$16 million cable bill quickly reversed by Time Warner

Time Warner

Time Warner Cable attributes the $16 million bill to a "clerical error" the computerized billing system did not catch. Image: Flickr / dragonflyeye / CC-BY-SA

Computerized billing systems are advertised as a way to make life easier. A $16 million cable bill is the latest in a long string of accidental overcharges that call that into question. While Time Warner has already reversed the bill, the incident reveals the danger of putting your finances on autopilot.

The $16 million cable bill

Daniel DeVirgilio is an Ohio resident who subscribes to Time Warner cable service. At the end of last month, DeVirgilio received notification that his credit card had been declined when he tried to pay his cable bill. Time Warner had tried to charge him $16.4 million, more than $1 million for each of the pay-per-view basketball games he had watched during March Madness. Upon being informed of the glitch, Time Warner reversed the charges.

The danger of financial autopilot

Daniel DeVirgilio, like many other people, had his cable bill set to autopay. It’s common now for bill-payers hand over their credit or debit card number and agree to have it charged monthly. For many bill-payers, this means not even looking at their monthly bills, just knowing it is paid. Daniel DeVirgilio only discovered his $16 million cable bill when he got notice that his credit card had been declined for the amount of the bill.

The policy of watchful waiting

As the $16 million cable bill highlights, putting your finances on autopilot can be dangerous. Most people (this writer included), however, have a tough time remembering the due date of every bill. There are several options for watchful waiting that will help you save money without forgetting a due date or three. The first option is to do the simplest thing — pay each bill the day you receive it. Financially, that may not always be possible, so tracking the due dates on a calendar you see every day is another way to make sure you don’t miss anything. Lastly, you can put your bills on auto-payment, but schedule a few hours, once or twice a month, to read over each bill to ensure that there are no surprises. The likelihood you will encounter a $16 million cable bill is small, but an extra few dollars each month can add up very quickly.


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