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I Fought Comcast and Almost Won (nattaylor.com)
52 points by nattaylor on Jan 4, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

Puget Sound Energy has a similar problem.

They switched to a new (outsourced) billing system recently that was supposed to "dramatically improve" billing statements.

At our house, we had two accounts for PSE - one for the house power and a separate account number for a streetlight-like fixture on our property. The reason for the two account numbers was that they were billed differently: house power as normal, streetlight at a fixed rate paid once every other month.

To add to the complexity, we were enrolled in an estimated payments plan. Our costs stayed they same, month to month, with adjustments twice a year to update our average payment amount up/down.

Before the new billing system, we received bills once a month - with the amount fluctuating every other month by the cost of the outdoor light.

Under the new system, we had the "estimated payments" check marked, the reps could see it in the system, they claimed we were enrolled - but our bills that arrived acted as though we weren't in that payment plan.

They couldn't explain it. We were told "Oh, well, it's probably due to the cutover to the new system. Next month's bill should be normal." But it wasn't.

"Oh, it's probably just hiccups - I just changed something here so next month will work for you." Nope.

"It shows you're enrolled. Maybe it's in your spam email?" We get the emails fine. It's the wrong damned payment plan.

Our friends and family didn't have these problems. I figured it was because their idiotic new system couldn't handle monthly estimates plus a bimonthly secondary meter.

So we said "to heck with this" and dropped the outdoor light (installed our own floodlights instead).

MAGICALLY estimated payment bills started working for our account.

Funny that.

Kudos on going farther the Hard Way.

Why didn't you ask to speak to a manager?

Oh we did. Several.

The one who said "Oh, it's probably just hiccups - I just changed something here so next month will work for you." was one of them. Pretty sure he just "turned it off and on again", praying the problem would go away or that I'd give up.

And in a way - I did. At a loss to them. What I pay in additional metered power for the floodlights is peanuts compared to what we were being charged every other month.

Honestly I couldn't be happier with the final result.

But that's also why I complimented the author of the original content who stuck to it long enough to (possibly) get the broken system fixed.

If they are not billing you, stop paying them! Go talk to a federal debt settlement attorney, this will make a grate class action, and you can get paid good money for being a class rap. I am not an expert in this area, but I am pretty sure there is a case here for damages if they try to collect money from you without presenting you with a bill first.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'd have enough documentation (eg not even the initial email for enrolment in Ecobill, nor a screenshot of the dashboard.) I agree though, I feel like it's shady at best and probably worse, though they are providing me legitimate service (if you can call Comcast that) and I am consuming the service.

Surely in discovery you'd uncover evidence that they know of the problem?

Regardless to say, a lawyer's letter would probably get the issue resolve. Stupid that it gets to this point.

Hi Sneak. You've been on Hacker News for well over a 1,000 days and seem to be a value added member of the community. I'm sure you already know this but image responses are not accepted here like they are on reddit. Not that there's anything wrong with reddit, I spend a lot of time there too and love the site but the two communities are different.

Please keep image responses on reddit and off Hacker News.

I accept them, and the prominent HNer sitting at the table with me laughed at it and upvoted it. If pg or our other overlords have any issue with pun-based humor, they have yet to codify them in the rules.

There is, however, a rule against complaining about HN turning into Reddit. The official HN guidelines read as follows:

"If your account is less than a year old, please don't submit comments saying that HN is turning into Reddit. (It's a common semi-noob illusion.)"

My per-comment average is nearly twice yours. Please pick on someone else.

I'm sorry you don't like my comment. I thought it was grate.

Thanks for the followup. That's a good point about it not being in the guidelines while referring to reddit actually is. I was referring to something I thought was in the rules about comments adding to the conversation but I don't see it there now.

I still don't think links fit the style of this site but in the future I'll probably just downvote and let the numbers speak for themselves.

i don't see anything in the guidelines about this: http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

You're right. I thought there was something in there about how comments should add to the conversation but I don't see it there now. I must have been mistaken.

Hi Jeff. I thought I should weigh in on this one, as you originally corrected my spelling. I am not offended, on a whole, but having notice your little back and forth with Michael, I decided to look through your comments. You have a tendency to correct other people's grammar and spelling. In most cases this does very little to contribute to the overall nature of discussion. Further, I am sure this is not something you would say to people in a face to face conversation.

Please keep in mind that there are a lot of people on HN who are NOT native English speakers, me being one of them. I am well aware of the fact that on occasion I have a tendency to misspell great as grate, and vice versa. The other 2 languages I speak fluently have much more reasonable spelling rules, but I am not complaining.

However, I am guessing that your superior spelling and grammar skills in your native language are a great source of pride for you, as you like to show them off so much. I would not want to take that away from you. So, you have a nice day.

It's likely much more than two databases. Most MSOs outsource billing and customer service to companies like Convergent. It's a mess of legacy regions and products with different vendors involved. Try troubleshooting phone number porting -- that goes through Accenture.

You can take one of my bills -- I receive two Ecobills and a paper bill!

They have many more than two databases. Different geographical units use entirely separate billing systems to reduce vendor lock-in.

This is definitely true. My initial intent was to oversimplify the problem and explain to friends, not the HackerNews audience.

Verizon appears to have some similar problem. I never even signed up for electronic billing. They just decided to stop sending paper, and I got bills via email for 2 or 3 months, then they stopped and I didn't notice until they called me to ask if I was going to pay my bill! Eventually, I just decided to have my computer remind me to pay the bill instead of relying on them to remind me. It's such nonsense.

I've noticed this issue since I switched to comcast last year. I figured it was a bug that would get fixed soon. I actually didn't pay my bill the first month because I never received anything saying I needed to pay until I received a reminder email about my account balance. I've just set up auto pay and track the bill through my financial software

"So now you’ve got customer data stored in two places, and you need to sync them. Syncing can actually be a challenge: Which database is the “master”? How often should they be synced? "

I've called this problem the "Non-Authoritative Data Source" problem for years - NADS. Never quite caught on though...

It baffles me that they would tell you that they aren't going to fix that bug.

The end of the blog post have me a good laugh.

I encountered this as well. The support rep's workaround was to change my Ecobill address back to my Comcast address. I then enabled forwarding from that address and it works fine. Such a pain.

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