AT&T Canceled My Order - Then it Charged a Cancellation Fee

Why isn’t AT&T helping John Neal with the phone it failed to deliver? And is there anything I can do to help?

Question: Last year, I upgraded both of my AT&T phones online. With the order, I was going to pay $200 per line, plus sign a new two-year contract. I waited for the phones to be delivered, but a month later received an email stating "Order canceled - unable to verify information."

I was at my Ohio address at the time and wanted my phones delivered there instead of my Florida address, which is on the account. Needless to say, I was miffed that a communication company could not contact me in a timely manner to discuss their failure to deliver the phones. I had been a customer of AT&T for 16 years.

I decided to look at Verizon and chose to change my carriers. Yesterday I received an invoice from AT&T. I was shocked that they indicated my service was terminated and that I owed the early termination fee of $350 per line.

How do I proceed and not have to pay these fees? -- John Neal, Venice, Fla.

Answer: AT&T should have delivered your phones in a timely manner. It did not. A little digging revealed that you placed your order during the busy holiday season, which may have accounted for the delay. Your dual addresses -- one in Ohio, the other in Florida -- further complicated the order.

But that may not have been the reason for the “unable to verify” reason. AT&T reportedly uses that blanket reason for a variety of issues, including previous late payments and bad credit. Only one thing is certain: The company should have let you know sooner about your canceled order. One month is way too long.

When AT&T canceled the order, you should have been charged nothing. You were technically under your old contract, and you say you were no longer under that contract, so there should have been no early termination fee. You should have been free to switch to another carrier.

Maybe AT&T’s systems didn’t fully process the cancellation it initiated. You could have cleared this up with a quick note to one of AT&T’s customer service executives. That's what I recommended.

I'm pleased to say that AT&T fixed this after your appeal, removing the $45 per line upgrade charge and the $315 per line early termination fee. You are now free to switch carriers.

Christopher Elliott specializes in solving intractable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter. Photo illustration by Aren Elliott.