I originally signed up for Talk America long distance service through AOL. I wanted the advertised rate of 3.9 cents/minute. I found out after signing up that I was actually paying 15 cents/minute because most of my long distance was in-state.
I decided to cancel the service, but they talked me into staying with a promise of 7 cents/minute for my in-state long distance.
After a month or two, I checked my rate and found that they were still billing me at 15 cents/minute. I called back and finally got the rate changed to what they had promised me.
I had automatic payments set up, and I never saw a bill unless I went online and viewed it. I got lazy about this and never looked to see what I was being charged compared to calls I was making. That probably cost me a lot of money.
My local phone company just came up with a much better deal for my long distance, so I decided to switch. The change took place towards the beginning of July, so I was surprised when I was billed again by Talk America in August.
I contacted customer service and this is what I found out. First, the last call I had made on the Talk America service was on 7/8/04. I was billed over $22.00 in August, all for taxes, surcharges and fees. No calls. Customer service told me that my service was switched to the new carrier on 7/14/04. She also stated that the August billing period was 7/9 - 8/9. This is the period I was billed for. According to Talk America, I was still on their service for 5 days of the billing period even though I had made no calls since prior to the start of that billing period. I was told that if they just went by the calls I had made, they could refund the fees, but since they had a letter from my new carrier switching my service as of 7/14, that they could not refund the fees for a service I did not use.
I suggested that the fees should be pro-rated since I was only, according to them, on the service for 5 days of that period. They said that they could pro-rate local service, but not long distance. After trying to argue my case, I realized I was not going to win the fight, and I gave up. I asked that a complaint be recorded about their service. I was communicating with Customer Service via a web chat. I asked for a transcript of our chat to be emailed to me, and I also asked for a copy of the terms of service.
The person I was chatting with said she was an Accounts Manager, but she could not direct me to where I could find the Terms of Service -- she said it was "listed online" -- and she refused to provide me with the chat transcript. I went ahead and copied the chat into my word processor, so I have my own record of the chat.
I was finally able to find the TOS, and it does state that if you are on the service for any portion of the billing cycle, you will be liable for the entire period. So they've got me there. I have never, however, seen such outrageous fees from a phone company. Even if the per minute rates look good, this company is definitely not a bargain!
To add to the fun, Talk America charged my account again in September. I didn't have any trouble getting the charges reversed, but that's really beside the point.