'It just left a nasty taste in my mouth': The fight to pause or cancel phone, TV service – AZCentral.com

The Carters have spent the last 10 winters snuggling to Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel and history documentaries on National Geographic through their DirecTV subscription.
They shift their subscription and residence every six months between their two homes in Litchfield Park and Columbia Falls, Utah. After moving back to their Utah summer home this May, they requested DirecTV pause their service in Arizona.
However, months later, they found out they only managed to escape the Arizona heat, not the satellite television bills.
“I didn’t catch it until into July,” Kris Carter, 67, said. “And I called them up and asked what was going on. They still got it turned on down there. We asked to turn it off like we always do.”
By then, the company had already charged $312 – for a service no one used and, Carter said, should have been discontinued.
Over a series of phone calls and more than 12 hours, Carter kept requesting refunds for the overcharged amount.
DirecTV refused to refund any amount, saying customer service did not receive an order for pausing the service.
Carter said he suspects the mismanagement of his account could have been due to recent ownership transformations. AT&T, which acquired the broadcast service provider in 2015, completed the spinoff of DirecTV into a separate entity in August.
At about the same time, Chandler resident Scott Goins faced a similar billing dispute with another telecommunications giant, Verizon.
After two decades of being a Verizon customer, Goins, a retired military veteran, decided to terminate his mobile phone service because he wasn’t using it as much. So, he wrote a letter to the company instructing it to cancel his service, which cost about $73 a month.
However, he received another bill and got charged for another month. He wrote back again. The company sent him a phone bill for yet another month.
Goins, using his landline, called to explain the situation and told customer service that he wasn’t going to pay the bill. Verizon then sent the bill to its collections department, Goins said.
“It just left a nasty taste in my mouth that they treat their customers this way,” Goins said.
Verizon states on its FAQ webpage that an account owner can cancel services by calling customer service.
Verizon spokesperson Heidi Flato told The Arizona Republic the requirement to speak with a representative intends to protect customer privacy and prevent fraud.
“We strive to deliver the world-class experience our customers expect and deserve,” Flato said in an email, “and we encourage customers to contact us by phone or online chat, or by visiting a Verizon retail store, if they have questions.”
DirecTV had told Carter his initial request was only to suspend the service, and that meant the account would still get charged. Because he had his account on automatic payment, DirecTV charged him for three months of service in two locations.
Both Goins and Carter said the companies lacked proper communications to relay important information they needed.
“I was really frustrated,” Carter said. “I mean, I was a loyal customer. I pay my bill and I have two services. I did everything they told me to do. And all of a sudden, you know, this happens.”
After not finding any resolution to get their money back, Carter and Goins used the Call For Action team’s help, separately.
Volunteers from the Call for Action team reached out to AT&T and DirectTV enquiring about Carter’s case.
On Sept. 22, the team called and emailed the case details to the company. The next day, Carter said, a representative from DirecTV contacted him and was apologetic about the incident. The company agreed to give a full refund.
“We’re happy to work directly with any customers who have questions about their service and are pleased we could resolve this matter to the customer’s satisfaction,” DirecTV spokesperson Thomas Tyrer said in an email to The Republic.
Carter said the Call For Action team made all the difference.
“I went from getting nothing done to getting it done,” he added.
Verizon also agreed to refund and clear Goins’ account after Call For Action took on the case.
On Aug. 27, Goins received a FedEx package with two statements. They showed a $0 balance.
“Sooner or later it happened,” Goins said. “It wasn’t ever going to happen until (Call For Action) got involved with it.”
Goins’ cellphone currently sits in his bedroom drawer with no service. The 73-year-old said he is content with not having people able to reach him from anywhere.
The Carters returned to Litchfield Park earlier this fall. They plan on continuing their holiday traditions with a new DISH TV service.
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