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Disconnect over wireless bill: Contact 6 navigates common cellphone billing concerns

MILWAUKEE -- It's an industry founded on people talking to each other. Yet, Contact 6 gets complaints every year from people struggling to communicate with their wireless provider. One of them was a 95-year-old man with a cellphone older than a high school student.

Nancy Schmitz has lost her sight and can no longer make out words on a page. Her husband, Art, is always happy to read aloud. In fact, Art has taken over most of Nancy's reading, including most of her bills.

A bill from a collection agency took Art by surprise.

"I don't think it's fair at all," he said.

The bill said Nancy owed nearly $100 to T-Mobile. She bought the cellphone a long time ago.

"Oh golly! 10, 15, 20 years ago, when cellphones first came out," Art recalled.

The phone never got much use. About a year ago, the couple threw it away.

"She was legally blind. She couldn't see anything. She couldn't see the numbers," Art said.

Nancy also has dementia, so Art has power of attorney. He'd been trying to get the bill dropped since September.

"I've sent letters to them telling them what her condition was," Art explained.

Finally, he wrote to Contact 6.

"I didn't know what else to do," he said.

Among top complaints to the Better Business Bureau, wireless telecommunications rank second. In complaints to Wisconsin Consumer Protection, telecommunications rank third. Over last six years, Contact 6 has received many requests to resolved cases with wireless carriers.

"265 complaints. 173 of those complaints got a favorable response," explained Val Seiber, the Contact 6 administrator.

Seiber advises people make sure to complete a few steps when speaking with a wireless company.

"Note who you are speaking with. If possible, write the date and the time," Seiber said.

Here are questions you should ask the person you speak with on the phone:

  • What is your ID number?
  • Will you note in my account what we discussed?
  • May I get an email or letter detailing our conversation?

If you're signing up for a promotion or rebate, make sure to ask if your service is being extended. If you're trying to cancel, ask if there is a cancellation fee. In some situations, the fee can be dropped.

"Death. Illness. Divorce -- I've seen that," Seiber said.

Contact 6 emailed T-Mobile on Art's behalf. Eventually the company made the following determination:

"Since there was no usage on the account, we applied credit of $98.76 and reversed the negative credit reporting."

In other words, the bill has been dropped.

"I was ecstatic. It was a big load off my mind," Art said.

Complaints to Contact 6 about wireless companies actually went down in 2018 to 21 complaints in all. In 2017, it was more than double that number.

The three most common complaints Contact 6 gets about wireless companies are about billing, promotions or rebates and termination fees.

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