An 83-year-old Los Angeles man couldn’t believe the bills AT&T kept sending him for his simple landline phone account—more than $24,000 over two months. But the company insisted he had to pay it, even though it seemed impossible that dialing up to AOL—the only thing he really used the line for—could cost that much.

With no other recourse, the embattled AT&T customer, Ron Dorff, contacted the L.A. Times. He told his story to reporter David Lazarus, who ended up investigating this Comcast-level customer service catastrophe.

Dorff told Lazarus he mostly uses the phone line for his AOL dial-up internet service. That may sound strange, but more than 2 million people are still subscribed to AOL dial-up—many of them elderly, impoverished, or residents of rural areas without viable broadband options.

Dorff, who is retired and collects Social Security, said his typical monthly phone bill from AT&T was $51, so he was surprised to see it jump to $8,596.57 in March. He told Lazarus he called AT&T, and they promised to send a technician to figure out the problem.

No one came, and AT&T added another $15,687 to his bill in April.

When the company finally got a technician out, they said it was a problem with his modem, but refused to lower the insane $24,000 bill that had accumulated as a result.

Of course, they were happy to fix the problem once they got a call about it from a Los Angeles Times reporter, and claimed they’d never intended to make poor Mr. Dorff pay that huge bill anyway.

They couldn’t explain why their system didn’t flag a five-figure charge for a basic landline, just waved it away as a “rare occurrence.” Seems like a $24,000 landline bill should be a “never” occurrence, but I’m not a major telecom company, so what do I know?

[h/t BroBible, Photo: AP Images]