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SOS: Two years to secure refund of telecom overcharge

SOS: Two years to secure refund of telecom overcharge

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Lamar Johnson, of Waunakee, was nothing if not respectful, accommodating, earnest and — especially — patient in his billing dispute with internet and phone provider CenturyLink.

But that didn’t get him very far, and in the end $700 is still $700.

Johnson, 75, copied SOS on his early January letter to CenturyLink president Jeff Storey, in which he told Storey that he had “put off writing this letter for some time ... but I have finally decided that you need to be aware of the problem.”

“I will try to make it as concise as possible,” he wrote.

The problem, explained over two handwritten pages, is that Johnson “had been charged for about 100 months for something” — specifically, an internet router — “that was not delivered to my house, was not installed in my house, is not in my house and has never been in my house.”

Johnson said he’s had his own router since 2007, when it came with the computer his family had given him as a retirement gift. He discovered that CenturyLink had been charging him a monthly router rental fee in early 2017, when he called the company about another matter.

CenturyLink canceled the router fee and credited him three months’ worth of router rent — or about $30 — but when Johnson realized how much less that was than what he actually paid, well, regular readers of this column can guess what happened next.

Johnson said he spent at least 15 hours over nearly two years on the phone with some 25 to 30 CenturyLink customer service representatives — first to ascertain exactly how much he had been overcharged, and second to get a refund of all that money.

He said he learned from a CenturyLink representative in July 2017 that the router charges came to $741.99, but never over the course of his interactions with the company were his phone messages returned, and never did he get a letter formally denying his claim.

“I am not asking for interest,” Johnson wrote Storey. “I simply want a refund of the amount CenturyLink charged for a product they did not deliver. ... Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.”

Johnson said that after SOS made some initial inquiries on his behalf, CenturyLink made an initial offer of two years’ worth of rebates at the current monthly router rental fee of $9.99 per month, for a total of $239.76.

That would be less than half what he was erroneously charged, though, so SOS contacted CenturyLink again, and the next day Johnson was saying CenturyLink was agreeing to credit him the full overcharged amount, less the approximately $30 it had already credited him.

Johnson had wanted the refund in the form of a check, but with CenturyLink demanding he sign a settlement agreement for that, he’s reluctantly taking it in the form of a credit on his account. It will take several months to use up.

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