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$15,804 comes out of Ponte Vedra woman's account for cable bill

7:52 PM, Mar 12, 2013   |    comments
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PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- You pay a bill with your bank's online service only to find thousands of dollars missing from your account. A Ponte Vedra woman says it happened to her to the tune of more than $15,000.

Sylvia Brunet absolutely enjoys gardening in house. It has been home for less than two years.

"I love it," Brunet said

On February 7, she used her bank's online bill pay feature, like she'd done before, to pay her cable bill of $158.04. Then she noticed something strange.

"Fifteen thousand, eight-hundred, which drained my cash, and my savings because I had it tied to overdraft, went to Comcast."

Instead of returning it, Comcast thanked her for the $15,804 payment and applied it to future bills.

She alerted her bank, Wells Fargo and Comcast.

"No action. It has now been over a month, " Brunet said.

All the while, she was feeling "terror ... if you will!" she said with a good-natured laugh.

FCN Consumer reporter David Williams asked Brunet if there was any way she could've accidentally misplaced the decimal point, entering the number incorrectly.

"No. I'm sure that didn't happen," she asserted. "I don't know how it could've happened."

"I want my money back," she said.

Since FCN contacted Comcast Monday, the company reverted the charge. Comcast's Senior Director of government affairs, Bill Ferry, released a statement saying:

"Our aim is to always provide an excellent customer experience, and after the customer's inadvertent payment was brought to our attention, we did request that her bank issue a full refund."

Kathy Harrison, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Wells Fargo's Greater Gulf Coast and North Florida regions, tells FCN the customer made the error and incorrectly entered $15,408. Harrison said Brunet did do the right thing by going to the merchant first.

Harrison said the money has been deposited back into Burnet's account.

Harrison released a statement saying:

"When a customer (or any consumer) makes a transaction directly to a merchant (whether on its website or via phone), he or she must handle any error that occurs (such an entering the wrong amount) directly with the merchant and its billing department. The merchant must then initiate a reverse, return, or credit (for the incorrect amount). This can be done electronically, although in some cases merchants issue a check which can delay the credit to the customer.

Harrison went on to explain the Wells Fargo online bill pay service.

"On the other hand, if our customer makes a payment using our Wells Fargo Online Bill Pay service (people sometimes confuse this method with the one above but they are very different), then our customer service dept. handles issues that arise directly on the customer's behalf as it is in our jurisdiction to mitigate."

First For You: If you find yourself in a situation like this, Harrison said to call the merchant and tell them what happened. Report the error immediately and ask for the return or the reversal of money. The bank cannot do anything until the merchant starts the reversal or return. Also, FCN called a few utilities, Comcast, JEA and Okefenokee Energy to see their policies on overpaying a bill.

Comcast spokesperson Bill Ferry said if the amount is a few dollars, overpayment applied as credit. If it is a large amount, they work with the bank to reverse payment.

Ferry said how long it takes depends on the bank.

JEA spokesperson, Gerri Boyce told FCN iff you contact JEA before 3 p.m., the payment can be cancelled immediately. If not, JEA has to wait 10 business days to make sure the payment has cleared. Then the payment will be refunded with a check.

A customer service agent with Okefenokee Electric in Georgia said if you're a current customer, an overpayment is normally applied to your next bill. It's not available as a refund unless the account is closed. Then, a refund of a credit on an account could take up to 30 days to receive.

First Coast News

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