Verizon Installs FiOS, Won't Tell You Your Account Number, Keep Charging An Unauthorized Credit Card

Dan ordered Verizon FiOS and used a credit card to pay for the installation. He told the CSR specifically he didn’t want his monthly bill to be debited from this credit card. Guess what Verizon is doing?

Dear Consumerist,
I have a problem with Verizon’s customer service (shocking, I know).

I’ll give a brief run-down of what went on:
–I ordered FiOS internet and TV through Verizon at the beginning of July.
–I paid for installation with a credit card that has a very low limit that I keep for situations such as this. They were instructed to not bill that card for the monthly bill, and just send me paper bills.
–No bills ever appeared.
–Of course, charges for FiOS began appearing on my credit card bill. They eventually pushed it over the aforementioned low credit limit.
–I called Verizon, but since I never actually got a bill, I don’t know my account number. And since I don’t have a phone with Verizon, they aren’t able to “look up” my information.
–I finally got a supervisor on the phone that would give me an “account number”, but not the “account number” that the website requires. You see, a normal account number is 24 digits. Only 10 of them somewhere in the middle is the “account number” for the website. The rest are indicators or flags. The number the supervisor gave me was only 15 digits, not 24, and none of the inner 10 digits would be accepted as a valid account number by the website.
–I called back and got a website service technician who told me “use the last 6, thanks for calling Verizon” and hung up. The web form won’t even let you click the button until there’s 10 digits in the box.

Anyway, throughout all this, I was attempting to get them to refund the unauthorized charges. Attempting to get an account number was only so I could speak to a person who had access to user accounts. I finally got a woman that said that there was nothing Verizon would do if the charge went through. The conversation:
Me: “These charges were unauthorized, placed on my card without my permission, and they caused me to draw overdraft fees.”
Her: “well you obviously gave us your card information.”
Me: “Yes, that’s true, for installation only. You were not authorized to charge monthly bills to this account”
Her: “Well there is nothing we will do once the charges are finished except to possibly switch you to cold invoiced billing.”
(No explanation of “cold invoiced billing” was offered, and none was provided when I specifically asked. I assume it means “paper”)
Me: “Well if you refuse to do anything about these unauthorized charges, I’m forced to call Visa and dispute the charges, as they were unauthorized.”
Her: “Ok.”
Me: “At this time I would also like to remind you that this call has been recorded.”
Her: “Thank you for calling Verizon”

And that’s it.

Now my questions to you are
1) Does her “Ok” constitute permission to reverse the charge?
2) What would Verizon do to me if I did reverse the charge? I don’t want to reverse the charge only to get a bill for $400 in late fees, charge reversal fees, and “because we want to” fees.

We’re going to turn this one over to the commenters. What should Dan do? Should he follow up on his chargeback threat? Should he launch an EECB? Should he just be grateful that Verizon didn’t run power tools into his electrical main?

Let’s hear your best advice for Dan! Make us proud.

(Is Verizon giving you Verizon Face? Show us your Verizon Face by submitting your picture to our Flickr Pool and tagging it “Verizon Face”)

(Photo of A Verizon Face by:martyz)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. liveallnight says:

    Verizon is repeating what the old South Western Bell did to me before it became that over marketed POS. Best of luck in dealing with them – it took me 6-months to get a rid of a land-line that was in another state. Not to mention the removal of the billing circle they placed me in.

  2. dualityshift says:

    1. call visa
    2. Cancel Verizon
    3. Find another provider

    Remember to log when you called and told them you would reverse the charges. Tell visa the date and time so they can have the tapes pulled to show you did not authorize the billing.

  3. Esquire99 says:

    Just leave Verizon alone and call the bank that issued your credit card. Dispute all but the installation charge, and be done with it. If you dispute the charges, your bank should refund the overdraft fee’s, assuming the dispute is successful. I would just ask them to do so. Once that is complete, I’d ask them to issue you a new card and deactivate the old one. I’m not sure what kind of response you should expect from Verizon when it gets reversed, but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they disconnected you or called and said you have 5 days to pay the balance in full or we disconnect. You don’t need their “permission” to initiate a chargeback for an unauthorized charge, so they could have said “Don’t you dare dispute this” and it would make no difference. Once all is done, I would do an EECB, followed up by actual letters to the same people. Stuff in writing (actual writing, not email) tends to grab peoples attention.

