Undercharged for DSL and land line. Now what?
August 2, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Telecom has undercharged me for DSL and land line service the past couple months. Is this going to bite me in the butt? If so, when and how severely?

Back in December last year, I signed up for DSL internet service from my local telecom on a "first six months free with two-year commitment" promotion for longtime residential phone service customers. In the spring of this year, before the six months were up, they mistakenly started charging me for DSL, and I had to call them several times to get them to adjust my bill.

They rectified it and then some: since then, they've been crediting me on every billing cycle for more than the amount of the DSL charges, so that my total bill, including land line phone service, has been ridiculously low. The six month free period ended in late June, and I should now be paying around $70.00 per month for the two services. My July bill came last week: the erroneous credit is on it again, and my total amount due is about a dollar.

How likely is it that they'll discover their mistake? If they do, are they likely to bill me for all of the charges I should have been paying during the time they've been crediting me incorrectly? If they do that, do I have any recourse, since it was their error? Should I a) notify them of their error, b) simply start paying what I think I actually owe without comment, or c) continue paying the exact amount they're billing me? Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
In your situation, I'd pay them what they ask me to pay, but put the difference aside in case they ask me for it all in one go (which they probably will do if/when they realise).

It's their responsibility to charge you accurately. But it's also good form to tell them if they aren't. I guess that depends on how much you feel like doing the right thing. Look at it this way, you'd be complaining if they overcharged you.

Check the terms and conditions of your account with them. There's probably something in the small print about this sort of situation.
posted by Solomon at 10:48 AM on August 2, 2009

Even though it's their mistake, it's certainly unethical for you to pay them less than what you'd agreed.

To your question, they'll almost certainly charge you retroactively for the amount you've underpaid. They're also likely to put that on a single month's bill and you may find that unexpectedly having to pay several hundred dollars will strain your finances.
posted by tomwheeler at 10:55 AM on August 2, 2009

I would call them and let them know that they are still billing you the wrong amount (this time in your favor). But, I think a lot of people would not do this. Although the billing might be wrong, you do owe them the money and I think you could expect that eventually they will see the error and correct it, and expect you to pay what's owed at that time. So, if you choose not to tell them, I sure wouldn't spend that money.
posted by Houstonian at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2009

Maybe you'll also find this story on the Consumerist enlightening.
posted by tomwheeler at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2009

Cable company undercharged me for almost a year a while back... then suddenly noticed and wanted it ALL on then next bill...
posted by meta_eli at 11:28 AM on August 2, 2009

the people on phone at the cable company can have a surprising amount of latitude. there is a remote possibility that if you call to correct the situation, they won't bill you retractively. remote, but possible.
posted by klanawa at 11:39 AM on August 2, 2009

If you want to have fun with it, send them a letter certified/return recp't informing them of the error, and giving them 30 or 60 days to fix it, and stating you don't expect to be responsible for errors after that time period.
posted by werkzeuger at 12:14 PM on August 2, 2009

This has happened to me and several people I know (for phone or electricity). You have a contract saying how much you need to pay them, you still owe them the money. They will figure it out eventually but it could take a long time, by which time you'll owe them a lot, and they then have the right to ask for it all straight away. You are in arrears after all. My experience (and that of my friends) is that if you ring and notifiy them of the mistake you can generally negotiate a payment plan for the missed money and may even be able to negotiate a discount for some or all of the extra (I once got out of paying about $300 to my Telecom company this way). You're in a much better position to do this if you ring them rather than wait for them to notice.

The main thing though is go look at your contract. It might tell you what to do in this situation and it will definitely tell you how much you need to pay each month, a number which doesn't go away just because the bills they're currently sending are wrong.
posted by shelleycat at 3:16 PM on August 2, 2009

I'll just jump in to say that this has happened to me with a utility bill in the past, with the common result that suddenly I got an immense, un-payable bill. Better to get on the phone with them and deal with it sooner rather than later, IMO.
posted by not that girl at 6:15 PM on August 2, 2009

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