Verizon: "No, We Won't Suspend Service," Suspends Service

Verizon accidently charged Michelle $480 for nights and weekends that should have been free; correcting the problem was a nightmare. Michelle worried the erroneous charges would be deducted from her account through Verizon’s autopay. Verizon told her to cancel autopay and assured her no money would be withdrawn, even though her online account showed a pending charge. Two days later, worried about the charge that was still pending, Michelle tried to stop the payment through Verizon; she was referred her to the bank, which promptly sent her back to Verizon.

Verizon told Michelle it was impossible for the charge to go through since she had cancelled autopay. Michelle asked for a supervisor but the CSR was “VERY certain” there would be no charge until the problem was resolved.

Verizon charges Michelle, inside…


Verizon charged Michelle $480 while she was home for Christmas. Isn’t that kind? Michelle called again. Verizon refused to do anything and couldn’t explain how she was charged. A supervisor offered her a $500 credit while she appealed the charge, but cautioned “that in his experience they always refuse to refund the money.”

Michelle convinced her bank to reverse the charge, so Verizon suspended her account. Verizon assured Michelle that her account wasn’t suspended and that the billing error had been resolved. A quick check of the online account showed Verizon had slapped Michelle with a $25 NSF fee. Michelle went to call Verizon again, but before she could, they suspended her account again.

Michelle’s email, below.

So the story begins with my November Verizon Wireless bill. My bills usually come out to about $50 each month, so imagine my surprise (and horror) when I see that this month my charges amount to $480.19. Turns out that they had randomly started charging me that ridiculous .45/minute overage fee for my “free” night & weekend minutes.

I called their customer service and the guy filed whatever form he had to file so I could get a bill with the right amount on it. In the meantime, he told me to cancel my bill Autopay so that it wouldn’t pull the $480 from my checking account. I told him that my online account said that the payment date was too close to today and that I couldn’t reverse the charge and it was already “pending.” He said that on his end, there were no pending payments and nothing was coming up on my account. So fine, I completely de-enroll from Autopay.

A day or two later, I notice that my online account is still showing a pending payment even though I wasn’t in Autopay anymore. In fact, my online account says that if I want to stop the payment from going through, I’d have to call my bank to put a stop on it. So I call my bank and they tell me that there’s a $30 charge to stop a payment and that I’d be better off talking to Verizon. Again.

So I call the customer service line again and the woman informs me that no, there are no pending charges and actually it would be impossible for me get charged anything seeing as how I wasn’t even enrolled in Autopay anymore. I try to get her to double check and talk to accounting or someone just to make sure, but she is VERY certain that I won’t get charged anything until my accounting error is fixed. Okay, so away I go for the holidays, all the while keeping an eye on my checking account just to make sure nothing huge and Verizon appears on it. Looking good.

While I’m home visiting my parents, my mom says I got a statement from my old checking account there (which I rarely use but haven’t had a chance to close yet) and it shows a $480 payment to Verizon. I try not to ruin the Christmas spirit of things by completely flipping out, and I am determined not to deal with it until after I fly out from my parents.’ But I can’t help wondering not only WHY I was charged after I was “guaranteed” not to, but also why the Autopay charged my old checking account when it wasn’t even linked to my Verizon account anymore. Yes, it had been the checking account I previously used to pay Verizon, but I had months ago deleted it from the saved accounts online and replaced it with my new checking account.

I called Verizon again, where I spoke with both a customer service representative and a supervisor who said many things, none of which resulted in my actually getting a refund.

The supervisor told me that I canceled my Autopay too late and by then my payment was already pending. Really? You don’t say!!! I tell him about the other 2 Verizon representatives who both said there was nothing pending on my account. Mr. Supervisor apologizes for that, but says there is nothing he can do. He tells me I can call my bank to reverse the payment, but that at this point he can’t do anything. While I’m processing this, he also follows up by reminding me of the early termination fee Verizon will charge me if I cancel my coverage. Seems he’s thinking one step ahead.

He says he can file a refund request with accounting, but that in his experience they always refuse to refund the money and will instead issue me the credit. He says that in his history there, he had never seen them actually refund money in these kinds of cases. He says what he CAN do is waive any late fees I incur while waiting for this to be resolved. Wait, so what you’re saying is you’ll waive some $5 late fees and give me a near $500 credit instead of giving me my money back- sounds great!

