Tuesday, February 12, 2008

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

This morning I discovered a powerful consumer tool - the Better Business Bureau's online complaint system. I immediately took advantage, and now post for you the unedited sum of my complaint that the company charged in the complaint, RCN cable, get the widespread attention it deserves. At least when Comcast was buttraping my bank account they were up front about it.

*********

Thank you for using the Better Business Bureau's Online Complaint System.
Your complaint has been assigned case # 94165905.
Correspondence regarding this complaint will be emailed to : address@yahoo.com
Please print a copy of this for your records.

Filed on : February 12 2008

Filed by :
AYNtK


Filed against :
RCN Chicago



Complaint Description:
Account: 1001-0793XXX-02 for service to Street Address in Chicago beginning in January of 2008.

This dissatisfied Comcast customer decided to call RCN cable for a quote on digital TV and internet service. We discussed options and pricing, and ultimately agreed to terms. At the conclusion of the call, I asked what my final cost would be, with and without taxes and fees. I also asked if my monthly charges would be going up at some point. The friendly salesperson informed me that my bill would be around $90 total and would not be going up since the monthly rates were standard, not promotional. I accepted the offer and requested service beginning that week.

When my bill arrived, it was not $90...it was $126. I noticed there was a $25 installation fee tacked on - a mysterious fee that had NOT been disclosed to me at any time during the sales process. It was not on marketing literature I received in the mail. The salesperson on the phone had not disclosed this additional charge. Even when I'd asked her for a final amount, she quoted me a total inconsistent with the bill I was looking at. The RCN man who came to the house to deliver our box never mentioned that there was a fee associated with "installation." I was in complete shock and immediately called and e-mailed customer service to resolve the issue.

At first I was told there was no way to reverse the charge, which is complete and utter nonsense. Charges can always be credited back to the account - customer service representatives are clearly instructed to give consumers zero leeway with regard to claims of this nature. Undeterred, I pressed them for resolution via e-mail. A friendly representative instructed me to sign up for automatic billpay and the fee would be waived. I considered this tantamount to coercive blackmail - if I wanted MY money back, I had to perform a behavior of their choice.

While I did not feel good about the option, I did not feel I should have to pay for a $25 fee I never knew was coming. So I reluctantly called to sign up for automatic billpay. But the customer service representative told me over the phone that it was not their policy to ever waive that installation fee. She told me that whoever had instructed me to sign up for Automatic Billpay to have that fee waived was in error.

At this point I began to unravel. I asked her to put me in contact with someone - anyone - who had the authority to do something about this. She said there was no one who could help me and that according her "records" I knew about the fee in advance. How this could be a matter of record I do not understand. Further, the systematic dismissal of my appeals to a higher authority was unnerving. At the end of the call, I was given the address of corporate headquarters in Hendon, Virginia. As if that was going to help me get my $25 back.

I immediately responded via e-mail to the representative who'd originally instructed me to sign up for Auto Billpay, asking for an explanation and resolution. The following day I received a response from a different RCN rep informing me matter-of-factly that I had been notified about the charge in advance and that I had agreed to it, so I should not expect to have it removed. This is called the "Jedi Mind Trick," a fictional mind control technique that does not work in the real world. Despite the RCN rep's best effort to convince me otherwise, I knew very well that I HAD NOT been told of the charge and I NEVER would have agreed to it in advance.

It was actually insulting that a representative who would have no way of knowing whether I was told of an installation charge could possibly make such an assertion. The truth is, the installation fee was NEVER at any time disclosed to me. If I had known about it in advance and had agreed to it, then I wouldn't have spent so much time and energy over the past 6 weeks trying to have it removed! How many other consumers have been fleeced by unseen fees?

Your Desired Resolution:
I just want a $25 credit applied to my account to offset the $25 installation fee that was not disclosed to me at the time service was requested.

This case will be reviewed by a complaint specialist at the Better Business Bureau, and then forwarded to the business for their response. It is our policy to allow the business 30 working days to respond to your complaint. You will be notified when the business has responded.

***************

In my final bit of correspondence to RCN prior to filing this complaint, I noted an observation:

I am beginning to understand why so many people feel it's okay to "steal" cable when cable companies clearly think it's okay to "steal" from people.

2 comments:

Chris said...

Unfortunately, your story is one I have ready quite a few times recently. For another forum to voice your complaint, may I recommend The Consumerist blog. Great information and tips on how to deal with this type of thing.

http://consumerist.com/

I read it daily. Good luck, I hope you get your money back.

--C

Chris said...

You could also try the Trib's problem solver column. That's probably not the exact name, but I think it's in the Sunday edition. You tell the Trib write their problem and then they'll contact RCN and try to get it resolved. That would solve 2 of your interests - getting your $25 back & negative press for RCN.

I SEE YOU!