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How to dispute a bill with your cable provider

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By Craig Johnson, Clark.com

Because the cable providers use a subscription business model to provide service, the cable bill is something you’ll never be able to pay off. If you’re like me, you may even neglect to look at it some months, especially if you auto-pay. But, like all of us, these companies make mistakes. That’s why you need to know how to dispute your cable bill.

In 2017, the average monthly cable bill in the United States was $60.72. That’s $728 a year Americans pay on average on an annual basis to continue to watch the TV dramas, soap operas and reality TV shows we love.

3 easy ways to dispute your cable bill

The problems occur when we find discrepancies in our monthly bills and it becomes not-so-easy to remedy the situation. Incorrect billings happen from time to time. Two years ago, a business customer went public after he got a bogus $1,775 early termination fee from Comcast.

So what should we do when we find mistakes — especially overcharges — on our statements? Well, what we definitely shouldn’t do is fly off the handle. In many cases, customer representatives are following a script that their managers are making them to adhere to. Instead, when you talk on the phone with them, make sure to speak in calm and even tones. The easier we make this interaction, the more favorable it is likely to turn out for us.

First off, we want to make sure we call the right numbers so as not to waste time.

  • For bill payment questions at AT&T, call 1- 800-331-0500
  • You can reach Comcast at 1-800-XFINITY (1-800-266-2278)
  • For Spectrum, dial 1-833-267-6094
  • If you’re an Altice/Optimum customer, call 1-866-218-3259

3  steps to disputing your cable bill

  • Have your documentation ready
  • Talk to the appropriate department in your cable company
  • Get the government involved (only if necessary)

1. Have your documentation

When you call the cable company, you need to be armed with as much information as possible. That would include your account number, your current and past bills, the details on the type of plan or cable package you have, and the nature of your dispute.

Also, always get the customer representative’s name and write it down. Ask for their extension, as well. Make sure to take copious notes because whatever they tell you will be part of the case record. And remember, the person on the other end of the phone is just doing their job, so be polite even as you’re being assertive!

2. Talk to the appropriate department in your cable company

The person you speak with in the billing department may be nice and all, but they’re not always the customer rep you need in this situation. If you can’t get anywhere with them, ask to be connected to the cancellation department. This will convey the seriousness of your concern.

Once you reach the cancellation/retention department, you’ll likely find that they are empowered to give you all sorts of sweet deals that other departments just aren’t authorized to do. Many companies outsource parts of their customer service apparatus, but the cancellation department is the most likely to be populated by corporate staffers.

Disputing your cable bill can be more of an art than a science. So if you find that you’ve reached a stalemate in your negotiations, it may be time to inform them of the current promotions being offered by their competitors. Let them know that the other guys have a no-contract deal or six-month introductory rate going on and you’re moving on (even if you don’t really intend to).

If you dispute your bill and the cable company wants to make it up by offering a promotion, you want to be leery. Many promotions may even out or come out more expensive when you add the taxes, fees and equipment charges that they will tack on. What you really want are discounts. Let them find a discount for you, then ask if your employer qualifies for a corporate discount.

3. Get others involved (if necessary)

While they’re not in every region, public service commissions make it their business to ensure proper interactions between consumers and telecom entities. If you have one in your area, it won’t hurt to reach out to them so they can work on your behalf if you’re having an issue with getting a billing dispute resolved.

The Federal Communications Commission is hip to all the tricks employed by cable companies. One of the common tactics the FCC says these companies use is called “negative option billing,” where consumers are burdened with the responsibility of disputing the charges and obtain refunds.

“Cable providers are prohibited from charging subscribers for services or equipment they did not request,” the FCC says on its website. “You must agree to things such as premium channel subscriptions, set-top boxes or digital video recorders before your cable company can charge you for them. It is not enough for a cable company to just let you opt-out after adding a new service or piece of equipment to your bill.”

If the cable company won’t right the wrong, file a complaint with the FCC. You can do it online at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or via phone at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

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