Business Owner Gets $216,464 AT&T Bill - for Phone That Never Worked

A business owner was already a little miffed at AT&T when the phone line it installed didn't work. So imagine how upset he was when the company sent him a bill for $216,464.75.

The user posted the offending bill on Reddit back in March, then posted an updated bill this week -- pictured above, and now slightly adjusted to a more manageable $215,653.58. He notes that he has continued to fight the bill since it first arrived with no resolution in sight.

So, yes, that's six months with a phone bill equivalent to the price of a decent house hanging over his head. Apparently, during the week that the VOIP (voice over IP) phone was installed (but not functional), it was somehow hacked to make fraudulent phone calls -- a lot of them. Hence the huge bill.

The situation may be nearing a resolution, though. This week, the popular blog BoingBoing took notice of the ludicrous bill, and it seems that exposure escalated the matter to higher-ups at the company.
The aggrieved customer posted yesterday that he'd received an email stating that AT&T's CFO is looking into it. (Though one commenter on the Reddit thread suggests that may not be quite accurate. "Fair warning - the CFO is probably not looking into this," wrote the user with the handle "FreakyCheeseMan." "AT&T has a special tier of customer support known as the "Office of the President" ... I strongly suspect that that's what you're getting here - some other level of customer service peons.")

But the mis-billed businessman is taking a wait-and-see approach. "Nothing has gone to collections or anything like that yet," he writes. "I am kind of just waiting at this point to see what will happen."

Assuming this does wind up getting resolved in his favor, it's more evidence that social media can be a powerful tool for resolving difficult customer service issues. Getting your issue widely publicized through Twitter or a social news platform like Reddit can light a fire under a customer service operation a lot more effectively than spending months on the phone. We're guessing that right now, someone with real authority is seeing that the bill is clearly a mistake -- and figuring out that the now-former customer has no intention of paying.

We've reached out to the person who posted the bill, and will let you know if we learn more about the situation.

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Part of the issue here is that the subscriber almost certainly refutes any responsibility for the "hacked" telephone that ran up the fraudulent charges, while AT&T almost certainly refutes any responsibility for the (implicitly) insecure network environment into which that device was installed. Both parties would seem to be guilty of negligence. Another example of humans (on both sides of the dispute) demanding all the benefits of technology while refusing to accept responsibility for the pitfalls that come with it.

November 11 2013 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeff MacKay

Why does this seem to keep happening to AT&T customers?

October 14 2013 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I also got charges for VIOP and we fought it and tjhey still try to collect which we will not pay. The sale rep at that time did nothing and we went to thei headquarters in Ft.Lauderdale and sat down with the sale rep and
and it was his problem I went to his supervisor and again nothing happened. We now have gone to another carrier which we are happy and much lower prices. AT&T are notorious for service and bad customer service.

September 21 2013 at 8:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I\'m amazed that AT&T did not turn it over immediately to to some pushy, inept collection agency.

September 21 2013 at 7:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have used at&t for many years - no significant problems

September 20 2013 at 9:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I would never sign up for Direct TV or any cell phone service that requires years of an agreement. They can stuff it. I use a Tracfone as we hardly even use it except for emergencies. People waste money with these cell phone companies. I would love to see people just tell them to shove the cells where the sun and phone do not shine then see how fast they come running to the consumer and ask forgiveness.

September 20 2013 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What I should have done over the past five years is post on Redit all the stupid letter I have gotten in my battles with Citi mortgage. And the failute to creit payments that they collected but did not post to my account except like many of the large Banks Mortgage Hounds they would have ignored it and charged me twice as much so after another three years of not paying my mortgage I shall just walk away. Accepting that I did enjoy a short time rent free.

September 20 2013 at 6:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Action Jackson

Boy I know the feeling! For the past several weeks my Direct TV has only been working part of the time. A great many of the programs that we normally watch are not responding for an unknown reason. I contacted Direct TV regarding the problem today and they suggested that they would send out a serviceman at my expense to rectify what is clearly there problem. I suggested that instead of me paying for service that they should reimburse me, for half of my regular monthly bill as I was able to watch only half of the stations that I was entitled to. I have discoverd that trying to deal with this company is a no win situation as they have everything covered by small print on the reverse side of the contract. I know, I know, I should have read the damned thing when signing up!

September 20 2013 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Which is why I LEFT ATT and now use one of the other monthly plans on another provider. ATT is a RIPOFF... as is Comcast... they all can SUK IT

September 20 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

My Consumer Cellular phone would drop calls in 90 seconds. I put up with it for a year, like a SAP! AARP recommended this phone....this phone was useless-toy quality at best! The carrier was AT&T. ... I am very happy with Verizon because it WORKS CORRECTLY.

September 20 2013 at 4:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply