Cable TV bills can leave you scratching your head with their lists of charges, taxes and other fees. If the amount your cable company is demanding doesn’t match the figure you were expecting to pay, disputing the bill could benefit your bank account. Cable television companies are regulated by your state’s public utility commission, and as such they must comply with certain billing practices.
Review Your Bill
Before you pick up the phone or go online to dispute a bill, carefully review your cable bill. Cable television companies must provide you with an itemized bill that shows your base charge, any add-ons for premium channels or pay-per-view services, and all taxes. Circle or highlight the specific charges you want to dispute, such as a pay-per-view movie you didn’t order, or a base rate that is more than the promotional rate you were promised.
Making the Call
Every cable company has a customer service department. Call the number on your bill and tell the person you want to dispute a charge on your bill. State your problem calmly and concisely, without anger. Regina Lewis of USA Today’s "Money Tips" column advises consumers to pretend they are speaking on behalf of someone else and be as calm and businesslike as possible. For example, if you were promised a lower introductory rate and this isn’t reflected on your bill, provide the date you were promised the rate and who you spoke with. Ask for the solution you want – a credit on your next bill, for example. Remember to thank the person who helps you. Bankrate.com suggests you follow up your telephone conversation with a letter to the company. State who you spoke with, when, and the solution that was promised. This provides a written record for you and the company.
If you can’t get satisfaction from the first person you get on the phone, ask to speak to a supervisor. Supervisors may have more authority to grant a refund or remove charges from a bill. Remember to remain calm, but firm, and keep repeating your request for help until you get it. If you still don’t get the satisfaction you want, Regina Lewis suggests you send an email to the company president or CEO. Search the company website for the name. Most companies use the same email format for everyone at the company, so if you find an email address on the company website with the format firstname.lastname@example.org you can use that same format to reach the company official you’re trying to contact. In your email, calmly and succinctly state your problem and the solution you want.
Making a Formal Complaint
Your state’s Public Utilities Commission investigates unresolved disputes between consumers and cable television companies. It might step in to help you if you don’t receive satisfaction from the company. Contact your Public Utility Commission and ask how you can file a complaint. Provide the details of your dispute and everything you have done to try to resolve the problem. List the dates of all calls and who you spoke with each time. Some states require consumers to wait a specified period of time before filing a complaint. For instance, in New York, consumers must give the cable company 30 days to respond before filing a complaint with the state.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.