Vonage Destroys Router, Refuses To Issue Refund

I have been a loyal Vonage customer for 3 years. Within the last year (I can’t remember when) I purchased a new Linksys WRTP54G router to replace my existing router. This router has built-in Vonage voice ports. What Vonage and Linksys do not tell you when you purchase this router is that Vonage has 100% full access to your router and can do with it what they choose.

What they chose to do with mine was update it to the latest version. This version has caused my Vonage service to stop working but left my Internet working just fine. I generally don’t use my Vonage line to send calls I mainly receive and have all calls forwarded to my cell phone so I left it sitting there for a few weeks. I finally decided to call Vonage technical support for help. I work for a fairly technical company but do not like to flaunt my knowledge because I have been on the other side of the phone and know you have to cover the basics. I let them do whatever they need to do to fix the issue. It was pretty apparent that the lady on the phone didn’t know what she was doing. As part of her troubleshooting she told me I needed to increase my bandwidth settings. I let her know that I have already set my bandwidth settings to their max in the Vonage control panel. I was told that these settings were different and she needed to do them on my router. Immediately my router started rebooting itself every 10-15 seconds. My internet connection never stayed online long enough for me to do anything. She then had me reset my router to factory settings about 3 times while trying to get my router back online. After the router continued to reboot constantly I was told to wait 20 minutes for the settings to take effect and she would call me back.

About 30-45 minutes later she called back. My router continued to reboot constantly. At this point she told me that I needed to access the administration page of my router and clone my MAC address. When I asked her why I would need to do such a thing, I was told that this would fix my router. My cable company does not lock my cable modem to a specific MAC and I told her this. She insisted on having me do this. At this point, it became extremely clear that she had no idea what she was doing and she had broken my router. I asked if I could speak to someone who knew what they were doing and she transfered me to an Advanced Technical Support rep named Morgan. I explained the situation to Morgan and he saw what the previous technician did and could not understand why those settings were modified. Morgan tried some troubleshooting but because the router kept constantly rebooting there was nothing we could do. Morgan told me I needed a new router. He offered to send me a Motorola router because they no longer carry Linksys routers.

As far as routers go I had a Porsche and they were offering me a Pinto. Morgan told me that if I wanted a Linksys router I could purchase one and Vonage would gladly refund me my money since it was clear that they caused the problem with my hardware. I let Morgan know that I would not be purchasing the same exact router since I did not feel comfortable with Vonage having control over the main access point to the Internet in my house. He agreed and said that would be fine. I spent $175 on the original WRTP54G I purchased and opted for a Linksys WRT330N which I found on sale at Amazon.com for $149.

When the router arrived I called Vonage to connect my original Motorola voice adapter so I could restore my voice service. Vonage got my voice service back online in a few minutes. I then asked what I was supposed to do to get my $149 back. I was told to fax my receipt to Vonage and I would receive my refund in a few weeks. It’s been a month and I have not receive any such refund.

Today I spent 2 hours on the phone with Vonage. They now refuse to refund my money for the router they broke (even at the lower $149 price) and offered me a maximum refund of $40. I told them that this was unacceptable and then I started getting the run around. I was transferred 5 times to various departments and each time had to re-explain my story. This is extremely poor customer service and after being a loyal customer for 3 years and referring numerous friends and family members to them this is how they repaid me.

Now I am stuck with a broken Linksys Vonage router and a working router which I paid $149 for. To be clear, I purchased the Linksys Vonage WRTP54G at Staples with my own money and was never credited by Vonage for purchasing the router.

Reader Jeff plans to file a complaint with the FCC, and a suit in small claims court. Both are appropriate responses if Vonage refuses to provide reimbursement for the bricked router, as promised. Before filing, hop over a few heads and try to reach Vonage’s plucky 36-year-old interim CEO, Jeff Citron, at: (732) 528-2600.

(Photo: pjbeardsley)

Comments

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  1. durkzilla says:

    Switch to another VoIP provider. I switched to Verizon VoiceWing several months ago since my former Vonage line is my home office number, and I couldn’t run the risk of losing that phone.

    The Verizon websites are pitifully slow, but the service itself is outstanding.

  2. gatopeligroso says:

    Always get thing in writing. A broken promise is a lot easier to win if you have documentation.

  3. theora55 says:

    Ask them to give you enough free service to cover the cost of the router. Your odds of getting cash are slim, but free service is easy for them to grant.

