SAN FRANCISCO - Companies often try to attract new customers by offering them promotional deals. What about loyal longtime customers? They are usually stuck with the same old rates.
Which is what got to Carol Vullmahn of San Francisco.
"I've been paying $47 a month for many years, at least ten, maybe longer,'' Vullmahn said.
She was referring to her AT&T internet bill. She was paying $7 per month more than offered in a current promotion.
Shouldn't she get a reward too? She contacted AT&T.
"They said they can give me a reduction for a year, down to $37 (per month)."
That sounded good.
"I asked if there were any other fees. No, that was it. No other fees, nothing."
That was reassuring too - and she accepted the deal.
However, later she noticed her internet service seemed spotty. She contacted AT&T.
"I wanted to ask them about why my internet service was kind of intermittent,'' she recalls.
Vullmahn says AT&T told her to swap her old modem for a new one.
"I asked if there would be any fees or anything. No. Nothing. I said, OK, good deal."
However, after she plugged in the new modem, she got a new bill.
"And I noticed the equipment fee on there, plus taxes,'' she said, incredulously.
Her bill included a $10 monthly rental fee for the new modem. That brought her total back up to $47.
Carol complained to ATT, saying she never had to pay that rental fee before.
"They just said well you've been getting away with it all these years and you should have been charged," Vullmahn said.
Vullmahn complained she'd been promised 'no extra fees.' She says an agent offered to lower the monthly rate, but he'd have to boost the rental fee.
"They tried changing the numbers around they said we can lower it to $32 but then your equipment fee will go up,'' she said. "I said that's not what I have a problem with....They didn't tell me they were going to add that fee."
The agent offered to send her a complaint form.
"I figured that wouldn't be going anywhere,'' Vullmahn said. "And that's when I called 7 On Your Side."
Seven On Your Side contacted AT&T. The company looked into her case, then agreed to remove that equipment fee, saying in a statement:
"AT&T provides internet modem equipment to customers on a rental basis. As part of our current everyday simple monthly pricing program, equipment rental costs are generally included in the monthly bill, depending on the type of service ordered. Under prior programs, we sometimes split the equipment rental cost out separately. We've resolved the situation to the customer's satisfaction."
And it did.
"They returned back to the monthly fee that I was told would be $37 a month for a year,'' she said. "So, I'm very happy now."
Her promotional rate ends in a year but Vullmahn says after all that, it's still worthwhile to ask for a discount. Just make sure you really get one.
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