Verizon is finally installing FiOS in my area. But I’ll never use it. I’ll never sign up for another Verizon account in my life, and I’m encouraging my parents to change to a different service when their Verizon cell contracts end soon. Over the course of eight months, I’ve become completely appalled at the horrible customer service I’ve gotten from that company.
This all started in March of this year, St. Patrick’s Day, to be precise. While out with friends, my phone slipped out of my pocket without me noticing. It wasn’t until the next morning (Sunday) that I realized I didn’t have my LG Chocolate phone. I traced my footsteps back, hoping I’d be able to find it, with no luck. A couple of hours later, when my roommate woke up, he realized he had a missed call. Hours after I lost the phone, someone had called his number from it. They left no message, and when we tried calling the phone back, it would go straight to voicemail. Hoping that whoever had the phone would call back again, I held off on contacting Verizon to report the phone stolen. By Monday morning, having still not been able to contact the person who had my phone, I called Verizon and reported all the details I’ve relayed so far – not only that my phone was lost, but that someone apparently had the phone. I was told that the phone would be placed on Verizon’s lost/stolen list so that if someone else attempted to register the phone on a Verizon Wireless account, they would be able to do so (although I would not be given this information to help me find the phone). The phone would also be deactivated for a month and would be removed from my account.
Writing the phone off as gone, I bought a used Verizon Razr off eBay, which I received within a few days. I once again called up Verizon Customer Service. In that call, I registered the Razr with my account, and also checked again that my old phone was off my account. I was told that because my account was a single-phone plan, there was no way for both the Chocolate and the Razr to be registered simultaneously. The Razr was associated with my account, and therefor the Chocolate could no longer be used with my account.
Fast forward one month, towards the end of April. I logged into my bank’s online access, and realized I had a negative amount of money, when I should have had a few hundred dollars. Looking at the pending transactions, a charge of $435.03 had been debited from my account the day before. I was stunned. The only bill I pay that’s over $150 is my rent – there was no reason I should have such a large debit on my account. I hadn’t lost my debit card, so I first checked those accounts which are automatically debited from my checking account. It didn’t take long to find the culprit. Verizon showed a just-paid bill – sum $435.03. I opened the bill online and quickly scanned it – I had a couple of new media services that had been added to my bill (which then charged me for the prorated current month, plus next month for each of the services). But the kicker was the hundreds of dollars of data downloads. Music, games, ringtones – if you could get it from VZServe, it was charged to my account.
Remember also that this is the end of April – the 20th, in fact. I have to send my rent check out, but I have negative money. I call Verizon, and explain the situation. I’m already pretty sure of what’s happened – the month that the Chocolate was deactivated for is over, and whoever has it is using it to make charges to my account. To make a long story short, I talk to numerous customer service reps over the next few days, explaining and reexplaining the situation. I am told that it is impossible for the Chocolate to still be able to charge downloads to account. I am told numerous times by supervisors and regular reps that they’re looking into the issue and will call me back in an hour/this evening/tomorrow morning. I am told that I am lying, and that I must go to my local Verizon store and show them my Razr to prove that the data downloaded is not on that phone. I spend two hours sitting in that store, waiting as the store rep talks to the customer service rep, on my phone. It is determined that the data is not on the Razr.
Finally, on the 26th, I get somewhere. A database tech hears about my problem and looks into it. Apparently, when the Chocolate was deactivated and taken off my account, there was a problem. The Chocolate was removed from my account for the most part, but in some database, it was still connected to my account. This might, incidentally, explain why there were times when friends would call me and the line would ring and ring, without going to voicemail, and without my Razr ever actually ringing. Troy Brice, the supervisor I’ve been talking with for the past day or so, apologizes again and again. Yes, they can cancel my service. No, they won’t charge me an early termination fee. They’ll refund my entire bill (even the part that was actually my bill), and they’ll even pay me back the horrible $100 overdraft fee that my checking account incurred for being so overdrawn (though I was required to send them a screenshot of my online checking account to prove that I was charged an overdraft fee). I get only apologies for the fact that I haven’t had any money for the past week, as this fell between my biweekly paychecks. I should get my money in 4-6 weeks. Yeah, 4-6 weeks. This is, obviously, not acceptable. Troy and I chat for a little while, and he discovers that he can expedite the transaction. I’ll have my money in 2-3 days – the amount is just under $600.
Late the next week, I do get my money deposited into my checking account – about $300. This pissed me off. I had no problem paying my actual bill, but my actual bill was only about $55, not $300. I go to their website and attempt to log into my account, but I can’t. That was shut down when I closed the account. So I call customer service again and explain the situation. Again. They grant me limited access to my online account so that I’m able to see my last couple of bills. I quickly spot the problem – they’re still charging me for the extra services and the data downloaded through them. I call Troy’s line and leave a message. No reply back. Ever. So I go back to the regular reps. Again and again, they can’t help me. My calls are dropped. They can’t request refunds. When they can and take my bank information, the refund request is gone when I call back later to see how it’s going. There are no supervisors available.
Finally, after dealing with this for over a month, I give up. I got some of my money back and I’ll never have to deal with them again – I’ve got a new Cingular phone. Not a perfect solution, but better than nothing.
Fast forward to yesterday, December 10th. I have, in the intervening time, moved. I go to my mom’s house, where I still get some mail because I used it as my permanent address while I was in college. And I have mail! I owe Verizon $114.07 and they’ve sold my account to Miracle Financial Inc, a collection agency. Add the agency’s fees, and they want $134.60 from me. I have 30 days to dispute the validity of the claim.
I call the agency’s number, at about 5:15 PM, and talk to [redacted], who is surprisingly polite and helpful, though she does ask me multiple times if I’d like to settle the debt, even though the first thing I told her was that I was calling to dispute the entire thing. She asks me to explain, and I do. She tells me that she can put a comment that I’m disputing the debt in the notes on the account, but that I should fax a letter, detailing why I’m disputing the debt, to the agency’s Client Service Department, and gives me the fax number. They will then contact Verizon directly and discuss it with them.
I then call Verizon. At this point, I now want all my money back, so all I want right now is my bills. I’d had copies of them on my laptop but, foolishly, I’d deleted them after a few months. I need them in order to itemize each item and see what I should and shouldn’t be charged for. Zach (who won’t give me his last name), the supervisor who I explained my situation to, cannot give me access to my Verizon online account. He also cannot email or fax the bills. He can only send them by mail, which might take a few weeks for me to actually receive them. I inquire as to when I was first billed the $114.07 – July. So my account is already, in Verizon’s eyes and quite possibly in the eyes of various credit reporting agencies, five months past due. Plus, I’ve got that 30 day deadline to dispute the debt.
A quick sidenote – Zach checked what address they had on file for me – it was my previous address. I’d never updated them because I had no business with them anymore. So I never received the bill back in July. Why I was billed in July for a service I cancelled in April, I have no idea.
I told Zach to please send me the July bill, and the last three bills before the account was closed.
I then went to consumerist.com and looked up Verizon’s Executive Customer Service number. I called the number, and left a message, detailing my tale much more concisely than I’ve done here and asked to be called back. It’s now 9:30 AM, and I haven’t heard back yet. I’ll call again later this morning. As soon as I send this, I’m writing a fax to send to the collection agency, ccing it to whatever fax numbers I can find for Verizon.
I’ll send updates as more happens (or doesn’t happen, which is more probable given Verizon’s track record on this issue).
Yuck! We certainly do hope that Verizon is able to call off the debt collectors because there’s not much you can do once your debt has been sold. We have some tips for dealing with abusive debt collectors by phone, and a sample letter for disputing a debt collection notice.