Monday, July 25, 2005

My Testimony to the MFP Committee

Montgomery County holds quarterly reviews of their two franchisees: Starpower and Comcast.

At today's review, the committee took an unusual step and opened the floor to the public. The committee was looking for people with personal experiences. Of course I was happy to oblige. Here is the testimony I presented:

July 25 '05 Testimony to the MFP Committee from Don Libes

My name is Don Libes. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak before you today.

In the last two months, I've filed 3 official complaints with the cable office regarding Comcast billing issues and 1 over a customer service issue. Plus I've experienced three outages in the last two months lengthy enough for me to call and request a rebate.

Now I understand that Comcast is pointing fingers at Verizon for having subcontractors who don't follow procedure and Verizon is pointing fingers at Comcast for not properly marking their lines.

But none of the outages I've experienced can be blamed on Verizon. Two of the outages were well outside Verizon's working hours and one was due to an internal error at Comcast. In the latter case I called up Comcast and heard this: "Your account needs to be rebuilt. Just give us a few hours." In fact, I had to call twice before my account was properly restored. No explanation as to how it broke in the first place.

Now I didn't file a complaint over that one. Here's an example of one in which I did file a complaint.

I received my bill three weeks ago. In addition to the normal charge, it had an additional 99c charge on it. I called to ask why and the representative said "That's our charge for handling a check." Needless to say I was surprised - I always pay by check. I told him it seemed strange to charge for it, and I hadn't gotten any notification, and so on and so forth. He said he couldn't explain why I had never been charged but I had to pay it. I asked that he waive the fee, at the very least just this once because I'd never received any prior notification. He said no, you have to pay it. Finally, I asked for a supervisor. She said the same thing. Yes, it's a check charge. You have to pay it. It's always been our policy to charge for checks.

Finally, after almost 30 minutes with these two, I convinced the supervisor to look yet again at my account and all of a sudden, "Oh wait a second, that is supposed a credit to your account for an outage. Someone must have entered it backwards. Oh, and you don't have to pay a charge for checks."

To summarize this interaction, the original representative screwed up the rebate (turning a credit into a charge), and the next representative and supervisor were ignorant of Comcast's fees and policies. And instead of starting out with the possibility that the customer might be right, they started out with the assumption that the customer had to be wrong, happy to make up bogus stories that sounded halfway plausible to make him go away so they wouldn't have to actually check the facts.

Clearly, Comcast representatives and supervisors are in need of proper training before being allowed to serve customers. Furthermore, the bills should be changed to avoid meaningless phrases like "adjustment" and redesigned so that the bills actually make sense and are comprehensible. I'm providing you with a copy of another bill of mine where my monthly rate doesn’t even appear and the bottom line on the back doesn't match that of the front - and it's simply impossible to know - without another 30 minute explanation from Comcast - the reason for the charges.

Most people do not have the dogged persistence and determination to make sense of their bills, no less question them and fix errors in them. They just give up and pay them. I think you should require that Comcast be audited to find all other customers who have been incorrectly charged for rebates in the last 12 months as well as several other problems that I've seen with their billing. This should be done on an annual basis until such time as Comcast can demonstrate it is no longer a problem.

Thank you.