Local Toll Call Overcharging – Update

Here’s a brief recap of my situation I discussed in my previous post. Up until about a year ago, I was paying five cents per minute through MCI for local toll calls (calls over 20 miles away, but still in Southern California), while my long distance calls were being handled by AT&T. I then called AT&T to switch to a plan to consolidate my local toll and long distance under one plan, dropping MCI in the process. Somehow the switch never happened, but MCI then started charging $1.19 per minute for local toll calls! So in the past year I’ve been billed about $300 for calls that should have only cost about $30.

Now back to the latest update. I called the number listed on my phone bill for any questions about MCI charges, and the call went straight to AT&T. After a couple of transfers, they were able to get me to the right department that handles the third party billing. Other than the U-Verse sales pitch at the end (which I’m guessing is mandatory), the agent was helpful and was able to go back to the last couple of months to refund me about $100.

That leaves an additional $200 that I suppose I could go through MCI to resolve. I have a feeling that I would end up spending more than $200 of effort to recover it, though. I may just consider it a lesson learned to keep a closer eye on the phone bill next time around.

On another note, there was a $9.95 charge on the latest bill for a third party billing from a company called Text Savings, LLC. Not having any idea why this charge was here, I called the toll free number shown on the listing. Here’s the experience of someone else who called to question a similar charge, from this webpage.

“I asked her the name of the business attached to my home phone number that they billed via ATT … it was a .com business name I registered about 10 years ago. We never incorporated and never operated as a business, but we had a .com name reserved for our Web site. This company is buying old lists or databases of .coms and billing the phone numbers attached at random.”

My scenario was similar: also about ten years ago a group of four of us had registered a .com name for a website we were going to put together as part of a new organization, but the website and the organization never got off the ground. The address on record was for another partner (who incidentally passed away over a year ago), but my phone number was on the listing. When I called and explained the situation they said they would reverse the charge.

The poster quoted above suggested calling AT&T to have a “third party block” put on the landline and the cell phone. Sounds like an excellent idea to me, if it will really prevent unauthorized third party charges on my bills. The downside is that I wouldn’t be able to do stuff like text my vote for my favorite American Idol, but I can live with that!

As a final side note, a friend of mine commented that he was surprised MCI was still around after all these years. In my internet searches I stumbled on one potential reason – they have lucrative contracts with many correctional departments to provide collect calling services from prisoners!