Help Squad: Homeless organization seeks big refund from AT&T

Dear Help Squad,

Connections for the Homeless has contracted with AT&T and its predecessors for at least 20 years for land line phone services for staff. Our most recent 3-year contract was scheduled to end on Dec. 1, 2013.

In November 2013 we corresponded with our AT&T representative at the time, Larry L. He said he would send a new 2-year agreement. A few days later he called us with news that a billing error had been made when we moved our administrative offices, including our AT&T phone service, to a new location in August 2012. That billing error resulted in a monthly overcharge to us of about $600 per month for 15 months that came to a total of about $8,000.

Larry said he would work on the refund, but in the meantime it was very important that we sign a new contract. We told him that we felt we should consider other options for phone service before we signed a new multi-year contract with AT&T. Larry said AT&T was not likely to give us a refund unless we signed the new contract, and they were not likely to go back further than six months on a refund in any case, but he would do his best to present our case. Larry offered a new 2-year agreement via email.

On Dec. 11, 2013 we received a notice from AT&T that a case had been opened regarding the over payment and could take up to 30 days for resolution.

In the meantime, our contract with AT&T expired. On Jan. 30, 2014 we received email correspondence from AT&T stating that “After a thorough investigation into your claim it has been determined that no adjustment is warranted at this time.”

We proceeded to contract with another vendor. We believe AT&T should refund $8,190 to us. We do not believe the refund for overpayments during a time we were under contract should have been contingent upon a new 2-year agreement.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Connie Fabbrini, Director of Operations, Connections for the Homeless

Help Squad reached out to AT&T with Connie on the line. The first representative we spoke with offered to open a new investigation and get back to us, however, that didn’t cut it for Help Squad because we figured it would probably conclude with the same results as the previous investigation. What had changed? Nothing.

So, we respectfully requested a supervisor and were connected to Heather Lenhart, who was delightful, understanding and more than willing to try to help us. Lenhart offered to have the case reopened (versus a new investigation) only this time, handled by an adjustor who was at the management level and who had the authority to expedite Fabbrini’s case. In other words, she promised the adjustor, Diane Kuspa, would get back to Fabbrini within a couple business days.

Lo and behold, Kuspa really came through! Within the promised timeframe, she offered Connections for the Homeless a refund of $5,734.09!

Here is part of an e-mail Help Squad received from Connie after she received Kuspa’s offer:

We appreciate that Diane was able to analyze the billing, determine the cause, and expedite the refund. She apologized for the AT&T staff person who did the review of our case in January and determined that we had not been overbilled.

We are pleased with this resolution and look forward to receiving the payment in July. Connections for the Homeless is a non-for-profit organization operating on a very tight budget based primarily on government funding and private donations. This significant refund will help us continue to provide services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Thanks so much for your help in getting this issue resolved for us.

Dear Connie,

Looking back, it was probably very frustrating to get a call saying that you were owed over $8000, only to have the same company turn around and tell you that after investigating, that wasn’t the case! Not to mention, knowing that the reason for AT&T’s change of heart clearly had to do with your organization changing phone service providers.

But in the end, we are so pleased that AT&T made the honest choice of refunding the overpayment. We know it wasn’t the entire $8,000, but since the statement you received from AT&T outlining the details seems satisfactory to you, that’s good enough for us.

We have no doubt that Connections for the Homeless will put the $5,734.09 to great use by providing housing, employment and other support services to homeless families. Thank you for what you do. Keep up the great work!

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