  4. Havok154 says:

    I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Vonage was the worst company I ever had the displeasure of doing business with. I was supposed to get 6 months free for working at a store that sells their service; I got 0. That’s less than a regular new customer. They charged us for a router they sent by mistake and we had sent back. They never got our number ported over and there was never a way to get a hold of a customer service rep, and if I managed to get a hold of someone, they would just tell me to call another number which was only an automated machine. There were like 20 other issues on top of that. BTW, the money they overcharged us, they refused to give us back and kept coming up with different reason on why they didn’t have to.

    No wonder they’re on the verge of going under.

  5. timmus says:

    In my experience WRT54G’s are crap… it seems we’re replacing them every year while the other equipment soldiers on.

  6. ry81984 says:

    WRT54g routers are some of the best routers in existence for soho. I have no idea why you would have to replace one, unless you keep killing them with bad firmware updates.

    Did you know a bad flash is fixable?

    Anyways I have changed the firmware on mine at least 5 times and never had a bad flash.

  7. hwestiii says:

    I don’t even get why Vonage still exists at all. I tried them for about 6 months two and a half years ago, and I don’t think I ever went a week without at least one phone call being disrupted or totally hosed by out of order packets. It sounded like someone had taped a conversation, made confetti of the tape and reassembled it randomly. Not acceptable at all. I also couldn’t get any sort of fax to work. No thanks.

  8. allstarecho says:

    I’ve been with Vonage 3 years now with no problems. I use the router they sent me in conjunction with a WRT54G router for my wireless accress and have been doing so for the same 3 years.. no problems.

  9. Anonymous says:

    A similar thing happened to me (although Vonage did not damage my router). I have the same router and have been a loyal customer of Vonage for approximately 2-3 years. Within the last few months, I started to have a problem with my SimulRing feature. I called every few weeks and the problem would go away and then come back.

    When I last called them, they informed me that it was probably a problem with my wireless Linksys router and they informed me that they would send me the wireless Motorola router for free. Since I purchased my Linksys router, they informed me that the Linksys router was mine to keep and the Motorola router would be the same thing if I ever decided to cancel my service with them so I didn’t have to send it back but if I wanted to send it back to them, I could do so and they would pay for the postage. I didn’t think that it was a problem with my Linksys router but decided to give it a try in case I was mistaken.

    When I received my Motorola router, I activated it and tried the SimulRing feature and had the same problem. Since the Motorla router wasn’t able to do as much as my Linksys router in terms of configurations/settings, I told them that I would send the Motorola router back to them since I wouldn’t be using it and I didn’t want them to later ask me to send it back to them at my cost.

    Well, they told me that because they sent it to me for free, I would have to pay to send it back to them. I reminded them of their promise to me and they informed me that the other customer service rep was mistaken when I was promised that I wouldn’t have to pay to send it back to them.

    I told them that I wished to cancel my service and then they transferred me to the cancellation department where they told me that this customer service rep that I just spoke with was mistaken and they would indeed pay the cost of postage and all I had to do was send it by a trackable means and fax them a copy of my bill.

    I did this and they never credited my account. After 2 weeks when I saw that they received my trackable package back to them, I called them up and they informed me that they never received my fax. They asked me to fax it to them again. I refused saying that I didn’t have a fax machine on my line and I had to pay to fax it to them in the first place so I was losing money by doing this since they were only reimbursing me for the cost of my postage (~$9.00). They told me ‘no fax, no reimbursement’. I told them ‘send me to cancellations’ since for less than $10 and the fact that I have been very patient with my SimulRing feature, I would just cancel. The guy changed his tone and issued me my credit.

    My SimulRing feature still doesn’t work 100% and I’m still with Vonage for the time being.

  10. XTC46 says:

    the WRT54Gs are probably the most stable home use wireless routers on the market. And for under 100 bucks you cant go wrong. (I’m a technician for a company that owns about 20 houses to run our residential services out of, and we use these for homes, we use the Cisco (owner of Linksys) aironets for our business offices)

    I share the posters concern about letting Vonage touching my equipment, if they are logging in it means there is a username/password default for every one of those. Hmm… I think I just found my new project. I’m going to find that password.

  11. chili_dog says:

    I’ve had the WRTP54G with Vonage for at least 2 years, I had a different router before, but a “mishap” killed my other wireless router. I can say that I have had at most 2 or 3 call problems over this time.

