I have been a Qwest customer for more than 10 years. About 5 years ago, I moved out of regular Qwest's service area, but retained their basic voicemail service, called "Anywhere Voicemail," in order to keep a local contact number. This product costs approximately $16.47.
In November 2007, I noticed a slight change to my Qwest service, a software upgrade or something, which I was told via a voicemail message from Qwest would enhance my service. I noticed right away that certain things changed, namely the nice recorded voice of the voicemail lady who says things like, "You have three new messages." As soon as this service enhancement happened, I started receiving bills from Qwest with the usual $16.47 charge on it, as well as a third party itemized charge listed as:
"Agora VoiceMess" - $8.43
I really didn't think anything of this charge. I simply assumed (and I think rightly so) that this charge was a supplement to the enhancement Qwest has provided as an upgrade to my voicemail service and that my service had simply become a little bit more expensive.
Since November 2007, I've received a charge every month for $24.90 -- $16.47 for my basic voicemail service ans $8.43 from Agora Solutions for Agora VoiceMess Monthly. However, this month (January 2009) I noticed that the usual Agora itemised charge had changed to:
"WWW.INFOBILLING.COM" - Infobilling monthly fee - $8.43
So, I called Qwest to query what this new charge was for. The first lovely customer service representative with whom I spoke (Ben) seemed confused too and happily removed the charge from my bill for the month of January, as well as promising to stop any future bills from the mysterious Infobilling service. After a bit of digging into my account, he said that I'd need to phone third party The Billing Resources ETS (who had previously been billing me on behalf of Agora Solutions), to query my previous charges, and he gave me their phone number on (888) 296-8079.
I rang this number and was connected to a call centre with an automated message stating that any queries about Agora Solutions would need to call a different number, (800) 215-1961, or could visit www.cancelmyvm.com. I called this new number, and was connected to a call centre where the first female agent I spoke with spoke very poor English. She then transferred me to another agent, (Brian, #6659), who also didn't speak great English and wasn't very helpful.
After explaining my situation, Brian insisted that I had signed up to Agora's product, which he said wasn't a voicemail service at all, but a free 1-800 service. I insisted that I had never ordered the service, and when I asked why my bill lilsted the service as voicemail rather than a 1-800 service, he didn't seem to know. He claimed I had signed up for the service over the internet, and when I challenged him to tell me what data of mine he had on file, he gave me an incorrect date of birth and a mailing address that had been out of date for approximately 4 years! However, worryingly, he did have my correct name and email address.
I then explained that clearly the service had been set up on a fraudulent basis, and he offered to refund me 6 months' worth of fees. I told him I wanted all 13 months refunded, and he accused me of failing to read my bills properly. However, when I explained that there would have been no reason for me to query my bill earlier, given that my itemised charges stated they were for voicemail service -- and voicemail service was the only service I had from Qwest, he said he'd put me through to ANOTHER supervisor. I then was put on hold for 15 minutes and told that a supervisor would call me within 30 minutes. It's now been over 2 hours and I haven't had a call back.
I then called Qwest's customer services department to try and get to the bottom of the situation, and asked to speak straight away to a supervisor. I was put through to a rather surly and rude woman named Allison, who listened to my story with complete disdain and simply repeated everything that Brian had told me -- that I was the silly customer for not reading my bills and that there was nothing she could do -- that Qwest is required by law to bill via third parties regardless of who they are. I explained again that The Billing Resource ETS had not only fraudulently been billing me for these charges, but that their itemised billing via Qwest was also fraudulent because it described voicemail services rather than a 1-800 number service, and this is the reason I did not query my bills earler.
I am extremely angry that Qwest does not protect my account -- they could have easily challenged The Billing Resources ETS/Agora Solutions to verify either my date of birth or billing address before accepting any charges on my behalf. But they did nothing and now don't want anything to do with the consequences.
I was comforted slightly to know that other people have experienced this same scam, and I want to let everyone know that there is a law firm who have "launched an investigation into the billing practices of residential landline or wireline telephone carriers a/k/a local exchange carriers or LECs , third party billing aggregators and third party merchants regarding their charging and billing for third party products and services without express authorization of telephone subscribers and customers." I suggest everyone contact them in addition to your standard complaints procedures to stop this horrible practice of cramming.
I am strongly considering cancelling my Qwest service for good.
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