AT&T billed an 83-year-old man over $24,000 for two months of dial-up Internet service

By Shawn Knight ยท 19 replies
Apr 30, 2015
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  1. internet att bill modem dial-up error internet access bill error dial-up modem

    Every now and again, we hear a story about a major wireless provider goofing up. This is one of those stories.

    Ron Dorff of Los Angeles recently fielded a pair of bills from AT&T totaling $24,298.93. Excessive mobile downloads? International roaming charges? It’s even worse as the charges were for his low-speed AOL dial-up service.

    As PCMag notes, the 83-year-old received a recent statement in the amount of $8,596.57. A bit baffled by it all, he called AT&T and spoke with a customer service rep that was just as confused as he was. An in-home service visit was scheduled but the tech never showed up so Dorff simply wrote it off as being solved.

    The next month, he was billed $15,687.64 – far more than the $51 he’s used to paying for Internet service (am I the only one that thinks $51 a month for dial-up service is also ridiculous?). Another call to AT&T was in order and this time, a technician actually made it out to inspect the issue.

    As it turns out, a simple yet unexplainable error was to blame for the overages. Dorff's modem somehow started dialing a long-distance number to access AOL. That’s not AT&T’s problem, apparently, as another rep he spoke to insisted he had to pay and was, as Dorff describes, very blunt about it.

    Once the LA Times got involved, however, AT&T quickly changed its tune and waived the erroneous charges. The provider contends the timing of the publication's involvement was just a coincidence.

    Image via UrRepublic

    Permalink to story.

  2. bea108

    bea108 TS Enthusiast Posts: 34   +9

    Sure it was coincidence. Wink wink. And yes $51 is too much for dial up. And these cable companies wonder why so many were against the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger. Who really trusts these people?
  3. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 378   +112

    Anything to cover themselves, to protect against the flames of being barbequed over this. Forcing someone at that age to cover something, that wasn't under their control to begin with? Dial-up modems I doubt are fickle like that, someone redirected it purposely. Also dial-up should be more like half that cost, not surprising though he's using dial-up. Being used to that for so long, why switch from what's been all you need? Obvious speed improvements but that's really, up to the user preference in the end.

    They wanted to likely keep the pressure up, but this day and age things are coming up more quickly. So providers have to back down, or give a good reason for pursuing someone for said money. Especially when they were in the wrong, and the customer is left holding the bag. There's likely many more cases like this slipping past, but it's fast becoming less and less possible to hide the truth.
  4. Totally ridiculous. Not to mention $51 a month for Dial Up. I paid $10CAD a month sixteen years ago for unlimited Dial Up. Rather than bring new infrastructure to customers in rural areas, I guess they're now just charging the same as broadband. "F**k the customer; provide less, and charge more" - increase income without investment. Good job AT&T.
    wiyosaya and Evernessince like this.
  5. umbala

    umbala TS Maniac Posts: 197   +176

    Wait, what? AOL is still around? Funny stuff. Anyway, this is a perfect example of what happens when the local/state government allows a company to have a virtual monopoly over a service. Yes, $51/month for dial up access is absolutely ridiculous, tantamount to highway robbery really! But some people are willing to pay that because they have no other choice. When you live in an area where broadband isn't available (or you insist on sticking with dial up) and there's only a single provider that can give you access, then they can pretty much charge whatever they want. Once competition is removed from the equation, the sole provider in the area can gouge customer's like this and there's nothing you can do about it.
  6. Dial-up should cost $5/month, $10 at most with no cap because how could you "abuse" that connection?
  7. He's 83. Probably been on dialup for 20 years on the same plan & never looked into changing it...
  8. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 378   +112

    AOL makes a lot off the back of it's dial-up users in the end. If I'm not mistaken that's where, the majority of their funds are from? With so many people still using their services to this day, and blindly just not changing from AOL So many just don't see a point or refuse to give up, dial-up services despite the obvious advantages of DSL / Cable internet. Dial-up is more or less a locked in at one price, while those other services are subject to increases.
  9. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 2,097   +1,273