I also ask him about the shadiness of the fact that Verizon did not even charge my current checking account but my old one. He comes back with something about how when you sign up for Autopay, there is stuff in that contract about agreeing to these kinds of terms. Um, shady and sketchy terms? Again, he says I should call my bank to reverse the charge.

So, determined not to end up with nearly $500 in Verizon credit, I did reverse the charge on my checking account. It took some doing on my part, but after I sent back a notarized form, my bank reversed the charge. Hurray! Or so I thought.

A few weeks later, while still waiting for the initial billing problem to be resolved, I begin receiving automated Verizon calls telling me that my account has been suspended because I haven’t been paying my bills…even though they specifically told me NOT to pay until the billing problem was solved.

I call again, this time going straight to a financial specialist there, who says not to worry, that my account isn’t suspended, but that the initial billing problem has actually already been resolved, so I need to pay my amount past due. I take a look at the details on my online statement, and my bank did indeed reverse the charge. However, Verizon then decided to take it upon themselves to charge me a $25 “Non Sufficient Funds” fee for this reversal. This makes absolutely no sense to me. But at this point, it’s the weekend, and I decide not to call Verizon again until Monday. I also decide not to pay the “amount past due” until I talk to someone, as it still looks wrong.

Come Sunday, I go to call a friend. Instead, it goes straight to Verizon. Confused, I hang up and try again. Verizon again. Telling me my account has been suspended. Meaning I can’t call anyone, and oh, since it’s Sunday, the Financial Department is closed so I have to call back on Monday. Frustrated (and wanting to actually TALK to my friend about this ongoing battle), I just suck it up and pay my amount past due, even though I’m sure it’s still higher than what I actually owe.

Tomorrow, I’ll call yet again, to try and get this resolved once and for all. It’s just immensely frustrating how a mistake that originated on their part entirely has cost me so much time and stress. What makes it even worse is this is the first problem I’ve ever had with Verizon, and they’ve been my provider for years. Which, obviously, I am now rethinking. But that early termination fee! Well, Consumerist, what were you saying again about that hike in texting fees?

You had your chance, Verizon. You know the old saying. Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. If fooled, you can’t get fooled again. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Comments

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  1. missdona says:

    It should be the new tagline:

    The Consumerist: We Do Not Autopay.

  2. acambras says:

    @missdona:

    Yeah, I don’t want to sound like I’m victim-blaming here (because I feel terrible for Michelle). But…

    Rule #1: NEVER NEVER NEVER let telecom charlatans (or gym charlatans, or any other charlatans) have auto-pay access to your checking account.

    Rule #2: Always abide by Rule #1.

    Considering it was Verizon, I suppose Michelle is lucky they didn’t try to debit her account for $48,000. :-(

  3. BillyShears says:

    As much sympathy as I have for her – I’ve had my own share of billing nightmares (and dreams, Cingular stopped billing me for about 3 months last year) – but AutoPay is just a nightmare waiting to happen. The convenience is just NOT worth the trouble it can cause, doubly so if you associate it with a bank account. If you must – and you shouldn’t, but if you must – use a standard credit card instead. That way, you don’t technically lose the money until Visa or Amex come back and say “Sorry.”

  4. Baz says:

    Never autopay.

    The only time any sort of autopay has been beneficial is with credit cards – set up a regular payment of the mimimum balance, this prevents any missed payments. If you have good credit card habits and can pay your balances off in full, you can always make a secondary payment for the remainder of your balance.

  5. Hawkins says:

    Consumerist does a lot of good, but perhaps it could do even more good by changing its name to OnlyRetardsUseAutoPay.com (goDaddy says it’s available!).

    My sympathies, of course, to the victim in this story.

  6. VA_White says:

    I have automated payments but they are automated through Bill Pay at MY bank. I can stop any payment at any time up until they actually send it out.

    I have all my bill set up to pay a certain minimum monthly amount and if the bill is significantly different than my preset amount, I just log into bill pay and update the amount.

    I never miss a payment for anything and I do not let weasels like the gym people or Sprint have access to my checking account.

  7. Elan Arbitsman says:

    Let’s not blame the victim. The problem is more with customer service telling her the wrong thing repeatedly. (there’s no pending auto-pays, don’t pay, you won’t be shut-off, etc.)