  4. rewinditback says:

    This is what happened to my account. I had to deal w/ customer service for about an hour to get my account number. I’ve requested printed copies of bills because the online billview never seems to work and I’ve yet to receive those.

    I do love the service, and i do think the customer rep’s I’ve dealt with actually do provide you with a high level of satisfaction. But the Verizon billing department needs to get their act together.

  5. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I say forget Verizon and start dealing with Visa going forward. They’ve got the time/resources to battle this out on a Chargeback case moreso than you do. When Verizon figures it’s not getting it’s money from the credit card company, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll start getting invoices in the mail instead!

  6. homerjay says:

    @rewinditback: Spot on.

    YOu don’t need Verizon’s permission to process a chargeback. THats why you do a chargeback. Because they’re not willing to credit your card themselves. Verizon can’t charge you fees just because you made them sad by filing a dispute. It gets their attention and makes someone take responsability.

  7. briandickens says:

    I’m sort of confused about how Verizon pushed the card over the limit here. If they were billing the credit card, which I understand they shoulsn’t have done, why wasn’t that bill being paid? So yeah, Verizon messed it up, but so did Dan, no?

  8. dawime says:

    Back in January I got FIOS for internet, and once I was satisfied with the speed, I cancelled my land line (which was also with verizon), and went with VOIP. The FIOS bill was tied with the phone bill, and when I cancelled the land line, that put the verizon data service in limbo land . I was continued to be charged on my credit card (as I would have expected), but Verizon now thought that I was delinquent. Somewhere internally the money was never routed once the phone line disapeared, and I eventually received a notice of non payment, and thankfully it did not take more than one phone call to resolve it, but I made sure they gave me a credit for my hassle for fixing something that should have never been broken in the first place.

  9. fuzzycuffs says:

    Jeez, I’d be willing to go through all the guff if I could just have FIOS.

  10. warf0x0r says:

    How much is FiOS? I had the same thing happen to me with Sprint back in college… but it was my fault I activated with my debit card and my first bill went to that card which caught me between rent and over drafted me.

    I’d side with the consumer on this one, but what I’ve learned over time is that if you have a CC close to its limit or with a really low limit cut it up and don’t use it until its payed off. You don’t wanna set yourself up for a scenario like this because overdraft fees are the suck.

  11. QuantumRiff says:

    Call your bank, and tell them you lost the card, and want a new one issued. That will keep them from charging to the old number, and shouldn’t hurt your credit score for closing accounts!

  12. ms3e says:

    BRADG33 is right – just call VISA to dispute the charges, telling them they were unauthorized charges. They will issue a provisional credit to you (probably reversing the late fees). Then VISA will try to contact Verizon who will have to turn up proof that you OK’ed the charges. Verizon will probablyh be too lazy or inept to find any real proof, since you told them NOT to charge the card. Then Verizon will have to eat it or send you a bill.

  13. othium says:

    I agree with the advice of reversing the charges. That is the best avenue. Let the bank do the heavy work.

  14. missjulied says:

    I’m with QUANTUMRIFF on this one.

  15. Ickypoopy says:

    Verizon’s billing for the FiOS service absolutely blows. It took them eight months to send me a paper bill. And it only took them seven to tell me the reason I was not getting paper bills was because I was on autopay. The only way I got someone to tell me that was to post a negative review of the service on BroadBandReports.

    Then they refused to remove me from autopay because I do not have telephone service through them! I later found out does not stop me from cancelling autopay, and they did cancel it. (I was ready to cancel my debit card to get them to stop ****ing billing me).

