Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in North Carolina

My Internet Service Provider committed a crime against me and I want them to pay.Due to suspicious activity on my computer, I requested, on 9/4/2013 for the removal of auto-pay on my account.Fast forward to 9/19/2013,an unauthorized charge was accrued to my bank account, which in turn created an overdraft charge of $107.60.The charge of $43.70 was my regular monthly service charge.But, after I filed a complaint to the DOJ, my bill mysteriously ,increased.Suddelink is running a scam and I'm not going to be a part of it.The one year so-called promotional price, which was $43.70 don't expire until 10/2013.I wasn't told anything about a fee increase during installation or promotional price hike.Is what they done illegal, and can they be held liable for the banking charges after their willful refusal to remove auto-pay from my bank account???

Asked on 9/24/13, 6:34 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Kenneth Love Ken Love Law

It depends. First, no crime has been committed on these facts...there may be civil liability but not a crime. You don't indicate to us how you requested the auto draft be cancelled. If you did it properly, they should have stopped it. If you didn't then they aren't liable. Make sure you looked at the steps to properly cancel any auto draft of payments, if its even possible. Some creditors require auto draft payments (this is legal) and if you don't want payments auto drafted, you have to cancel the service.

Also, since the law limits overdrafts to a fee much lower than you listed, it looks like your account over drafted with 3 separate items. The creditor can be liable for the overdraft IF (1) you requested the autodraft be stopped the proper way and in enough time to stop the auto draft, and (2) if it was foreseeable to them that you would have an over draft charge, which is very difficult to prove.

It seems the best road here is to cancel your service and take your business elsewhere. You can contact a civil litigation attorney in your area if you want a 2nd opinion, this would give the attorney to fill in the holes, I told you about.

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Answered on 9/24/13, 9:21 am

I agree with Attorney Love. There is no crime here and I don't know why you would involve the Department of Justice.

Second, when banks overdraft, the rule used to be that the bank can control the order in which items post to an account. I know for awhile, some banks were manipulating this to maximize the overdraft fees. I thought things changed a little with the financial laws (I think the Credit Card Act of 2009 or something like that) which was to stop this, but it would not surprise me either if banks are still finagling a way around this. Most overdraft charges are $35 per item. You would have to check with your bank to get a list of their specific fees. If you have a good record of no overdrafts and this was done and not your fault, you can get the bank to waive some or all of the overdraft fees. But you have to ask. Talk to a branch manager at your bank.

Why does anybody have auto-draft for anything? I do not like these things. Ever. For anything. It is because you are giving some other company the authority to go on a raiding expedition and take money out of your account whenever they feel like. While most businesses will not abuse this privilege, I think it is better to use a billpayer service that allows you to direct when a payment will be made, to whom and by how much. If a business has an auto-renewal feature that you cannot avoid, maybe set up a separate account for those and only keep enough in there to (a) keep the account open and (b) pay the auto-drafts when they come due.

Must companies have agreements governing price hikes and they can change their fees at any time. However, I can't see them hiking their prices one month early. Do you have documentation showing that the promotional period was to last until 10/2013? Do you also have documentation showing that you cancelled the auto pay? Did you also notify your bank of this in writing?

I would get a lawyer or you can do it. I would send a written letter, via certified mail return receipt requested, to the corporate office of Sudden Link with a copy to the bank. I would direct the letter to someone in authority at Sudden Link - someone in charge of customer care or vice president of operations. I would explain in the letter that you were enrolled and the promotional period does not end until 10/13, that you cancelled auto pay (provide proof of each) that they went ahead and charged your account (provide bank statement) that this caused you to have multiple overdrafts and that you want them to (1) stop the auto pay; (2) honor the promotional rate until it expires; and (3) reimburse you for the overdrafts. tell them to look into this and ask that they advise you of any action.

then see what happens. in any event, i would cancel on or before the promotional end date. your money is green - its good anywhere and I am sure that another company would love to have your business.

if you are unable to get any relief and if your bank will not waive at least some of the charges, your options for getting money back from this company is small if you go to court. It would cost more to file a lawsuit than it would be worth. you might try complaining to the FTC or CFPB about this. I would chalk it up to a lesson learned and just move on.

And invest in good internet security. You can go to any number of websites or even get emails and get infected with a virus so easily. It has happened to me several times and I finally got smart and got AVG. There are other internet security programs (Kaspersky, Symantec, Norton etc.) that will protect you.

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Answered on 9/24/13, 5:39 pm

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