Friday, March 27, 2009

Are You Checking Your Bills?

Okay, I just changed wireless phone carriers after about 8 years with Qwest. I never would have changed, because I've had a customer loyalty plan that cost me $14.99/month for 500 anytime minutes, but I received notification from Qwest that they were going to be discontinuing their wireless service. I called Qwest directly to find out when the final date of service would be and was informed it would be 2/28/09. So, I had about 3 months to research other carriers and plans.

Thankfully, my husband works for a company that gets fairly good corporate wireless deals, so I settled on AT&T. My new plan costs twice as much as my old plan, but I get a few more perks and it's still better than most others I had found. So, on about the 20th of February, I ported my Qwest phone number over to AT&T and started enjoying my new service.

On about the 5th of March I received my closing bill from Qwest. My normal bill was $41 or so (two lines) but this closing bill was $209.45! Of course I checked the bill out thoroughly and finally found the line with "detail" (I'll use that term loosely) - $207.95 "Debit Adjustment". My current charges were the balance of $1.50. I immediately called the billing department and asked for some explanation of the huge charge. The lady I talked to told me it had been a mistake and had since been credited off my bill. I asked her to double-check, because we had auto-pay and I was not interested in having Qwest debit $209.45 from my checking account. She assured me that it was not going to be taken from my account - my balance was indeed $1.50. Relieved (and sure I had done all I could do as the consumer), I hung up and didn't think about it again.

On the 20th of March, my husband mentioned that Qwest had debited our checking account $209.45! I was so upset I could hardly think straight! I called Qwest right away and asked for a manager. The manager immediately told me it had been a mistake, shouldn't have been debited, yada, yada, and then informed me she would make sure a check was cut for our refund... in 60 days!!! WHAT???? I calmly explained that that was an unacceptable solution and asked for a manager with more authority than her. She became rude and told me there were not other options - checks could not be cut faster than that. I finally convinced her to transfer me and I got the billing department. No manager, just a billing representative. I explained again what was going on and was transferred to the manager of the customer care department (again, I use that term very loosely). No care going on here! After an hour on the phone, I was told the original charge was an early termination fee, but that they would wave it for me. I asked how I could be charged an early termination fee since they discontinued their service? He told me they still offer wireless through OCTOBER! Apparently, I can't trust the Qwest representatives to tell me anything remotely accurate! In the end, I'll get my refund in 30 days (better than 60, I guess).

Not 2 days later I received my 2nd AT&T bill, which rebilled us for the Feb/March cycle and prebilled us for the March/April cycle. Since I had already been billed for Feb/March cycle, I called to report the mistake. It took nearly an hour to get that straightened out, and during the long hold times, I continued to peruse my bill. I discovered they had not applied some credits that were due to me, and there was a charge for a fraudulent subscription on my account ($9.99). Fortunately, AT&T customer service was extremely kind and helpful, and in the end all of my credits were applied, the subscription was reversed and I was satisfied.

Moral of the story? Always check your bill! It is shocking how many mistakes are made on our utility bills, and we end up paying for them if we don't scrutinize each one very carefully.


  1. Hello, my name is Steph, I'm a manager at Qwest, and I apologize for the trouble you've been having with the billing. I would be happy to review everything for you and make sure the credits are being applied and that you can truly expect to see this refund occur. If you would like to have me look into things for you, feel free to email me at and put Steph in the subject line - please include pertinent information like your billing number and address. Once again, I apologize for the misinformation and difficulty. thank you - Steph Boyd

  2. Krissy, nice blog. I just saw a study indicating that up to 19 percent of a cell bill goes to taxes, fees, and other unspecified surcharges, so it's not a big surprise to me if both companies, Qwest and AT&T, are squeezing you for all they can. In terms of advice, I will mention that I use some online tools to combat wireless overcharging; for example, one great new cell bill savings blog called constantly tracks new ways to cut wireless costs and exposes shady billing practices utilized by the cell phone companies. There's also an online company called Validas at that cuts the average person's cell bill by 22% annually. Validas was actually just on Good Morning America at As you're clearly away of, being a savvy consumer is becoming increasingly important as the recession cuts into all of our pockets.

    Good luck!