    They also would not tell me my account number. Apparently its a “security issue.” And they had my name spelled wrong. After I was told that they corrected it at least five times. So I had a hassle every time I called in when they tried to look up my information.

    The service is awesome. The customer service is worse than Comcast’s. There, I said it.

  16. whitedevil01 says:

    Do it!!! Get rid of verizon, you’re entitled to reversal of charges… you explicitly told verizon to *not* sign you up for auto-monthly billing… did they comply with your wishes? NO.

  17. beyond says:

    Yes you can reverse the charges and close your credit account. They will find that their charges have been denied and will bill you. They will continue to hit your closed card for your bills until you either cancel or they suspend your account. If you don’t pay, they will send you to a collection agency.

    The chargeback may clear your card but Verizon will not go away.

  18. Buran says:

    Please explain to me why people continue to sign up with Verizon after repeated, repeated, repeated stories of their incompetence?

    I’m with all the “chargeback” posters here. When your credit card issuer starts fighting for you, they’ll have a much harder time ignoring the problem. Or do you know any lawyers who’ll send them a stern letter for not too much money?

    If they still don’t see the light after all that, get rid of them. There are other companies for intarweb access.

    Just don’t use Speakeasy. Please. You don’t want Net access from Best Buy.

  19. Buran says:

    @beyond: But that’s the whole point — the customer wants BILLS, not credit card autocharge.

  20. Hey_Porter says:

    Based on my experiences with Verizon this post actually makes them look good, as it indicates that he was actually able to get through to their customer service department. They lost my business because I was unable to get through to their SALES department after, on two separate occasions, being on hold for more than 20 minutes.

    But more on topic, while I agree that going to VISA is probably the correct route, if I were Dan I would still be worried that Verizon would indeed come back with late fees and “because we want to fees” (which it is more than capable of doing). I’m sure those would eventually go away too, but that’s just a whole other can of worms. If I were Dan I’d give customer service another shot, and make sure you get a manager. It’s not so much giving them another chance, but to avoid even more hastle in the future.

  21. celyn says:

    First thing he should do is contact his credit card company and dispute the charges. Then it’s Verizon’s problem to deal with, not his.

    Over the years I’ve found that the best way of dealing with corporate incompetence is to make it their problem as early in the game as possible, this means immediate credit card chargebacks, and certified return-receipt letters setting deadlines and mentioning small claims court (CC’d to state and federal regulatory agencies when applicable).

    I’m a huge fan of the certified return-receipt letter. Sure it takes a week to get there, but it generally means less time out of my life to write it and take it to the post office than I’d spend on the phone arguing with overworked and underpaid “customer service” agents.

  22. mac-phisto says:

    @QuantumRiff: that doesn’t stop an auto-billing. merchants set up for auto-billing can still debit a closed account.

    this is why i wish i still had a credit card that generated a single-authorization account number. that service rocks & if your card company offers it, you should definitely use it.

  23. kelbear says:

    @Buran:

    Well, they’re being stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s not as if Verizon is the only bad company. So it’s more like trying to distinguish between varying shades of evil, but with /cancellation fees/ when you lean closer to each of them to inspect them.

  24. rjhiggins says:

    @Buran: OK, not Verizon. Not Speakeasy. Certainly not Comcast.

    If we based our choices on complaints we read here we would have no phone service, no Internet provider, no bank, no electronics stores.

    Let’s face it, consumer choices are more and more limited these days. Sometimes you have to hold your nose and take the plunge with a less-than-desirable vendor.

  25. ManiacDan says:

    Hey guys, thanks for all the advice. This is Dan (the original poster).

