Dial Zero
A look at what's surprising, silly, scary or stupid in telecommunications and data

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paying for nothing.

This item is not really about telecommunications. It involves cable TV service from Cablevision; but since the company also provides phone service, and it's a good story, here you go:

Cablevision had a customer with 14 TV sets. Eight of them were connected to cable boxes which had monthly fees, and six of them were connected directly to the cable, and were not charged for.

Cablevision insisted that all TVs that were connected to its service -- even those producing no revenue -- had to be included in its records. They also had to appear on the monthly bills, even if nothing had to be paid.

The format for the monthly bill allowed just ten items, so Cablevision had to separate this customer's TVs into two accounts. Each month the company sent one bill that included the eight cable boxes, plus another bill -- with a different account number, different envelope and additional postage -- listing the six TVs that had no cable boxes and no monthly charges.

The second bill showed monthly charges of six times nothing, with a total due of zero dollars and zero cents.

After several months, Cablevision's computer noticed that no payments were received to pay the zero balance, and turned the account over to a collection agency.

The collection agency's computer then started to threaten the customer, detailing the dire consequences if the payment of zero dollars and zero cents was not made promptly. Phone calls to the agency and Cablevision were fruitless. The customer service people at both companies blamed the computers, and had no way to intervene.

Ultimately the disgusted customer presented a check to Cablevision for $0.00, and the account was credited for the "payment," and everything was fine... for a few months.

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