5 On Your Side

Baffling Disconnect Between Customer's Checks and Phone Company

Posted June 19, 2007

— You get your bills. You pay your bills. You keep the service you're paying for. That's how it's supposed to work.

A Raleigh woman says it didn't work that way for her, however, and it is one of those situations that's just a mystery.

Christine Coley insists she paid her bills, but the phone company insisted she didn't.

Two computers, along with fax and phone lines, are the life blood of Christine Coley's business.
So the fact that none of them work is a big problem.

“What can you do right now? Nothing. I can talk to them on my cell phone, but I can't pull anything up,” Coley said.

Coley started a service package with AT&T in January, paid for that month, and everything was fine. She said she paid February's bill, but her service was cut off. She then got a bill for February and March totaling $1,226.

“I called them and they said, ‘Well, we could not process uh, post your check,’” Coley recounted.

No one could explain why, she says, but after talking to supervisors, her service was reconnected. She says she then sent a new check for the two-month total.

“Then come April, my lines are dead again. And I get a bill for $1,500,” Coley said.

When AT&T told her it didn’t know where her check went, Coley said, she authorized a payment over the phone. That didn't go through either. AT&T told her the bank couldn't process it, she said. Coley said the bank told her it never received any checks from AT&T.

Coley offered to go to AT&T and pay in person, but she said the company told her it doesn't accept payments that way.

So, 5 On Your Side called AT&T. The company arranged for Coley to pay in cash at one of the companies with which they contract to accept payments for a fee. Then they restored Coley's service.

Coley’s next payment went through OK, and AT&T and verified that her account is up to date.

Spokesman John McKinney said the company will monitor the account to make sure things continue to go properly. AT&T also is analyzing the account and says that if it appears Coley paid and did not receive service, she will get credit.

For now, though, the company says its records show "just cause" for disconnecting the service.


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  • BigUNCFan Jun 21, 2007

    I remember when I called bell south, I got a nice southern lady on the other end of the line.

    Now when I call AT&T I get a surly mean spirited hispanic sounding person from far far away that you can tell is just hating to talk to you.

    I long for the days of bell south.

  • methinks Jun 21, 2007

    Lolly52, I never noticed that. Now that I think about it though is seems that way. LOL. My only problem with AT&T is that they claim I had long distance service with them for one month back in '99 with a bill of about $150.00. I was calling family in Japan that year and Sprint had a wonderful international rate so I know I did not switch. One month? Ha. I have never signed up for AT&T and never will. I asked for proof that I had switched, they don't have records from that far back. LOL. I'd rather deal with Sprint/Embark any day.

  • lollly52 Jun 21, 2007

    I was sorry to see BellSouth go, too. AT&T is awful. When you want to buy something - you get English. When you have a problem - you get English as the second or third language.

  • Steve Crisp Jun 21, 2007

    To Harry:

    I am the boss. And I used to have an eye protector, but I misplaced it along with my wire stretcher last year. Now, if I could only find my RJ-11 to RJ-45 transmutator, I would be set...

  • Lookelou Jun 20, 2007

    Sounds like a typical problem when it comes to AT&T. I personally have had a few run in's with them over time.

  • Arcturus Jun 20, 2007

    I once paid my phone bill with a check, and someone at the payment processing office misread the check amount and credited the wrong amount - significantly less than the bill. The check then cleared for the amount the phone company had credited. So I didn't lose any money, but it was kind of scary to learn that the bank didn't so much as look at the check (which clearly was written for the correct amount) before cashing it for the wrong amount!

  • Harry Canyon Jun 20, 2007

    The cell towers will not work if they're hit by lightning or the circuits have been disrupted.Also very few have back up generators and the back up batteries only last a little while.That's a good idea not to test the 911 system.But don't worry the trunks and circuits are under constatnt monitoring.

  • Red Jun 20, 2007

    I think by law, local land line carriers have to provide 911 access at a minimum, even to those without service, like me :). I haven't tried it in years, but I assume it works. Although I wouldn't want to call 911 just for a test. Also, if the power goes out, your cell phone will likely work for a time with a limited capability as the towers should switch to backup power. Problem comes when you try to call someone's land line and all they have is a wireless phone.

  • Harry Canyon Jun 20, 2007

    Don't you just love telco lingo.

  • Here kitty kitty Jun 20, 2007

    My thoughts...I have been a Cingular customer for several years and always had good service. As soon as they went to AT&T I started having a few problems. I contacted the company, got the problems taken care of and told them I hoped I wouldn't have to worry about any more because of the change. So far, so good. I'm still satisfied with the service.