  12. CoffeeAddict says:

    VOIP is evil, you get what you pay for especially when it comes to Vonage. I wouldn’t wish Vonage on to my worst enemy.

  13. FLConsumer says:

    WRT54G(L)routers are some of the BEST routers out there. The WRTP54G is a totally different animal. It’s a great phone device, but a terrible router. For the original poster, the WRTP54G & RTP300 use the same Texas Instruments chipset as the Motorola & D-link VoIP router/adapters. The Motorolas are better-built.

    I had Vonage for a few years before I started buying wholesale VoIP. For residential & light commercial use, Viatalk gets my vote. Very customer-friendly and they’ll let you bring any VoIP device you want to their service….and they won’t muck around with it like Vonage will.

    Also, why are you paying $150 for an outdated VoIP device? Go over to Mal-Wart and go pick one of these up for $30. I picked up a couple from Mal-Wart about 2 weeks ago, $30 each. Hacked the firmware & installed a non-Vonage firmware, reconfigured them to work with my PBX and life’s pretty good.

  14. edrebber says:

    Vonage charged my credit card $39.99 when I cancelled the service. I had to dispute the charge with my credit card company.

  15. Bunklung says:

    WRT54G is a great router, not because it’s a Linksys, but because it can run custom firmware. These firmwares can turn a $75 Linksys into a $500 commercial router. Now, there is nothing to write home about with the WRTP54G because it doesn’t support custom firmwares, so it’s just as feature rich and/or stable as the next router from X company. If Vonage doesn’t want to give you the $150 you asked, you could take the $40 and:
    a) Grabbed a Buffalo WHR-G125 for $20AR.
    b) Installed DD-WRT with SIP support.
    c) Picked up a DLINK VTA for cheap.

    Good luck to you. Keep fighting, persistence pays.

  16. BGB-Atlanta says:

    I wouldn’t switch to another VOIP provider too quickly! Only a few months ago I came home to no phone service it all, without any warning. Thank you, SunRocket!!! Vonage had me back up and running in two business days, and I haven’t had a problem with them yet. I realize that Vonage could fold anytime, especially with the Verizon lawsuit still pending, but I feel much more comfortable with them than with Uncle Joe’s VOIP and Screen Door Company.

  17. GearheadGeek says:

    I’ll definitely second the point that the WRT*P*54G is not the same animal.

    Unless you really, demonstrably *NEED* Wireless-N speeds (unlikely), there’s no need to spend much over $50 for a router. How important is it to you for your wireless router to be 20x faster than your internet connection? Let the iPhone customers be the early adopters, when the N standard is finalized you’ll be able to pick up G routers for $9.99 at Fry’s and N routers for $49.99.

    Oh, and buy network hardware from a network company, not a phone company. You’ve now seen how well Vonage does networking…

  18. ShadowFalls says:

    I guess we are not going to point out the fact he replaced an older Wireless-G type router with a Wireless-N Gigabit gaming router and expected to get a full refund? Come on, really…
    He mentioned the Porsche and the Pinto comparison, this would be like comparing a Porsche and a F-22A Raptor.

    I would say $40 is a little low-ball, $50 or $60 would have been more reasonable as a reimbursement.

  19. Pipes says:

    @CoffeeAddict: Nothing wrong with VoIP, it just sounds like Vonage has no or limited quality of service. QoS is very important to IP telephony – otherwise, voice packets will be sent the same as data packets, which are out of order and in an untimely manner.

    If Vonage is your only experience with VoIP, I promise it gets better. In 50 years people will think we were crazy for paying long distance charges.

  20. abigsmurf says:

    “What Vonage and Linksys do not tell you when you purchase this router is that Vonage has 100% full access to your router and can do with it what they choose.”

    That’s set alarm bells ringing in my head. Although I’ve never used Vonage that sounds like the writer is largely misinformed. I cannot see any reason why a VOIP company would need secret access to router controls and there would be a huge outcry in the tech world if this was the case. If Vonage can access your router controls, so can hackers who can then route your connection to a server they own and steal info from all the PCs on a network.

    It sounds like the settings being altered are all on the providers side of things, not router settings. Almost certainly what the operator did was increase the gain on the line. This increases the voltage on the line which lessens the effect of noise and strengthens the signal.

    This has likely blown the router or the routers power supply (check if plug/power supply is unusually hot or buzzing), something which happened to me and resulted in those symptoms.

