When Jennifer Ferris re-ups with Comcast, the cable company downgrades her account. Is there any way out?
Question: I've been a Comcast customer for several years and always pay on time through an automatic withdrawal from my account. I had been paying for the Preferred Double Play package at a rate of $89 a month until this August.
I called in mid-August to see if I qualified for new promotions, since my current promotion was ending. I talked to a rep in the "customer solutions" department, who told me that I qualified for the same package at the same rate for the next two years. If I agreed, I would be locked into a contract for those two years.
On the call, I confirmed that my service would not be changing, the only difference would be that I was agreeing to a two-year contract. I agreed after receiving a confirmation. I was told that an email confirming the changes to my account would be sent to me. I never received such an email.
The weekend after my service was changed, I noticed that some of my HD channels were showing error messages and not playing on live TV. Since I had some of those channels' shows recorded on my DVR, I knew that there was a problem with my service.
I spent several hours on the phone with several different representatives to fix this issue. I've made several calls over several days. I've been on hold for hours. In my last conversation, I was told there had been a "downgrade" to my account, which I'd agreed to.
There was no communication from Comcast that my account was going to be downgraded, no confirmation email sent to me regarding the changes to my contract, and I want to cancel the contract if this is the outcome. A representative told me that they could pull the recorded conversation from August and if the representative confirmed that they were offering the same package to me and that is what I agreed to, they would have to honor that agreement.
I never heard back from Comcast, so I called again. This time, a representative told me that there was nothing she could do to honor the promise made to me in August. I was under contract, and the only thing I could do was upgrade my account to the Preferred Tier for $99 per month and keep my current contract active. If I wanted to cancel, there was a penalty fee.
Every time I call Comcast, I'm told there's nothing they can do and hung up on or transferred to someone that I have to recount my story to without ultimate resolution. Now they are communicating that I am locked into a contract, which is not something I agreed to. I am at my wits end with this service and am looking for help. Can you help? -- Jennifer Ferris, Tallahassee, Fla.
Answer: Comcast should have honored its word and offered you the same services at the same price. But this might have been avoidable if you'd either acted after the company failed to send you a promised email verifying the changes, or if you'd recorded the conversation.
I know, it sounds a little extreme, but Comcast is recording the call, too. And there are a number of apps and programs that will allow you to easily record the call for your own "quality" assurance purposes.
Comcast should have sent you an email confirming all of the changes. It probably did, but the message may have been stopped by your spam filter. I've been offering this advice a lot lately, but here it goes again: Check your spam folder!
Spending hours at a time on the phone, and having to tell the same story over and over, wasn't a productive use of your time. I list Comcast's executive contacts on my website. A brief, polite email to one of them might have fixed this problem quickly. I also have a few proven strategies for fixing a problem with a company like Comcast.
I can't believe a company would confirm one rate and then downgrade you. Either they misrepresented a few facts or you misunderstood what they said.
And what's with this two-year contract you're now locked into? Even if the representative you spoke with the first time was crystal-clear, and even if the recordings showed that you were wrong, Comcast should still consider letting you out of a contract you never intended to enter into.
But I guess we'll never know, will we? Until companies are required to share their call center conversations with customers -- which, by the way, would be a great idea for a federal law -- it will continue to be our word against a company's in these disputes. And you know who wins those, don't you?
Well, not in this case. I contacted Comcast and it agreed to honor the original price for your package.
After you've left a comment here, let's continue the discussion on my consumer advocacy site or on Twitter, Facebook and Google. I also have a newsletter and you'll definitely want to order my new, amazingly helpful and subversive book called How to Be the World's Smartest Traveler (and Save Time, Money, and Hassle). Photo: Shutterstock.