    To clear up a few things:
    -I recently bought a house in FiOS covered area and got FiOS because I figured it would be faster and better than Time Warner.
    -The credit card in question is a small one that I only use for one-time charges like set-up fees, medium-large purchased like televisions, etc. It’s part of a finance thing that I do, if the balance on the “one time charges” card runs high, I need to start looking out for myself. Since I just moved into a house, the set-up fees for FiOS, garbage collection, sewage, electricity, etc. all got charged at the beginning of the month. At the end of the month, before I paid the bill, verizon charged me a monthly bill, putting me slightly over my limit.
    -From what I read on the consumerist, “cancel verizon” isn’t an option for me. For one, I have a contract with them with hefty termination fees, and also it’s FiOS, they remove your ability to go to cable when they install FiOS.
    -To the people who are saying “why oh why go with Verizon” I say: they’re better than RoadRunner, and faster than dial-up, DSL and satellite.
    -The unauthorized charge in question was for $150. I was told the bill itself would be for something like $120 when I signed up, and there hasn’t been a charge before this one. So it looks like they rolled the installation charge into the first month’s bill, which makes it difficult to dispute just the bill and not the installation, they’re the same charge. And without a paper bill, there’s no proof that the $150 isn’t the installation charge.

    So I’m going to call Verizon again tonight, and tell them very calmly that I’m going to reverse the charges, and could they please get a manager. After that I’m probably calling Visa and going through with it. I fully expect Verizon to charge me penalty fees, but that can be fixed with a EECB. Wish me luck.

  26. FLJOE says:

    Verizon FIOS TV also adds unrequested service to an account.

    When I moved to a new home, I had my FIOS TV and HSI moved. My first statement after the move was almost double the previous statement. A line by line investigation showed premium packages added (movie channel, HBO) in addition to new unjustified activation charges. After speaking with several CSRs I was told I couldn’t speak to a supervisor but one would call me but couldn’t tell me when. Four hours later I got the call and 30 minutes after that the charges were reversed.

  27. Major-General says:

    This is why you don’t sign up for fiber, as they cut all the copper. Call Verizon, tell them you want paper billing only or you will do a chargeback with the cc. If they give you any lip, tell them thank you, and call your cc immediately.

    I wonder about those people who get FIOS now, then later move. I haven’t heard of anything, but I’m betting the conversations from people who don’t want fiber service will be intersting.

  28. FLJOE says:

    If FIOS was not such a darned good product, I would dump it in a heartbeat.

    After having FIOS for one year, I moved to a new location 1/2 mile away with a move date confirmed by Verizon of May 1st. About noon that day, I got a call from the installer asking where I was because he was at the house. The wrong house. They sent him to the address I was moving from, not to the new one. So…he had to get another work order which took 3 days. The installation took place May 4th, the same day I left FL for the Summer. When I did a return visit in July, neither my TV or HSI worked. Many hours of phone calls revealed my service was disconnected at the new house on May 5th but was still active and being billed at the old address where no one was living.

    More phone calls and more confusion on their part. Finally service was restored and my records cleared up and credits issued.

    Yesterday, September 6th, I got a call from the installation department asking if I was ready for the move. They still had my old address active and my new address active and now wanted to know how many receivers I had and where I really was.

    As I said, the product is great but the support sucks big time.

  29. bazzlevi says:

    Alarms went off in my head when I read Quantumriff’s comment. Do NOT call Visa and tell them you “lost the card”. I assume Quantumriff is also suggesting that the Verizon charge was made after the card was “lost”, which can easily be disproven by Verizon. No, the best course of action is to dispute the charge. Even if they rolled the installation fee and the first month’s charge together, you still did not authorize them to charge your monthly bill to your credit card. That is the basis for your “disputed charge”. To summarize several good posts I’ve read here so far, you should send a CERTIFIED LETTER with RETURN RECEIPT to Visa calmly spelling out the details of the situation, including what you have done to resolve it (include the time(s) you called Verizon and the results (or lack thereof) of those calls). Visa will then pursue the matter with Verizon, and they will have your side of the story in hand. It will be up to Verizon to make good of the situation. Good luck!

  30. majortom1981 says:

    Verizon has no right to cut the cable lines coming into the house.

    I say you have an awfull lawsuit against verizon. Atleast file a complaint to the better business bureau.

    This is why I am sticking with cablevision.

