Problem Solver: Unlimited calling plan isn't 'unlimited'

Blind customer learns of cap during notification from Comcast 'security'

Mindy Hartman tried other phone companies, but none of them worked out.

The Chambersburg, Pa., resident, blind since birth, is on the phone constantly, using it to attend telephonic prayer meetings, to play word games and to listen to Internet radio shows.

Her previous three service providers limited the number of minutes she could use, prompting her to switch to Comcast in 2010.

"I said, 'I'm blind, I'm on a lot of conference calls and I'm on the phone a lot.' Comcast assured me, 'Oh, no, you can talk on the phone 24/7 if you want. We have no caps.'"

For the first two years, that was true. Hartman piled up thousands of minutes per month.

In early December, she received a call from a Comcast representative.

Saying he was from the company's "security" department, the caller told her that she had gone over her allotted 5,000 minutes of calling per month. In fact, she was told, she was on the phone more than 7,000 minutes the month before.

The man told her she would either have to cut back on her phone usage to ensure she did not breach the 5,000-minute-per-month threshold, or Comcast would cancel her service, she said.

Hartman said she tried to argue with the man, saying she had signed up for an unlimited calling plan and had been told there was no cap on minutes.

The man told her the 5,000-minute cap was mentioned in Comcast's terms of service, she said.

"I'm blind, and most people don't look at that when they're told by customer service it's unlimited," Hartman said. "It was nice they had the courtesy to call me, but I wasn't very happy when they called."

Hartman said she called Comcast's customer service line the next day to complain and was told she received bad information. Her plan, she was told yet again, had no cap.

So she called the security department. An employee there assured her the cap was real and if she didn't cut back on her calling, her service would be disconnected, she said.

Upset, she told a friend in Michigan, who advised her to contact What's Your Problem?

She said that imposing a cap on minutes after selling the plan as unlimited was dishonest.

"They should tell you right off the bat it's not unlimited," she said. "It's really something that has to be addressed across the industry. Comcast is not the only company who has done this to people."

Hartman said that if Comcast does in fact have a cap, it should provide a way for her to check, in real time, the number of minutes she has used each month.

"This isn't just about me," she said. "There are blind people who use the phone to do their email because they don't have computers."

She said she likes Comcast's service and will stick with the company no matter what — even if it means cutting back on her usage.

"It annoys me because I was told unlimited, but if that's their policy, that's what I'll have to do," she said.

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