Charge-Offs

What to do when your cable company bundle turns into a charge-off

It’s no secret why cable companies rank lowest in customer satisfaction. Their billing practices can turn your credit score into a nightmare when fees go from a bill to a charge-off.

QUESTION: Lisa – thanks for your great post! I’m in a bit of an odd situation, and I’m hoping you can help. And I apologize in advance for a very long post coming, but I’m at a complete loss for what to do next and I do not have the money to contact a lawyer.

In August 2016, I had a cable/Internet/phone provider that I was changing to another provider. A VERY long story short, but I canceled only my phone with the old company, leaving only my cable and Internet with the old company. The old company informed me that because I dropped the phone and my account was tied to my phone, they had to open a new account for me. I said OK. I kept that “new” account for two weeks. After two weeks, I called to cancel the remaining two services. They said okay and that I would receive a final bill for the “new” account in a few weeks (i.e., a bill for Internet and Cable for two weeks).

After a few weeks (Mid-September), I started to receive bills from the old company for my new account with an astronomical total. I called immediately to inquire why the amount was so high (I was expecting it to be $75 [which was about two weeks of charges], and instead it was $350). The new bill included a full months’ worth of charges and installation fees as well, even though I only had the services for two weeks and had no installation. I was informed that it was just “an error in our system because the system had me as a new customer” and that I would receive a correct final bill soon.

The next month (October), I received the same bill again. I again called and had the same conversation – I was told I would receive a correct final bill soon.

The next month (November), I received the same bill again. Rinse, repeat with customer service.
In December, the letters changed. The language was stronger and threatened a referral to a collections agency if I did not pay. I again called, asked to talk to a supervisor, and finally got an explanation that because a final bill was never created “for some reason,” they would have to manually adjust my account down the price it was supposed to be. They said they put the request in the system, and that I would receive an updated bill with the correct amount soon.

In January, 2017 I receive the same stronger worded letter again, still noting the high balance. I again call, and again go through the same exact process. I am informed that the previous adjustment was denied “for some reason,” and that they would put it in the system again.
Later in January, I called back to confirm the amount was lowered, but was informed it was still “pending” in the system.

In February, I received a “collections” notice from the companies’ “in house collections team.” This time, it had a different number to call, which I did.

I was informed by this team (in February) that all the previous adjustments were denied, but that they would work with customer service to get the erroneous charges removed. I said I was concerned about it being referred to a credit agency and collections, and they said it shouldn’t do that because I have been calling to challenge the charges from months. They said I should expect a call back within 2-3 weeks. No call came.

Finally, in March 2017, I call again and ask to speak to a supervisor. I am informed during this call (for the first time) that they actually CHARGED OFF my account back in November 2016. I ask to speak to their supervisor, who talks to me for a few minutes, says “We don’t often remove charges from a credit report, but I will look into this and call you back.” No call back.

The next day, I check my credit report, notice the charge off back in November, and notice my score dropped about 120 points (from 810 to 690).

The next week, I call back that supervisor directly, asking for an update. She informs me that they removed the installation charges, but that the full months’ charge will stay because they have a 30-day minimum for new accounts (even though I wasn’t really a new customer). She also informed me that “our team will not approve removing this from the credit report.” She informed me that they will update the amount of the charge off, but that’s “all we can do.”

I asked for a call back from that person’s supervisor, but to date have not received another call (it has been two weeks).

In that time, I have challenged the charge on my credit report through Experian (but not the other two yet) and have placed an “informal complaint” with the FCC. I have no formal written communication from the company other than the monthly bills and “collections” notice, and I never formally wrote the company a letter challenging the charges (only challenged via phone calls).

I checked my credit report again yesterday, and noticed the amount of the charge off dropped to remove the installation charges.

My question to you is, what else can I do?

Thank you SO very much for any help you can provide.

ANSWER: Start creating a paper trail. You have great notes, including dates and details, but now you need a paper trail. A dispute directly with the credit bureaus is an option because you have an actual inaccuracy. The dispute should be in writing (certified, return receipt) because you are building a paper trail plus you want to request a deletion of the charge-off not a correction. If the charge-off is removed with the dispute, then your work is done. However, a dispute may simply result in an update (correction) of the charge-off amount.

The second option is to write a letter to an executive at the cable company explaining what occurred and how you would like this issue resolved (removal of charge-off from credit report). It might help to offer payment in full for the remainder of the bill as part of your request for deletion. Send the letter certified, return receipt and give it about 2-3 weeks for a response.

The letter should be in the tone of a goodwill letter in that you are making a request, not a demand. Points in your letter should be along this line:

  • It was a misunderstanding
  • You repeatedly attempted to resolve the issue
  • The company failed to respond on multiple occasions
  • Your credit score suffered due to this mistake
  • You really need this charge-off account removed from your otherwise pristine credit history.

The response determines your next steps. If it’s favorable, your work is done. If not, since you’ve now created a paper trail, it’s time to get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your State’s Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau involved. The BBB often gets disputes resolved better than the CFPB. With all complaints, your resolution is complete DELETION of the charge-off.

If you have to resort to writing a “goodwill” type of letter, make sure you research the company’s officials, namely a VP or CEO. An official has complete discretion to grant exceptions to a company’s policies of not removing charge-off accounts.

The best of luck to you and please keep me updated.

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