5 On Your Side

Baffling Disconnect Between Customer's Checks and Phone Company

Posted June 19, 2007 6:04 p.m. EDT
Updated June 19, 2007 6:34 p.m. EDT

— 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.