Retirees Paula and Anastasio had no idea that their kind-hearted attempt to help a great-grandson with his schoolwork would somehow lead to a $6,461 AT&T bill. But that’s what happened until their helpful neighbor, a CUB member, came to the rescue (with a little assist from the consumer watchdog).
The couple, both in their 80s, received an advertisement in their monthly AT&T cellphone bill that said they could get a tablet for $10 a month for 24 months. Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to give their 11-year-old great grandson a helpful tool for his class assignments, the AT&T customers took the ad to the company store where they paid their bills faithfully each month, and asked how to sign up.
But then the bills arrived: $3,586, and later $6,461. Big bills, big miscommunication: It was never made clear to the couple that the $10 a month price tag did NOT include data charges.
Paula and Anastasio had no idea “what a ‘megabyte’ or ‘gigabyte’ is, or what ‘data’ is,” said Kristine, a neighbor (and CUB member) who the couple asked for help.
Because the tablet wasn’t connected to a data plan, it racked up expensive overage charges on AT&T’s cellular network.
Kristine first went to the AT&T store with the distraught couple. The sales representative, while sorry for the confusion, said there was nothing he could do and told them to call customer service. But the rep on the phone just tried to sell them an expensive, unlimited data plan.
A supporter of CUB, Kristine called the watchdog hoping it could help. That’s when Sandra Marcelin-Reme, a 23-year veteran of CUB, filed an inquiry with AT&T. Soon after, the company apologized for the miscommunication, credited the account and allowed the couple to return the tablet. Everyone was grateful.
“Paula and I, and our families, want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Kristine said. “This has been such a stressful situation for this couple. I am so thrilled to be able to finally bring them some relief.”
Your activism and support wins victories like this every day. If you have questions about utility, phone or cable service, contact CUB, like Kristine did, at 1-800-669-5556.