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Comcast Admits It Incorrectly Debited $1,775 From Account, Tells Customer To Sort It Out With Bank (consumerist.com) 180

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Consumerist: Consumerist reader Robert is fighting with Comcast over a $1,775 early termination fee that should not have been assessed after he tried to cancel his business-tier service with the company. Comcast itself has even admitted that the money should not have been debited from Robert's bank account, but now says it's his responsibility to sort the mess out with his bank. The Consumerist reports: "In an effort to save money in 2014, Robert called to have their service level downgraded to a more affordable rate. Shortly thereafter, correctly believing that he was out of contract, he cancelled his Comcast service. That should have been the end of the story, but only weeks after closing the Comcast account, the boys from Kabletown decided that Robert was not out of contract, debiting $1,775.44 from the checking account tied to the Comcast service. Skip forward to Jan. 2015 -- two months after being told he'd get made whole; still no check. Robert says that when he called Comcast, 'the rep actually laughed when I told her I didn't get a check yet. She said it would take three months.'" Two calls later, one in June 2015 and one in Jan. 2016, Robert still didn't receive the check even after being reassured it was coming. More recently, he received an email from someone at Comcast "Executive Customer Relations," saying: "I understand you're claiming that someone advised you Comcast would send a refund check for the last payment that was debited but this is generally not the way we handle these situations. [...] For your situation, you would have to dispute the payment with your bank." Good news: The Consumerist reached out to Comcast HQ and a Comcast rep wrote back. "More information just came in," reads the email, which explains that an ETF credit was applied to his account in Dec. 2014, but "through some error the refund check never generated." Comcast is reportedly sending the check for real this time.
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Comcast Admits It Incorrectly Debited $1,775 From Account, Tells Customer To Sort It Out With Bank

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  • And comcast won't come in your...nevermind.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The check is a lie!

  • Don't do it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete6677 ( 681676 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @09:33PM (#52377903)

    This is why you don't give asshole companies direct access to your bank account.

    • Re:Don't do it (Score:4, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @09:40PM (#52377931) Journal
      To add to that, if you want to set up automatic payments, most banks can set it up for you, so the send the money (instead of the company removing it). They can send you an alert several days before they send the money, So you can stop it if you've forgotten. They can even send a check if the company hasn't enabled online payments.

      This sort of thing happens all the time. There are some bugs that companies just don't feel motivated to debug.
      • Well not when they're getting $1700 they didn't earn they sure don't.

        "Aw jeez, you wants your money back, goes to that guy over there."

        What there should be is a fine equal to 500 times the mistake. I would suggest there would be far fewer of them.

        • Nope. The banks are just as bad.

          I was switching banks and during that time I used the wrong checkbook to pay out monthly bills - this was the same bank my parents used so they simply took the money out of their account.

          When confronted, the bank person explained that it was the same last name so they just took the money. They got real annoyed when we wanted to change the name on the accounts to Smith (cause then we could just write checks and not worry about covering them).

          • by unitron ( 5733 )

            Was there enough money in the account on which you actually wrote the checks to cover the checks you wrote?

            Or did you write the checks on an account that had already been closed?

            • I was switching banks. I used the wrong checkbook. There was naught in in the checking account I used, but more than plenty to pay in the new account.

              Yes. I wrote bad checks. That was a failure on my part.

              Taking money out of a different account to cover those checks is a failure on the banks part.

              • by unitron ( 5733 )

                Was this a small local bank?

                One where there might have been someone who knew both you and your parents?

                Sounds like they kept you out of some legal hot water.

          • Nope. The banks are just as bad.

            Contrary to your belief, there are actually a wide variety of different banks who behave differently in the same situation.

            It may be that you had been underage when you opened your account, or some other detail that you omitted in order to make the bank look bad. Or maybe some idiot at the bank did make the mistake, and corrected your mistake incorrectly, causing a problem. It also sounds like they saw the error when it was presented, but that you were very "difficult" about it.

            I've had a wide variety of ex

            • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

              I once had a "free" account that idled for 8 months before I closed it. The bank in question at some point started charging fees on this account. When I pointed out that the account was "free", at first they said the terms had changed. Then they agreed they couldn't change those terms, but the fees were proper. Then they stated the fees were from too far back, and I had closed the account. By now, we're pretty far up the management ladder.

              The current person stated "It's too late, you can't get your money

          • Nope. The banks are just as bad.

            I was switching banks and during that time I used the wrong checkbook to pay out monthly bills - this was the same bank my parents used so they simply took the money out of their account.

