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AT&T Customer Struggles To Get Answers After He Was Billed $1,500 For Phone He Returned

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Pilsen man followed AT&T's instructions to return a $1,200 phone he had bought, but later received a bill for more than $1,500.

John Villareal wanted to return a phone he purchased from AT&T online, and the directions he got from AT&T seemed simple enough: Print out a shipping label, attach it to his package, and return it to any U.S. Postal Service location; including a blue drop box.

He chose a drop box near his home in Pilsen.

"They told me to follow these three steps. I followed those three steps. I sent it back," he said.

When he dropped off the package, he thought everything was taken care of.

"I thought it was on its way," he said.

However, two months later Villareal began receiving bills from AT&T and collection agencies saying he owed more than $1,500 for the phone and continued service.

"When I called in trying to find out what was going on, nobody had any answers," he said.

Villareal received the bills for $1,534.83 despite a tracking receipt from AT&T's system showing his return label was printed on Oct. 15, and received by the post office on Oct. 19.

"I felt like it was assumed that I kept the device, and I wasn't returning it," he said.

Villareal spent weeks on the phone, trying to figure out what happened.

"I've had to make at least over three dozen calls," he said. "I've been transferred multiple times, hung up on, never called back. I had to call back and start from step one all over again."

Less than two hours after CBS 2 contacted AT&T, Villareal received a call from the company president's office, letting him know "they are making it right."

"I smiled like ear to ear. I was like, 'finally,'" he said.

AT&T promised to erase the charges and launch an internal investigation. The company explained it was a "restocking error," whatever that is.

"We apologized to the customer and reversed the charge," the company said.

Villareal told the AT&T office of the president one more thing.

"Why does it take the news media to get involved to get answers, if I am the customer? How come I can't get an answer?" he said.

AT&T never answered that question.

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