ORLANDO, Fla. - An Ocoee woman discovered she had been automatically paying every month for cellphone service she had canceled six years ago.
Consumer investigator Todd Ulrich looked into how automatic bill payments can be highly risky and worked to get some of her money back.
Ann Parrish only has one cellphone, but for the past six years she's been paying two cell bills.
“Absolute shock,” Parrish said.
After going through her bank statements, Parrish discovered AT&T had been making a monthly withdrawal from her account for a service she canceled in 2013.
“The one thing I didn't check, (was) my bank account when I should have, and I acknowledge that,” Parrish said.
Her credit union helped her collect all her monthly statements.
“About every year it went up about $10,” Parrish said.
The statements show AT&T withdrew an average of $135 from her bank account every month since May 2013. So, Parrish unknowingly paid more than $7,500 after she canceled the account.
Parrish said when she called AT&T customer service, the representative confirmed their records show a cancellation six years ago. She thinks the company made a big mistake and she asked for the money back. But Parrish said the company only offered a $135 refund.
“They're still going to keep your money?” Ulrich asked.
“They're AT&T so I guess they think it's OK,” Parrish said.
Action 9 found dozens of online complaints from customers claiming the company had continued auto withdrawals after cancellation.
No other complaints were as extreme as Parrish’s $7,500.
“There can be errors and mistakes that you just forget to check over,” said Kimberly Palmer, with NerdWallet.
Consumer experts say auto payments tied to debit cards and bank accounts can be difficult to cancel and dispute.
“With a debit card you are essentially sending cash from your bank, so once it’s sent it’s gone,” Palmer said.
Ulrich contacted AT&T. A company spokesperson said it was reviewing Parrish’s claim.
“I think auto pay is the evil we wind up with,” Parrish said.
Since we contacted AT&T, Parrish said the company is now sending her a $2,400 refund. Parrish said that is far better than the $140 it originally offered.
If you have paperless billing, you can lose control of your account fast.
It’s important for consumers to check their bills online and connect auto pay to a credit card, so mistakes can be disputed.
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