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SOS: After a year of undeserved bills, former AT&T customer in line for refund

SOS: After a year of undeserved bills, former AT&T customer in line for refund

From the AT&T's long history with the Wisconsin State Journal's SOS column series
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AT&T store

After a year of haggling with AT&T, John and Carole Rusch say they were willing to make a contribution of $823.46 to the telecommunications behemoth if it would just stop billing them for an account and a phone number they had long since canceled.

The Rusches, of Hayward, contacted SOS on June 18 to say they’d discovered in August 2019 that AT&T had continued to draw money — $74.86 a month — from their checking account for a cellphone service “family plan” they’d canceled in June 2019.

“My wife called AT&T and after several hours on the phone, was told that the bill was for my old phone number that I was no longer using,” John Rusch wrote. “They indicated that this would be ‘taken care of.’ Assuming all was well, I ignored subsequent emails from AT&T which I simply trashed as ‘spam’ advertising.”

That turned out to be a mistake. Rusch discovered in April while cleaning out his old emails that AT&T had continued to bill the couple, for a total at that point of $823.46. Rusch acknowledged some fault in not paying close enough attention to his account and wasn’t entirely sure how he and his wife missed the AT&T charges, but noted the retired couple is financially stable enough to not have to worry too much about money.

Again the couple called AT&T, he said, and again they spent “numerous hours on the phone,” only to be told that they should fill out a claim for reimbursement, which they did and which was subsequently denied because in canceling their old AT&T plan, they’d transferred their then-AT&T number to another carrier and AT&T “could not remove that number from billing, because they could not cancel a number that was sent to another provider.”

And yet, Rusch said, the same AT&T representative had just told him he had, in fact, canceled the Rusches’ old number.

Rusch said at that point the couple was willing to accept the loss of $823.46 as the cost of doing business with AT&T if it meant they were finally done doing business with AT&T.

Canceling AT&T’s auto-pay access to their account, however, didn’t keep AT&T from sending the Rusches two emails demanding payment, John Rusch said, and his wife finally wrote the company a check for $110.61.

SOS relayed the Rusches’ saga to AT&T communications officials Phil Hayes and Mark Giga on June 29, and on June 30, Hayes and AT&T public relations consultant Hannah Niemeier said they were looking into it.

SOS heard nothing more until John Rusch emailed a “sincere thank-you” on July 8.

“I was notified today by Mr. Gary DeHaven of the Office of the Vice-President of AT&T that they had made ‘an adjustment’ and they were forwarding a pre-paid debit card for $888.73,” he wrote.

Neimeier confirmed in an email that “we’ve apologized to the customer and issued a refund.”


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