Money Helps
By Ellen McGirt

(MONEY Magazine) – How to Make a Service Rep Keep His Word

Q Before I signed up for AT&T Yahoo High Speed Internet service last year, I was assured that if we moved out of the service area, the termination fee on our contract wouldn't apply. We did move and, sure enough, my final bill came with a $200 service fee on it. What gives? --Matt Dykhouse, Spokane

ANSWER Hey, you tried. When you signed on with the ISP, you talked to someone you describe as a "very helpful representative" and explained that you were thinking of moving. You asked whether you'd be penalized if you moved out of the service range and had to cancel. You were told there'd be no problem--and no fee.

You then closed your account 11 months into a 12-month contract. But wouldn't you know it, a $200 charge showed up. When you called AT&T's billing center, you were told that nothing could be done. The killer: Keeping the service would have cost you just $14.99 for the remaining month.

Turns out you were misinformed from the get-go. You signed up for a promotional rate with a very specific contract. According to the fine print, there's no waiving that early-termination fee. This was stated in the terms and conditions that flashed by when you installed the service's software on your computer (the parts where most people click "I accept" and "Next" without reading them). The hassle might have been tempered if you had asked the rep to show you the information you missed--either on the terms-and-conditions screen or in the paperwork that was mailed to you after you signed up. Remember, they're fielding questions on a lot of deals with different conditions.

Once we told the company about the crossed wires, it credited the penalty fee to you. "He was given misinformation, and he made decisions based on that," says AT&T spokesman Michael Coe. "We're very sorry that that happened." We wonder whether you would have reached the same happy result on your own. Next time ask the rep to make a note on your account confirming what you were told--and have the note read back to you.

TIP When talking to service reps, ask them to make a note on your account confirming anything you've been told, particularly about terms and conditions. It takes the "he said, she said" out of the equation because a supervisor can read the history.

Having a financial nightmare? Need an advocate or some good advice? E-mail Ellen McGirt at money_helps@moneymail.com.

So far, Money Helps has saved readers $179,246.49

Reporting By Kate Ashford contributed to this article.

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.