-letter quest to correct TV bill ends in one phone call

From the AT&T's long history with the Wisconsin State Journal's SOS column series
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AT&T and DirecTV (copy)

This combo made from file photos shows the AT&T logo on the side of a corporate office in Springfield, Ill., left, and a DirecTV satellite dish atop a home in Los Angeles. Priming itself for the age of Internet-delivered video, AT&T Inc. on Sunday, May 18, 2014 said it would buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion in cash and stock, or $95 per share. (AP Photo)

What Kathy and Terry Edwards didn’t have was a “security pass code.” What they did have was proof — and the address for SOS.

The Edwardses, of Friendship, wrote in early December to relay their tale of frustration with DirecTV parent company AT&T, which for more than two months had been insisting that the couple had failed to pay their September TV bill.

In reality, they had paid it, and they provided a copy of their bank statement to prove it. There it was: $171 posted to “AT&T Services” on Sept. 17.

The Edwardses included the statement among the five letters they sent to the company (the couple does not use email) trying to get the problem fixed, and made multiple phone calls as well.

But repeatedly on the phone, AT&T officials told Kathy she needed to provide a “security pass code” for them to help.

“Don’t ask for a pass code!” the couple wrote to the company on Nov. 10 in a letter shared with SOS. “We don’t have one. No one ever contacted us to get one!”

And what is it with all the cloak and dagger anyway? Kathy wondered in a phone call with SOS. “You’re not Fort Knox. You’re a cable company.”

AT&T was not sympathetic, and on Nov. 19, it cut off the couple’s DirecTV service, for failure to pay their bill, the couple said. Feeling she had no other option, Kathy called the company and paid the bill again, and the service was turned back on. But she and Terry also wrote to SOS on Dec. 9 saying they’d like credit for that additional payment and the elimination of accumulated late fees.

SOS emailed AT&T spokesman Phil Hayes on Dec. 16. He didn’t respond, although he has told SOS in the past that the company does not discuss the particulars of customers’ accounts.

No matter. Kathy reported getting a call the next day from an AT&T official who referenced SOS’ inquiry and promised to “look into” the couple’s plight.

Later that day, the couple got a phone message from a woman with AT&T’s office of the president. She was very nice when she and Kathy connected on Dec. 18 and Kathy gave her the Edwardses’ bank routing number.

“Within two minutes, she goes, ‘the payment is right there,’” Kathy said.

Apparently, Kathy said the woman told her, whoever entered the couple’s September payment had recorded it under an account number that was one digit off from theirs. Ergo, the confusion.

Kathy said AT&T told her the $171 payment would be credited to the Edwardses’ account and late fees would be waived, with the upshot being the couple should effectively have no bill to pay for January.

“I owe you,” Kathy told SOS. “If I had children, I’d give you one of them.”


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