            When confronted, the bank person explained that it was the same last name so they just took the money. They got real annoyed when we wanted to change the name on the accounts to Smith (cause then we could just write checks and not worry about covering them).

            More likely, you were linked in some way other than just last name (perhaps your parents were at some time on your account). Same happened to me when my wife (now ex-) tried to be "helpful" to her son's girlfriend by being on her account. Girlfriend skipped out on fees, and BofAsssholes took them from our account. I screamed murder, then changed banks.

    • This is why you go to the police and report a theft.

      • LOL. And this is where the cops tell you that a billing/payment dispute between yourself and a company you had a business relationship, and whom you had previously authorized them to deduct payments from your bank account, is a matter for the courts, not the cops.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:50PM (#52378141)

          Wrong. I'm a cop and when this happens, I go to businesses and start shooting my gun till the customer gets his money back. That is what a good cop does.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          "And this is where the cops tell you that a billing/payment dispute between yourself and a company you had a business relationship"

          Only in a few circumstances. If you can prove you kept your account paid-in-full up to the date of termination of service, and then show they charged you after the fact for something they could not have charged you for, then you are free and clear. It's not a payment dispute any longer and is a case of fraud and theft.

    • by samkass ( 174571 )

      Agreed, never do this. We had a problem with our cable company in the 90's (before online bill pay) who kept claiming our checks arrived late and billing us late fees. So we set up automatic bank deduction. The next month, they deducted the amount 3 days late WITH the late fee! They were pretty much caught in the act, but they just refunded the late fee and we dropped it...

      • Re:Don't do it (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <social@bronstrup.com> on Friday June 24, 2016 @06:03AM (#52379741) Journal
        Hell, I had the IRS fail to deduct an automatic payment for a payment plan I have with them, then summarily cancel the payment plan and send me a Notice of Intent to Levy Assets. The difference between the IRS and your typical cable company is that, when you call the IRS and speak to the person on the other end of the line like a human being with some dignity, they do the same; and they work quickly to sort out the issue. Less than 15 minutes on the phone and the Intent to Levy was dropped, some interest and fees disappeared, they held my account (meaning no more interest or fees) until the payment plan could be reinstated, gave me a deadline of 30 days for them to complete the process, mailed me a letter on day 28 apologizing for missing the deadline and assuring me they were still working on it, followed by another letter on day 29 (within the deadline) letting me know everything was done and that my payment plan would resume in two months. End result, I spent 15 minutes on the phone with them and didn't have to pay them anything for 3mo, no fees or interest.

        If businesses ran the way the IRS does, there would be a lot fewer disgruntled customers out there. Not that the IRS is all puppies and roses, but they certainly don't deserve a lot of the bad rap they get; if you have a legitimate issue and you talk to them like human beings with a bit of dignity, they'll bend over backwards to help you. One guy even filled out the forms for me (since he had all the info in front of him) and faxed them to me to sign and fax back. I did check his work, but it was literally just a matter of writing down what was already on my 1040. Where else can you go, that's not a scam or rip-off of some sort (some will argue that the IRS is, I won't entertain the argument because I honestly have mixed feelings; they carry the weight of law and I rather like having my belongings and not being in prison, so I follow the applicable laws) that will fill out the paperwork for you and have you just sign it? I can think of very few places; the only place, in recent memory, that I've seen it was when I bought a car back in October, but I'm not sure that fits the "not a rip-off" qualifier.
        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
          I'm sure there are bad apples at the IRS like anywhere else. But, like you, when I had an issue with them, it was a quick call, some relatively simple paperwork, and all was well with them. The entity that had actually caused the problem was a bigger issue to sort out by comparison. Even then, it wasn't overly difficult, just more involved. As long as you're legal and not pushing limits deep into the grey the IRS generally doesn't seem to bother you.
    • In the UK we have the Direct Debit Guarantee. If a screw up like this happens your bank must give you a full and immediate refund.
      • I was going to say the same thing. For Americans, if you complete a Direct Debit form in the UK, then a company can take money from your account, but if you complain to the bank then the Direct Debit Guarantee means that they will immediately, and without question, reverse the transaction. It is then up to the company to take you to court for the unpaid debt, the bank is no longer involved.
        • if you complete a Direct Debit form in the UK, then a company can take money from your account, but if you complain to the bank then the Direct Debit Guarantee means that they will immediately, and without question, reverse the transaction.

          Have you actually tried it? Because that is not what I read in that guarantee. It says that you get repaid if there is an error. Here is the wording :-

          "If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund"

          In other words you must show there is an error, which is not the same thing as simply complaining. If the bank or merchant do not agree there is an error then you could have a long struggle ahead.


