Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Help Me Howard: Atlantic Broadband
The internet is a wonderful thing. Now you don't need a check and a stamp to mail a bill just go online and pay it. But wait -- there are people out there trying to fool you -- to get you to pay your utilitiy bills to a company that has nothing to do with the phone or power or cable. What happens if you get taken? Simple...just call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--In South Florida the only thing more common than sunny days are smiling real estate agents. It's a job alot of people want.
Kimberly T. Henry: "It's a wonderful job. I am the CEO. I love interacting with my agents. I love interacting with people... or else I wouldn't be in this position."
To get ahead you gotta be good and in Kimberly Henry's case it doesn't hurt to be different as well.
Kimberly T. Henry: "I think I am the first black broker on the beach, especially dealing with luxury properties."
Kimberly is busy -- and to save time, occasionally pays her bills on-line. In particular the cable company.
Kimberly T. Henry: "You know it says the official Atlantic Broadband website -- pay your bill here, and of course I do."
That was on a Friday. On Monday her cable was cut off.
Kimberly T. Henry: "I called the company and I totally complained of course. And what they say is 'we never got the payment.' And I say 'that's absurd; I have the receipt I took off the website."
Sure enough, she had paid the $416 bill at AtlanticBroadband.com.
But Atlantic Broadband did not get the payment -- for a very simple reason...
Kimberly T. Henry: "So AtlanticBroad.com is not Atlantic Broadband. No, it is a totally seperate company."
Thats right -- it's a Canadian company that owns the domain name for the Atlantic Broadband cable company. It boasts it's the official website for Atlantic Broadband and does take money from people who want to pay their cable bills.
Kimberly T. Henry: "And he's getting away with it."
After complaining to her bank, Tara was able to get her money back eight days later. But she had to pay a penalty to the cable company for paying her bill late, leaving her fuming at everyone from the Canadian company to the cable company.
Kimberly T. Henry: "I am irate."
But what can you do about a Canadian company taking money from a US companies customers? To find out, Kimberly called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein, Seven's Legal Expert: "No company has a right to take money for a service another company performed. If they do and return it quickly it's probably not a crime. But no doubt, if they don't refund it quickly or not at all, it's theft."
When I spoke to the cable company, they told me they had trademarked the name Atlantic Broadband.
But the webpage owner told me, "I own the 'dot com' name."
He told me, "I sell internet services and if a cable customer pays me I do return the money in a few days."
In turn the cable company said, "His website provides no services that he owns 30 other domain names and is only there to confuse and irritate our customers in an attempt to force us to buy his website."
Howard says this story is a warning to everyone.
Howard Finkelstein: "Make sure when you are doing business over the internet that you are doing business with the right company. Not every company domain name matches their company name, cause as we see, Atlantic Broadband doesn't own AtlanticBroadband.com. So be careful."
Atlantic Broadband does print its own webpage -- Atlanticbb.com -- on its bills, and is sending out a new warning. So customers don't pay their bills to the wrong company. The businesswoman in Kimberly has a simplier solution...
Kimberly T. Henry: "That Atlantic Broadband should buy the website."
Patrick Fraser: "Good suggestion. And the cable company did offer the Canadian company $25,000 for the dot com name. But they told me, 'We don't want $25,000, we want a million and a half dollars.' At least they have lots of room to negotiate. But seriously it's a stalemate. One thing is clear though; Kimberly is happy. After we talked to Atlantic Broadband, they gave her three months of free cable to make up for her bill paying problem. Thats nice."
A cabled domain convulated piece of technical jargon got your head spinning? Need someone to clear up the confusion? Contact us, we won't bill you. Just make everything clear for everyone to see. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, Seven News.
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