  31. Buran says:

    @kelbear: Hardly the only bad company, but I’m sure there are local providers that aren’t this bad. Cable. DSL (not Best Buy, though). I think dslreports.com will tell you who’s available in your area.

    It’s not like you HAVE to use Verizon. If you can get internet service from them, chances are you’re in a large enough area that someone else will provide it to you too.

  32. philbert says:

    @QuantumRiff:

    That doesn’t always work. I lost a card, had a new one issued with a new number but the bank transferred all monthly billing set ups to the new card. That was fine with all except one I had been trying to cancel for two months. That got transferred too.

  33. bubdrum says:

    Dan,
    I understand that you may not have “authorized” charges for your FIOS service be charged to your Credit Card. However, my understanding from speaking to Verizon is that if you do not have a land line phone number with them that your internet and tv services have to be billed directly to a credit card and they will not send a direct bill. It seems that this was obviously not stated to you. Thought you may want to know that going in before you make a decision either way. Best of Luck!!

  34. October says:

    After about 10 months of back-and-forth with Verizon’s customer ‘service’, I was finally able to get them to stop billing me (and referring my account to a collection agency) for a charge I had already paid them.

    At the time, I had a Verizon landline and Verizon Wireless for my cell. They offered ‘one bill’, whereby I could pay charges for both accounts through one invoice. Needless to say, they screwed up. Didn’t correctly credit a payment and started hounding me for money they already had. Spoke and wrote to customer service at least once a month through this entire process. Each time getting a different rep and having to repeatedly explain the problem. Still no resolution. On the last letter I wrote to them, I copied the Public Service Commission and faxed the letter to the customer service reps (yes, each of them. By this time ‘obnoxious’ was my M.O.)as well as to the attention of ‘Manager, Customer Service’.

    My letter was never acknowledged, but the dunning calls and billing have stopped. Nothing from Verizon has appeared on my credit reports.

    Further, I am no longer a Verizon customer.

    Best of luck in resolving this.

  35. One: Call Visa.
    Two: EECB /w CC to every Consumer group humanly possible (Including the BBB, Consumerist, and Consumer Reports)
    Three: Call the BBB just to put it on record in two forms
    Four: Continue to try and resolve the situation with Verizon.

    Note: Steps three and four might not even be necessary at the point of number 2.

  36. whereismyrobot says:

    I have had this exact same problem with Verizon. One call to Wells Fargo stopped the charges. We’ll see if I actually get my paper bill this month.

  37. goller321 says:

    I had a similar situation happen with Directv. They had my creditcard in their system, but I always do a payment via my checking account.
    The card they had, was one I had used to do a low interest transfer, so I didn’t plan on using it again until the balance was paid, so the higher standard interest rate wouldn’t be charged (as the lower rates are paid off first and the higher rate balance sits until the lower rate balance is pain in full.)

    I contacted Directv and got no results. I contacted the credit card company and they refused to file a chargeback, because I had given access to Directv by ever providing them the number. So in Chase Visa’s eyes, if you provide your number you are SOL.
    Close the card!

  38. Trackback says:

    Personal finance is boring, but with a little work and preparation in the beginning and some time spent checking in, it can be put on autopilot.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I had the same thing happen with Verizon FIOS recently. After 3 months I was wondering why I didn’t get a single bill and I noticed they had been charging my credit card. I paid the credit card every month so the charges are covered, but I found it somewhat suspect that Verizon would be charging me without any sort of email or mail notification.

    I called Verizon and had to speak with 4 different CSR’s over the course of an hour just to change my billing so I would get a statement. *BTW- they said there is no way to just receive a statement via email – I have to receive a paper statement. While I much prefer electronic billing, I need something for my records and I’ve been unable to access the online service as they won’t give me my proper account number. I’m hopeful that when i do finally receive a bill in the mail (if ever) it will have an account number I can use to register.

    Clearly Verizon has decided that limiting customer options and keeping the bill out of the customers hands will help them charge as they please. The first thing I found out when discussing my bill on the phone was that they have been charging me a monthly installment charge for my installation! This was never disclosed.