KPRC 2 Investigates: AT&T phone service frustration after loved one dies

AT&T seems to not have access to important records

You might remember the days when everyone had a landline or maybe you still have one. About 75% of older Americans still have landlines in their homes. Some are used to connecting to other services, but other people do use the landline to make calls. A Houston family said they don’t want the phone mess they are dealing with to happen to others, so they called KPRC 2 Investigates for help.

HOUSTON – You might remember the days when everyone had a landline or maybe you still have one. About 75% of older Americans still have landlines in their homes. Some are used to connecting to other services, but other people do use the landline to make calls. A Houston family said they don’t want the phone mess they are dealing with to happen to others, so they called KPRC 2 Investigates for help.

AT&T landline change frustration

This is something many of us may need to help our parents with one day. After a loved one loses a spouse, from homes to bills, you have to change the names on all the accounts. It’s a lot of paperwork adding to one family’s stress is AT&T’s outdated computer system that can’t even access old landline records.

For Janice, her yellow rotary phone is command central.

KPRC2 Investigates landline phone issues. A Houston family says they've tried everything to get help with a landline issue. The landline is linked to other accounts and they can't get the name changed on the landline after their loved one passed away. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“They’ve had this phone number for 60 years,” said Janice’s daughter, Evelyn Harding.

This landline number is one that everyone in the family calls to touch base.

“If the power goes out, it still works and that’s very important whenever we’ve had hurricanes,” said Harding.

But trying to change the primary name on the landline has been a disaster.

“My father passed away over a year ago, and my parents’ AT&T accounts were in my father’s name. When we called customer service to try to put the accounts in my mother’s name, they were not able to help us,” Harding said.

Janice and her daughter have made countless calls and in-person store visits to AT&T. They were even asked and brought in a death certificate.

“We’ve been told that the landline accounts are on an old computer system the corporate stores can’t access it. And even when we called customer service numerous times, they would tell us that account doesn’t even exist,” she explained. “He just told us just you just need to accept it the way it is, that he was not able to fix it.”

The problem: That landline number is linked to Janice’s cellphone account.

KPRC2 Investigates landline phone issues. A Houston family says they've tried everything to get help with a landline issue. The landline is linked to other accounts and they can't get the name changed on the landline, after their loved one passed away. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“So since we can’t access the landline account, we cannot set up paperless billing auto pay for the cell phone or the landline account,” said Harding.

The family has seen our warnings about mail theft involving checks, so Janice has been diligently driving to the post office to hand deliver her payments.

“So that there’s no chance someone would steal from her mailbox,” said Harding.

We found several complaints online from people with the same issue. Harding said they even know another woman who is in the same position.

“You know, anyone who’s lost their spouse and an account that was in the spouse’s name, then they’re in the same situation.”


Does AT&T have access to its own landline phone records?

We still have not gotten a clear answer from AT&T about why they can’t seem to access the landline records. Harding told us they did contact her after we called and told her it would be two to three months before they could fix the issue. We asked AT&T several questions, not just about this one family’s problem but about the entire landline system and how it works.

Here is the statement they sent us:

“These interactions did not meet our expectations for how we serve our customers. We’ve contacted (the customer) to apologize for the delay, and are working to resolve her billing and account concerns.”

•Customers can receive assistance with landline bills and Transfer of Billing Responsibility by reaching out to Care at 800.288.2020

•We are a landline provider, and information about our landline home phone service can be found at Landline home phone support for Landline home phone customers - AT&T® Official Site (att.com)

-AT&T Spokesperson


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.