    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      As somebody who works for a company that could be called "asshole", we do not really care HOW you pay, as long as you pay.
      But please do not come crying that you get late fees because your dog ate your bill or you were on a holiday or whatever. It was your choice to handle the payments yourself.

      OTOH, we are no where near as much of an asshole as Comcast is. If we were, we would have been closed a LONG time ago. EU regulations and such.

      Compalint procedure is as follows:
      1) Try to find a solution with the custo

      • Yeah I've been paying my bills on my own for 20+ years now without giving companies direct access to my bank account. I'll be just fine, but thanks for your empathy and concern.

        Find me a cable company I can trust and I'll switch in an instant.

  • I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrKrillls ( 3858631 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @09:47PM (#52377959)
    I wonder how the representative was able to say, "...For your situation, you would have to dispute the payment with your bank." without either falling over laughing, or suffering a crippling attack of guilt. Or both.
    • Probably because they usually do it more like this [youtube.com].

    • As a corporate accountant, I've dealt with all sorts of banking transactions and various bureaucratic systems in companies.

      I suspect that Comcast has no official mechanism to deal with issuing a check in these circumstances and it simply fell through the cracks until it received media attention.

      As for Comcast's suggestion to the effected individual, in a sense, it probably wasn't bad advice (albeit still embarrassing) - his bank likely has the ability to reverse the transaction since it was initiated by
    • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @12:04AM (#52378361)

      I wonder how the representative was able to say, "...For your situation, you would have to dispute the payment with your bank." without either falling over laughing, or suffering a crippling attack of guilt. Or both.

      This reminds me of a conversation I had with a Comcast supervisor who called me one Sunday over a decade ago.

      The background to this call is that I had moved between states and had Comcast (then the only option) in both states. Comcast managed to screw up just about everything possible in billing me for closing my account in one state and then opening the new one. Long story short: I ended up with roughly $500 in illegitimate charges and fees, which required the intervention of the Better Business Bureau and two state agencies to force Comcast to resolve.

      Anyhow, my favorite conversation occurred this particular Sunday with a supervisor. I had previously attempted to resolve my problems by calling Comcast, who told me that I needed to go to the local Comcast office in person -- but the local office proceeded to tell me that they couldn't do anything and I needed to call. The next call I insisted that I speak with someone who could resolve my bill immediately and when I was told that was impossible, I asked to talk to a supervisor.

      I was informed that I could not talk to a supervisor ("Our system doesn't work that way!") but they would put in a request for a supervisor to call me back within 72 hours.

      A couple days pass, and a cheery-voiced supervisor indeed calls me on Sunday afternoon. I swear I am not making this up, but this is roughly how the conversation went:

      [Comcast]: Hi, I'm a supervisor.
      [me]: Hi. [I explain situation.] I need you to just fix this billing error right now.
      [Comcast]: I'm sorry, but those rates are set by your local market, so you'll need to talk to your local office.
      [me]: I tried that. They told me they can't do it, and I need to talk to you. Please just fix this.
      [Comcast]: Well, I'm sorry but those rates are set by your local market, and I don't have access to that information.
      [me]: Where are you?
      [Comcast]: I'm in [state on other side of the U.S. from me].
      [me]: Well, could you maybe connect me with a supervisor from my local market to resolve this??
      [Comcast]: Well, obviously I can't do that now. [Laughs.] I mean, it's Sunday afternoon! Nobody's working.
      [me]: Huh? Well, why are you calling me?... Oh... forget it -- okay [I think I see a solution] -- so I'm told your system allows you to put in requests to talk to supervisors. Could you put in a request in the system to have a supervisor from my local market to call me back... you know, one who could actually resolve my problem?
      [Comcast]: I'm sorry sir, but our system doesn't work that way.
      [me, exasperated]: Then WHY DID YOU CALL ME?!? You took time on your Sunday afternoon when no one else is apparently working to call me and tell me... that you can do nothing to help me?!?
      [Comcast, sounding cheery]: Well, sir, we are committed to returning calls within 72 hours, so I wanted to get back to you.
      [me]: [grumble, grumble, feeling like I'm trapped in a Kafka novel]
      [Comcast, after a short pause, sounding even more chipper]: Well, sir, is there anything else I can help you with today?
      [me]: Huh? You did NOTHING to help me! This call makes no sense. I really don't understand what just happened. I don't understand what this call is. I'm sorry, I'm just going to have to sit down and try to process the insanity of this situation. Goodbye.