    Increasing the gain on a line is normal practice for connection problems, the router should’ve been able to take the higher voltage. The router was faulty and it wasn’t Morgan’s fault.

  21. jrebeiro says:

    So I am the reader who posted this comment.

    I will reply to the concerns/comments posted here:

    Q) The WRTP54G costs $50 and I want $149 why?
    A) I purchased the WRTP54G from Staples when it was first released. Sure, you can purchase these things for a few dollars these days but the fact remains that I purchased the WRTP54G for ~$175 when it was first released.

    Q) I cannot see any reason why a VOIP company would need secret access to router controls and there would be a huge outcry in the tech world if this was the case.
    A) Vonage has full access to the “Voice” section of the WRTP54G router and others and has the ability to remotely upgrade the firmware at-will. This new firmware removed my ability to make/receive calls using my VoIP line and prompted me to call Vonage for help. All other Vonage features like call forwarding, which I rely on, worked just fine. This is the reason I never asked them for a service credit for the downtime. I think I am being pretty reasonable considering this firmware update killed my VoIP line and internet connection for more than a week and am only seeking reimbursement for the hardware which THEY broke.

    Q) It sounds like the settings being altered are all on the providers side of things, not router settings. Almost certainly what the operator did was increase the gain on the line. This increases the voltage on the line which lessens the effect of noise and strengthens the signal.

    This has likely blown the router or the routers power supply (check if plug/power supply is unusually hot or buzzing), something which happened to me and resulted in those symptoms.
    A) I have no idea what setting they changed, they won’t tell me. The router is not blown, it constantly reboots when connected to the internet. If I keep it disconnected from the internet I can get into the router and change settings. The router is completely useless. I emailed Morgan on August 8, 2007 explaining that I was able to access the router settings and would like the password so I can downgrade the firmware and never received a response. Morgan has been ignoring my emails. I even cc’d him on the email I sent to Consumerist.com. I then went out and bought a new router as part of the original deal.

    Q) The router was faulty and it wasn’t Morgan’s fault.
    A) I never said it was Morgan’s fault. He was quite helpful over the phone. The router was damaged by a previous technician. Morgan’s only fault was promising to refund me for a router which he apparantly was not authorized to do.

    Q) Also, why are you paying $150 for an outdated VoIP device?
    A) I’m not. When I bought the device it was still selling for full-retail. I have had the thing for about a year or less.

    Q) I guess we are not going to point out the fact he replaced an older Wireless-G type router with a Wireless-N Gigabit gaming router and expected to get a full refund? Come on, really…
    A) Go ahead and point it out, I already did in my post. I purchased based on the original purchase price of the WRTP54G. Also, I told Morgan that I would be purchasing this router. I also mentioned this in the posting. If I felt this was not a suitable resolution I would have left the model numbers out or otherwise tried to gain sympathy.

  22. Zaphâ„¢ says:

    I have had the Linksys WRTP54G and vonage for almost two years and have not had any issues until the newest firmware update. It now crashes within a day of the firmware push. Unfortunately, because Vonage has ultimate control over my router and an automatic update system they keep pushing the faulty firmware two days after the router reset. I am reluctant to call their tech support as it is support by script rather than by any technical knowledge. Plus I know their answer is going to be, “Buy the newest router from us so can continue to keep you from controlling and maintaining your own hardware.”

  23. vonageSUCKS says:

    The following information is what a Vonage Technician told me, and from an article written by CNET about that particular router:

    Vonage automatically updates the firmware for Linksys routers. The rep did not mention if this also done on other brands. I believe Vonage is doing this a courtesy to its customers. However, you have no way knowing when updates are applied or how. This is all behind the scenes.

    In the case of the WRTP54G, the current update is causing problems. Linksys is using a closed system for this particular model, as opposed to the more open Linux that was in earlier ones. CNET described the Linux version as being much better in terms of stability and speed, where as the new system is less so. It was speculated that this was done to sell the router at a lower cost.

    The Vonage tech told me that the company has contacted Linksys which says that the firmware update is in the testing phase and little else. The only viable solution is to either get a replacement router or live with the problems. Another tip I was told is not to use your VOIP router as your main router. You should get a standalone router, connect it to your cable modem, then connect your VOIP router to the main router and forward a port to it.

    Vonage is still selling this router in its VOIP packages at Best Buy.