    How many people does AT&T con like this? Only in America could a company get away with what is pretty much swindling. I guess it pays to buy lobbyists instead of customer service.
  10. Ahh dial up. I used to live in a town that provided their own dial up service so all u had to do in windows xp was create a new dial up connection and type a phone number and boom u were online. however there was a flaw. anyone could share a number so I used my grandmas and boom free 5.6kb download speeds. weee
  11. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Hasn't dialup always been unlimited for everyone everywhere? Even if they put a 10MB cap on it you'd still struggle to reach it let alone exceed it in a month. :D
    wiyosaya likes this.
  12. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    In America something like this is only reported for amusement but here in South Africa occurrences like this happen every day. They're not even worthy of making the news. I hears stories like this all the time. A few months ago my neighbour received her recurring monthly electricity bill for about the equivalent of $8350 for a months usage and never batted an eye, when I asked her about the other day she told me she had thrown it back in the providers faces and told them to sort it out. I assume they did because her power was never cut off.
    wiyosaya likes this.
  13. MikeAcker

    MikeAcker TS Enthusiast Posts: 33

    1. this sort of thing is the #1 reason automatic payments are a poor idea. it is best to review every invoice prior to payment.

    2. at times it is difficult to deal with these large corporations. their "phone trees" are programmed to prevent customers from getting service. this is the best reason for re-classifying these companies as public utilities under FCC Title II. here in Michigan this brings these companies under the purview of the Michigan Public Service Commission -- which will reconcile customer complaints when the company refuses to do so

    these companies have brought Title II regulation upon themselves through their poor service practices.
  14. cldmstrsn

    cldmstrsn TS Addict Posts: 141   +90

    I would pay 99 cents for dial up. I didn't even know dial up still existed as a service.
    DaveBG likes this.
  15. cldmstrsn

    cldmstrsn TS Addict Posts: 141   +90

    I agree. I never have automatic payments taken out. I like to go over my finances every month. Is it a pain? sure but I like it that way.
    SantistaUSA likes this.
  16. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,923   +756

    When I had dial-up, there was no limit to it because it was on your phone line. My phone plan was unlimited. If this guy is paying by the minute, then I could see why he is being charged so much. But YES, absolutely, $51 a month for dial-up is outrageous especially if that is in addition to his normal phone service, and especially assuming his area has broadband availability.

    And yes, AOL does still exist. My father-in-law has it though he accesses it through broadband.

    As to it dialing a long-distance number to get to AOL, given the level of ability of my father-in-law, I would not be surprised if somehow the man accidentally switched the AOL access number - however - AT&T should have immediately dropped the charges in the interests of customer relations. Yet as we all know, telecoms try to charge for everything that they possibly can.
  17. DaveBG

    DaveBG TS Addict Posts: 302   +97

    $51 for dial up? I pay $7 for 100mBit here in Europe unlimited traffic ...
  18. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 283   +98

    I didn't know dial-up internet was still around??? This guy should be getting DSL 10mb/1mb for that 51 bucks a month. He should only have to pay maybe $5 or $10 a month for unlimited dial-up internet!
  19. When you live in rural area's I could understand 51.00, but this guy lives in California.
    I live in Letha, Idaho and pay 63.00 mo inc taxes for the best internet you can get which is 7mb through Centurylink.
    In California though you would think they would have better protections for Seniors
  20. @ Skidmarksdeluxe: The limit was by hours used online, not actual bandwidth. Also I was downloading around 6kbps on my 56k connection, which means I could download an average MP3 on Napster in 10 minutes. It would take a bit under 30 minutes to reach 10mb. Although you may be thinking of older dial up modems.

    Simple math, divide the connection speed by 8 to get your maximum download speed (convert bits to bytes). 56k / 8 is 7kb (although distance from provider and telephone line quality play a factor).

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