Transferring a Phone Number
November 19, 2004 8:59 AM   Subscribe

CurseThePhoneCompanyFilter: My phone company won’t acknowledge that I’m a customer! How can I get them to let me transfer my number to another, non-crazy company? (More inside from a long-time AskMe lurker with a brand new account)

When my husband and I moved into our first home last June, we called well in advance to set up a land-line phone with company A. Upon moving in, we received a prompt service call to test the line, and were subsequently able to make and receive calls (local and long distance) at the number we were assigned, and everything seemed to be fine.

After about six weeks, I noticed that we never got a bill, or the long-distance calling cards that are so useful when you’re on the road. We then began a back-and-forth ordeal that has lasted through today: according to company A, our account was never activated. And, while this seems like a fairly easy thing to fix, no one has ever been able to change “what’s in the computer” to indicate that it is active. After many calls, many hours on hold, many transfers to already-closed departments, and basically a whole lot of really poor customer service, my husband was able to get them to start billing us (we were concerned that the number might be reassigned if we weren’t paying for the service), but was unable to resolve a lot of other issues.

Finally, having had enough, my husband decided to switch to company B. Well, the issue now is that company A says they can’t transfer the number because the account isn’t active! We’re about at our wits end with this situation, but are sticking with it because we really don’t want to have to change our phone number.

Basically, I’m looking for any insight (especially from former/current phone company employees?) about what might have caused this problem and what we can do to resolve it. I know there’s some sort of 30-day deadline that company A has to switch us over to company B. Does anyone know any more about that, or the consequences for not meeting it? Is this they type of thing to report to the BBB or a consumer protection agency?

I’m sorry for the length, and also for jumping into posting so quickly…I had hoped to make comments before posting, but the latest round in this saga came today and this is such a great forum for information…many thanks in advance!
posted by handful of rain to Technology (5 answers total)
If you have a bill, perhaps you could send a copy to company A with a note attached about this problem, explaining the situation, and your reasons for switching to company B.

Paper letter writing often acheives a lot more than a phone conversation. You may even find company A so apologetic and helpful afterwards that you don't switch.

The BBB could be helpful, maybe, however a lot of companies completely ignore them (I'm looking at you, ebay) and the BBB can't do anything about it (in the case of eBay, they're about 50% of all complaints for Silicon Valley!). Worse than that (again, in the case of eBay) the BBB will continue to offer a company their seal even when they are obviously the worst company in the entire state. So, yeah, BBB is neither here nor there.
posted by shepd at 11:00 AM on November 19, 2004

Generally, each state has a public utilities commission or other regulatory agency which accepts complaints (and sometimes will follow up). At minimum, I suggest that you find out the name of the commission/agency, and tell the phone company that you will report the problem if they don't fix it in [whatever number seems reasonable] days.

If you post your city and state, then someone might help you find the agency.

Another thought: some television stations and some newspapers have "consumer advocate" programs. This seems like a great story, if such a station or paper is nearby. Even threatening to take your story to such an advocate might work miracles.

Final thoughts (for the moment): I hope you're keeping records, including the names of people at the phone company you talk to (these are important for complaints, plus geting a name often helps to activate that person), and you should try to escalate (ask for supervisor, send a letter to the company president, public relations, etc.) if you decide that the low-level folks aren't going to be able to help.
posted by WestCoaster at 11:50 AM on November 19, 2004

Thank you both for the responses! Shepd, I found your comments on the BBB very interesting...I'm somewhat disinclined to go through them now (I had worries along the lines of what you said) and I think WestCoaster's thoughts on the state agency is probably the way to go (I'm in Wisconsin and know how to put this process in motion). The media idea is something I hadn't thought of. There are a couple of local columnists who periodically do stories about people who have massive problems with bureauocracies...

As for documentation, that's my big lesson from all of this. We didn't really keep any initially because we assumed it would be easy to clear up. I've recently been piecing together a timeline for a letter to a higher-up.

Thank you again!
posted by handful of rain at 12:45 PM on November 19, 2004

HoF, the BBB aren't useless against smaller companies. Smaller companies rely on reputation so much BBB complaints are bad.

However, a larger company, like one the size of a phone company, they just don't care about bad PR, especially BBB PR. It has to get downright TERRIBLE before they will react. Like national news report terrible.

That's just my experience. I have used the BBB to resolve disputes, and in the case of smaller companies, a resolution is VERY quick. But for bigger companies, the BBB is just laughed at.
posted by shepd at 1:21 PM on November 19, 2004

see also these two previous AxeMe threads.
posted by obloquy at 5:22 PM on November 19, 2004

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