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Consumer Confidential: Amid Discovery deal, AT&T also is quietly making late fees more likely

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

AT&T merging its WarnerMedia assets with Discovery isn't the only move by the telecom behemoth that could impact consumers' wallets.

This week, the company also is making it harder for some people to pay their bills — and increasing the likelihood of late fees.

Tim Ahern pays AT&T about $170 a month for his TV and phone services. He pays his bills on time, so he hasn't been hit with any late fees, which can run as much as $10.

Even so, the Culver City resident was startled to receive a recent email from the company notifying him of changes that take effect Tuesday.

"Heads up!" the email says, adopting an oddly buddy-buddy tone. "Have you ever forgotten to pay a bill? We hear you. It happens. That's why we offer pay bill reminders."

These reminders are basically automated nudges that you may have a balance outstanding as a new billing date approaches. The notices are optional.

 

AT&T's hey-dude chumminess notwithstanding, the notification changes are anything but friendly.

The company used to send out the notices five days ahead of a bill's due date, which in most cases would give a customer sufficient time to make financial amends or get a check in the mail.

AT&T now says that, as of Tuesday, the notification window is being shortened to just three days, which is a much tighter time frame to set things right.

The company also is doing away with automated phone calls notifying customers of billing deadlines, which is noteworthy because AT&T is, you know, a phone company.

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