    The billing/autopay/customer service gaffs total a serious material breach of the contract to me, and ETF should NOT apply if this makes Michelle want out. I really hope this gets resolved with a nice credit in Michelle’s favor.

    -Elan Arbitsman

  8. mac-phisto says:

    seeming how telecoms take all this pride in customer service & then throw it back in our face with “definitive market research” that they blast all over their literature, i wonder if not providing the service they claim to provide could be construed as a breach of contract.

  9. Dr. Eirik says:

    I’ve had my own problems with Verizon billing, once with DSL, and later with our home bill.

    Back in 2001, when I moved from an apartment to a condo in another town, they hooked up by DSL but it didn’t show up on the bill. I called to ask about it and was told it was taking some time for the billing to follow, but it should show up in the next cycle or the one after than. I honestly forgot about it after that and didn’t notice they weren’t charging me for the DSL.

    Six months later, they abrubtly cut off my service. When I called tech support, they didn’t have a reason why it was disabled, so they renabled it. Then, it went down a day later. I contacted billing, and found out they had been charging someone else for my DSL all that time (and he’d been paying it). Once the mistake was discovered, no one at Verizon thought to call me and tell me about it. If they had, I’d even have agreed to pay the past due amount. Instead, they jerked me around for two weeks.

    Last year, I was late with a payment. My fault. I walked into a Verizon store and asked how much I owed. The guy told me an amount, but it seemed low. I asked him to double check, but he assured me it was what I owed. I paid it… and found out that it was only about 75% of what I owned. They had split the bill between local and long distance charges and, because of a new billing system, the guy at the desk didn’t realize I owed additional amounts. My service was disconnected and I was sent to collections.

    I went with Comcast digital voice after that. When I went into verizon to confirm my home account was disconnected, the woman very snottily said, “Yeah, we get all sorts of people coming back to us from them.” I glared at her and told her I’d go to paper cups and string before I’d go back.

    My only problem is I have to use Verizon for my office because of a shared phone line. If I could switch to another carrier or go Comcast, I’d do it in a second.

  10. Macroy says:

    +10 points for the “fool me once” quote. It’s one of my favorite quotes.

    This is saying nothing about politics, by the way. It’s just funny.

  11. zaq2g says:

    A similar thing happened to me in 2001 when I moved to college, from the Chicago suburbs to DeKalb, IL, less than an hour away from the burbs. I called verizon to confirm that my plan would not be affected by the move, especially mobile to mobile between DeKalb and Chicago, to which the CSR told me that it would not. Luckily for me, I asked the CSR to notate her statement into my account notes, and they actually did.

    Since contract plans are pro rated, I didn’t find out the damage until 2 months later, when I received a bill for over $3000, all of which should have been M2M.

    There was no way that I would be able to pay off a $3000 bill in college, not to mention that next month would be just as high. It took me 3 weeks (straight through midterms) of phone calls and migraines to get that bill reversed and that was only because I had the CSR explicitly notate my account to what I was told.

    Next month was a slightly less of the same thing and every month thereafter I had to call and have it manually corrected until I finally switched to Ameritech (now Cingular, umm AT&T).

    So after 2 months of excruciating headaches, I got some kind of supervisor to notate my account that it should be manually corrected, but that semester was my worst college experience ever. I did horribly academically, and my social life wasn’t especially hot either.

  12. Papa K says:

    Let’s ALL chime in – NO AUTOPAY EVER. Get a bank that lets you pay from there – my credit union lets me send out checks automatically, no fuss no muss. I’ve got all my bills setup this way so the only time there IS a mistake now, it’s *my* fault for over sending!

  13. DTWD says:

    I recently had my Verizon account frozen(Is that that right term?) because I got deployed and I haven’t had any problems with them. They even seem to have given me credit for the time I didn’t use. Sprint decided to start billing me again(Had a contract that was also frozen when I PCS’d to Germany for two years) and the CSR my dad talked to had the bill dropped and told him I could cancel the account without paying the ETF.

  14. poornotignorant says:

    I haven’t paid Verizon for 1 1/2 years because I signed up for autopay 7 times(before I knew it was a bad thing to do) and nothing happened and the csr’s wouldn’t do anything. So, screw ‘em. My low-income bare bones service is still on, but I can’t force them to take my money. If they ever decide to cut me off, I’ll let them. I just hate companies which refuse to address issues and solve them.