      Since that phone call, I've never talked to another Comcast representative when an error occurs. This was just the most insane encounter with Comcast customer "service" I had, out of maybe a dozen or more in attempts to resolve the billing issues that happened during one move. After that, I went straight to government regulatory agencies when I experienced any problems... which thankfully I had few of. And even more thankfully, I've

      • Wow. just, wow.
      • by RyoShin ( 610051 )


        I had Comcast at a short-term apartment, three months. (It was known to be short term, there was no contract.) I accidentally paid for a fourth month. When I realized it, I called them up and asked if I could get a refund ($40 was a lot for me at the time). The helpful customer service person said that they could pro-rate me until my service was terminated (it was a few days over three months) and cut a check to me for the remainder. I gave them my new address and t

    • This is standard procedure, and not just from Comcast. Basically deny, deny, deny, and deny again any refunds or lower rates. Then when (and if) the story is discovered by the news immediately clear up all the red tape and apologize for a simple mix-up.

      Of course, if the reverse happens, the companies would have someone come by and arrest you for theft.

      • One way ethics?
      • Pretty much, yep. Though I was surprised recently: I got Xfinity Internet about 3 weeks ago, but had lots of issues with signal strength, intermittent drops, etc.. I finally got a guy to come out to take a look outside, and he replaced the tap up on the pole and the ends at the ground block on the other end of the drop, nothing in the house was changed at all, and his work improved my signal strength *significantly* (upstream levels went from -57db/mv to -39db/mv, meaning my modem no longer had to scream
        • "The latest poll shows they're no longer the most hated company in the US, they managed to move up a notch or two, but they're still far from loved."

          You are mistaken, your data simply indicates one or two other companies managed to move down.

    • A friend of mine once said to a woman with a late phone bill, after long indoctrination by a certain cell phone company, "Mam, I don't see what your son's leukemia has to do with not making your phone payments on time."

      He quit the next day. The ones that stay after saying that kind of shit, they're the ones that can say anything to a customer without laughing, crying, or their heart stirring from a micropulse of empathy moving through their system. They're just robots at that point. Anesthetized to the in

  • After that 2nd month, you might as well just take them to small claims court. Add your time and material costs to the damages and move on.

  • by dunkindave ( 1801608 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @09:54PM (#52377979)

    an ETF credit was applied to his account in Dec. 2014, but "through some error the refund check never generated."

    So, Comcast's story is basically the dog ate it?

  • by qwijibo ( 101731 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:02PM (#52377997)
    If someone tells you they'll send a check in 3 months, you may want to look at how long you have to dispute a transaction. In most cases, after 3 months you're out of luck and they know it.

    If the rep laughs at you and says it'll be 3 months, that suggests that this kind of stuff happens all the time and they have a canned response to delay you.

    There are a lot of seedy companies that will pull scams like this and just wait out the clock until it's too late. That's why it's important to review your statements and dispute transactions right away if you suspect they're wrong. If it turns out you were wrong, you can cancel the dispute and no harm, no foul.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      Yup. A fraud complaint sent to the state's AG and CCed to Comcast's CEO would probably light some fires under some asses in Comcast.
      • I hardly think that a CEO of one of the biggest companies in the US is even going to see, let alone care, about a fraud complaint about $1700. In an environment where CEOs of the largest financial were responsible for the biggest recession in generations and their punishment was the government bailing out their corporations just what about this case would cause the CEO of Comcast to light some fires?

        • by DaHat ( 247651 )

          You'd be surprised.

          Most execs like that have a team of people monitoring their email for major customer service issues... these people tend to have a good line to the underlings who can get things done.

          This route is often called 'executive customer service'... a method I try not to employ unless absolutely necessary, but when I have gotten &#% done a hell of a lot faster than the time I'd previously wasted with the normal front line support folks (who I still go through initially to be able to show that

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Don't forget to copy the FCC (communications company issue). I was told for 6 months that fixing my DSL was "impossible". Within 48 hours of writing a formal complaint to the FCC (copying my ISP as well), the issue was fixed.
    • Go down to the Comcast corporate office near you and STAND ON THEIR DESK until you have a check in your hand.
  • Saving credit/debit card data with these people is just plain irresponsible. They would need a ten foot latter to see eye to eye with a snake!

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:04PM (#52378009) Homepage Journal
    I never give access to my accounts for bill payments. I do it the old fashioned way by logging in and paying the bill myself at the bank's site.
  • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:13PM (#52378039)

    No doubt nothing would have happened had this story not gone public and they started getting media queries. Now all of a sudden they discover the error and correct it! Really makes me angry. They should have done all this even if there was no publicity. It's rank dishonesty. Sadly dishonesty pays well these days. In spades. For them.

