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Beware slimy billing practices for Qwest long distance

Beware slimy billing practices for Qwest long distance

Considering QWest as a long distance provider? Want to find out what the "Spirit of service" really means? Here's an account of my bad experience. In two words, avoid Qwest.

Since I am from Canada, the majority of my calls outside California are to Canada. So of course I select my long distance plan based on how good a price they have to Canada, though US rates are also important.

A few years ago I signed up for Qwest's special plan for users of the Netscape Netcenter, which offered a nice rate of 9 cents/minute for such calls, all day to the USA and Canada, with no monthly fee. That was better than the MCI plan I had been on. (And MCI has its own issues.)

And for some time, this plan worked well. I had it automatically charged to my credit card (a requirement) and eventually redirected the bills to my billing service, which gives me a P.O. Box in Virgina (more recently Sioux City) and scans and records those bills. (It also can pay them but in this case it just records them because they were paid on the credit card.)

However, Qwest screwed up the change of address, and started sending the bills to the Virginia P.O. box number with the Sunnyvale zip code. For some reason they never caught on. (Qwest claims they never had the prior address, but in fact they were mailing bills to it) After the error the bills stopped coming, and frankly I didn't notice (since it didn't matter a lot) that they weren't being received at the new address. Who notices a bill they aren't getting?

After that however, without my knowledge or commmand, they cancelled my calling plan to Canada, and started billing me their rack rates (which ranged from 30 to 50 cents a minute) for calls to Canada. Nobody would pay such a ridiculous rate today, and nobody would certainly cancel their 9 cent service to get such a rate. However, that's Qwest's explanation as far as their service agent could advance.

Admittedly, I should have been more careful. In the old days, a $40 long distance bill was a normal thing, so when these charges arrived on my credit card I didn't pay them too much attention. I wasn't tracking my long distance minutes to know the rate had gone up so much. Like many, I wasn't paying close attention to the details on my residential long distance bill.

Ok, so it was a lapse on my part for not watching my missing bills and feeling too rich for a while. And over the course of 2 years my estimate is that Qwest overbilled me around $25/month -- $500 to $600. I eventually contacted them Oct 16, 2002.

The real problem is that when I pointed this out, with the obvious errors on their part, they did nothing and told lies to cover up their problems. They told me to complain to their complaint dept. and in spite of repeated contact attempts, I never got a response. Of course I am not going to do business with them again. Qwest's final answer is that because their bills state I have only 60 days to dispute an error, they will not correct the mistake. [Given by a belligerent supervisor named Rob (Agent code 81581)].

The last thing bothers me the most. All companies make mistakes, but good companies fix their mistakes. When a company moves to the step of deliberately (or so it appears) not fixing a mistake, they go from being human to being a bad company. To add insult to injury, one rep insisted I must have ordered the change from the 9 cent rate to the full rate. Right. Another insisted I never had a 9 cent rate, that the company never offered one (in spite of the press releases and bills I have) or that the low rate was the billing error.

Once I discovered they had made such errors, I stopped service and didn't pay my last bill -- since they owe me money, not the other way around. Now they call me every week about this $13 past due amount!

To top it off, when I relayed this story to a friend, he reported the same thing -- an unrequested, unannounced change of plan to the rack rate and overbilling.

Oh well, now there's a web page about it, to warn others with my opinion of Qwest long distance. The actions of their telephone agent (and the story of my friend getting the same treatment) make me strongly suspicious that I am not the only person this has happened to, and the most conspiracy-theorist section of my mind wonders if there isn't a pattern here. I strongly advise you not choose them as your long distance company.

If you have problems, you can also complain to the FCC.