His DirecTV Bill Was $708 Instead Of $72

After Christopher Gomez switches to DirecTV, he receives an unexpected bill. Now what?

Question: I need your help. Earlier this year, I called to disconnect my AT&T U-verse Internet and TV service, since the price was going to almost double. They could not match a competitor's price for Internet service, but made DirecTV sound great, so I changed my service to DirecTV.

It took almost nine hours to install my service, and they did the order wrong. This ruined my only day off since I couldn't do my normal errands. They ended up giving me a $265 credit to make up for it after I called several times and talked to a bunch of rude people.

I thought I had discontinued U-verse, but this month, I received a $488 bill for two months of U-verse service -- service I was no longer receiving. I've called U-verse more than 30 times to get this fixed, but I'm still getting bills.

It gets worse. Instead of billing me $72 a month, DirecTV is billing me $220. They're charging me full price for everything, including boxes that I was told would be discounted because of their "promotional" pricing.

Help! I've been charged $708. They were only supposed to charge $72. -- Christopher Gomez, Riverside, Calif.

Answer: Your case is a little complicated. Let me see if I can sort everything out.

AT&T owns both U-verse and DirecTV. Last summer, AT&T completed the acquisition of DirecTV. It looks as if DirecTV was trying to offer you a "better" deal while still trying to keep you in the AT&T fold. Fair enough.

But something went sideways. Maybe U-verse didn't disconnect your service when it said it would; maybe you didn't pull the plug correctly. But for whatever reason, your U-verse service wasn't canceled correctly.

That wasn't all. AT&T's records also suggest that you were "inadvertently" subscribed to a premium sports package, which cost you $359. It also notes that you were incorrectly billed $215 for "the wrong equipment."

How did this happen? In all likelihood, this was an AT&T issue having to do with the hand-off between U-verse and DirecTV. As I noted, there's nothing wrong with trying to retain a customer. But making a promise that you'll get your service for $72 and then charging you $708 -- that's a problem.

I think a brief, polite email to a DirecTV manager might have helped sort this out, but I don't know for certain. It's rare to have so many things go wrong with just one case, so I'm not confident they would have cleaned up this mess.

I wouldn't be too upset with AT&T. Mergers can be messy. And in the end, the only thing that matters is that your bill is fixed.

I contacted AT&T on your behalf. A representative told me the company had already applied a $215 credit for the wrong equipment. It also credited you $359 for the wrong premium TV and $475 for being incorrectly billed for U-verse.

Your next bill from DirecTV should be a far more reasonable $80 before taxes.

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.

CONVERSATIONS