  • I was a Network Manager for a small community bank. You should NEVER give any entity the authority to perform ACH withdrawals from your bank accounts.

    It is far better to setup all your bill pay payees as "push" rather than "pull". This gives you control over every dime that leaves your account.

    • You should NEVER give any entity the authority to perform ACH withdrawals from your bank accounts.

      Once you send a check, doesn't the other party have all the information required to set up ACH withdrawals? The whole system is based on trust.

      This is another reason to use a credit card. Dispute the charge and make the other party justify it.

      • You're correct that the information is on the check, but it is very, very different because with a check they're only authorized to withdraw the amount on the check one time. They can actually convert it to an electronic ACH withdrawal if they want to, so as far as that goes you are correct. But if they use it to just take money they think you owe them, that would be criminal check fraud. Whereas when you give the company the information in a monthly payment authorization, you've given a blanket authorizati

        • "that would be criminal check fraud"

          We are already talking about fraud by billing for services they did not render; this just changes the specific name of the fraud they may be committing and is unlikely to give them any pause.

          • Criminal charges are different from civil charges.

            If you win a civil case then Comcast has to pay you money. If you win a criminal case then the Comcast employee that broke the law goes to jail.

            Corporation laws only protect their employees from civil charges.

            • No, with corporations it works like, if it is civil fraud the victim has to spend the money on lawyers to sue, and they may or may not see very much in the end. Criminal fraud, the government prosecutor does all the work, and the victim gets full restitution plus interest.

          • Being a criminal charge, it would be prosecuted by your attorney general's office in real court... not by you in a kangaroo small claims court.

        • by eam ( 192101 )

          My wife was late on a bill, the vendor asked her to fax a copy of the check as proof that she wrote it. She faxed a copy, then mailed the check. The vendor cashed the fax, then cashed the check when it arrived.

    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      This does not make any difference in Europe. If they make a withdrawal you don't like, you just call your bank and they reverse it immediately. It happened to me.

  • by originalGMC ( 4046055 ) on Thursday June 23, 2016 @10:19PM (#52378059)
    Where was this f'n story when Microsoft did the same exact thing to me, but for $28,420.23... still dealin with that shit 6 months later.
  • After the second call, stop using phone or e-mail. Send a notarized letter via US Postal Service, registered return receipt, to the CEO of the company, with a cc to the Corporate Secretary. No results, the next letter goes to the chairman of the Board of Directors audit committee. That tends to get results.


  • I've found that the only way to get Comcast to respond in earnest is to open up an FCC complaint. I had proof that they had over-billed me for months charging me fees for equipment I didn't own (I use a cablecard + HDHomerun). The rep said that they would only be able to credit me a single month. After contacting the FCC, I got direct attention from someone who was capable of speaking without a script and received a rather large check. You just know for every story like mine, there's hundreds of others
  • Conal O’Rourke was right Comcast needs to be investigated by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

    There billing sucks and he needs to win his 1M+ loss suit Now I think most the big lawsuits are BS but not that one.

  • Yeah, the information that this just went viral and now the world is watching you screw this guy over.

  • directly debit your bank account for anything.

    ALWAYS demand that they send a bill, which you have the chance to review and approve.

    Your your BANK's bill pay service, and then you have positive control over the amount and timing of payment, including whether any payment is made at all.

  • within an organisation - nobody can control it, it takes a life of its own and everyone is surprised that it even exists and nobody wants to touch it because anything done to it will cause more trouble.

  • File a lawsuit, ask for the money they stole plus $10M in punitive damages, and ask the court to let you depose Comcast's CEO, General Counsel, and chairman of the board. Their lawyers will pay you to go away.


  • "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice"
  • Once you have their money, you never give it back.

  • Seriously---letting any company have direct access to your bank account is dangerous.
    Letting a company like Comcast have access to your checking account to make withdrawals at will is an EPIC FAIL.

  • Not enough now to just refund, Comcast needs to give him an extra $1,000 for all the trouble.
  • Imagine how fast Comcast would sue the living shit out of you if you somehow got into their bank account, grabbed $1,775 from them, and then refused to give it back after admitting that you had no claim to the money..

  • I don't understand. Why would anyone expect both a check *AND* an ETF transfer? That would be paying twice. Granted, Comcast should have simply told him at the start that his account was being credited. This story isn't about Comcast screwing a guy over, it's about Comcast customer service reps being to stupid to know what's going on, and too stupid to be able to FIGURE OUT what's going on.

The road to ruin is always in good repair, and the travellers pay the expense of it. -- Josh Billings