Update: Verizon Changes Mind, Says It Will Give Refunds To Storm Victims If They Ask For Them

Since we first posted this, Verizon has changed its mind and announced that it will provide service credits to storm victims in Southern Illinois who were without service for most of the month. The credits won’t be automatic; to qualify for them, affected residents must call 800-837-4966 (1-800-VERIZON) to tell the company that they were without service.



Here’s the original post:

Amy wrote to us today to let us know that Verizon has changed its mind and won’t be offering any sort of credit or refund to residents in Southern Illinois who have been without phone service most of this month, despite earlier statements that they would. The local paper The Southern writes, “Customers will be billed for the full month’s service, despite many of them being without it for nearly three weeks.”

Here’s Amy’s own experience with the storm and Verizon:

On May 8th, we were hit by a horrible storm. We had winds in excess of 100 mph. Houses across three counties were destroyed, and thousands upon thousands of trees were uprooted or broken. We were without power for almost a week, but Ameren worked extremely hard to get it back on. Once they were finished, Verizon could start.

I finally got my phone/internet back May 27th. We were two days away from being without phone/internet for three weeks. Today (May 28th), I see a story in our local newspaper that Verizon will be issuing NO credits for this time. This, despite the fact that they were announcing that there would be credits, during the first week or so after the storm, when the media attention was the strongest.

A Verizon spokesperson told The Southern that Verizon will only prorate bills when they’re directly responsible for outages. He also noted that only about 5% of the 100,000 or so customers in the area were without service, so you’d think Verizon could try to help out. Instead, we imagine Verizon is thinking that if only 5,000 customers are screwed, it won’t make enough of a blip on the media radar to hurt them. (Sure enough, the only stories to turn up on a Google News search are from The Southern.)

“Verizon will offer storm credits” [The Southern]
“No phone service? No luck – Verizon says no refunds after storm outages” [The Southern]
(Photo: Eric Hauser)

Comments

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  1. dragonfire81 says:

    Is a company allowed to bill you for services NOT rendered?

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    Although this doesn’t surprise me, cell phone companies and the phrase “reasonable billing practices” are seldom found together.

  3. menty666 says:

    Well, Verizon knew their lines would be outside, so it’s their fault they didn’t engineer the connections in such a way they could take high winds and water. So it’s their fault.

    Jerks. Honestly the amount they lose in money will gain them twice as much good will in the press.

    • Coles_Law says:

      @menty666: I agree that Verizon should prorate this month’s charges, but if they designed phone lines to resist this kind of storm they’d be nine inches thick and laid along the ground.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Coles_Law:

        That’s the same storm that hit us and spawned 18 tornadoes, one of which tried to eat my workplace while we were all in it.

        In this part of the country, this kind of damage is a distinct possibility. Derecho storms are kind of rare anyway (thank God!). Even if they had underground lines, they still have to come out at some point to connect, so there isn’t any way to completely protect them. Whoever maintains the physical lines should be aware of this.

        They really do need to prorate it. It’s not fair to charge when there’s no service, act of God or not.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @HogwartsAlum: Yeah, and it’s one thing to be without service for a day in tornado country, but if it takes longer than that to get phone or internet back up, I really expect pro-rating.

          (I have Ameren for gas and electric, and their brilliant storm service idea for blizzards was that if there was a blizzard in Illinois, they’d send crews from Missouri to help get the lines back up faster, and if there was one in Missouri, they’d send crews from Illinois. BECAUSE NO STORM EVER IGNORED STATE BOUNDARIES AND BLIZZARDED ON TWO STATES AT ONCE. The region was without power for DAYS. Morons.)

          • HogwartsAlum says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!):

            Don’t ya just love it?

            Cripes, I hope I can make enough money just to GET OUT OF HERE. The tornadoes have gone from south of town, to south town, to midtown, to four blocks away, to right across the street. That’s too close. The next one’s gonna get me, I just know it.

  4. DrRonster says:

    Dropped Verizon in December. Tracfone is averaging $15 a month for both of our phones together. I hate phones in general, so its for emergencies. If I loose service I dont use up the minutes.

  5. chris_d says:

    Just an FYI: this is Verizon Communications that they’re talking about, not Verizon Wireless. VZC owns 55% of VZW. They’re not technically the same company, although I can see VZW doing the exact same thing. VZC is the incumbent local exchange carrier in southern Illinois due to their purchase of GTE in 2000. I believe this area is up for sale to Frontier right now, but has not (yet) passed regulatory review.

  6. Skaperen says:

    If the service was unusable because the customer’s own electricity was out, but would have worked if the customer had electricity (such as from a generator), then I could understand not prorating … because they were in fact providing the service whether it was actually used or not.

    But if their own suppliers (e.g. the electric company that provides power for Verizon’s own equipment, and the pole space for them to run the wires) don’t provide, it’s still a case of them not providing a service. They probably have a case to recover the losses from their insurance coverage. They probably have no case to recover from the electric company. They certainly have no right to demand payment for service not rendered.

    This is yet another case of corporate irresponsibility.

    • icantreplyright says:

      @Skaperen: Exactly. And you mention “They probably have a case to recover the losses from their insurance coverage.” …they probably ARE.

  7. sponica says:

    I don’t follow the logic of Verizon…people had no service through no fault of Verizon’s but they still want to bill people for the landline they couldn’t use? Heck during the ice storm of 2008 in NH, evil Comcast credited my mother for the loss in service she experienced through no fault of Comcast’s. I mean..practically EVERY tree in southern NH was damaged. Although my mom was one of the flukes who still had power…but no cable or internet.

    Really Verizon, do you want COMCAST to be better than you?

    • Kimaroo - 100% Pure Natural Kitteh says:

      @sponica: Comcast credited us for the outage due to hurricane Ike as well.. They are pretty good about giving credit when your power is out no matter what.

  8. H3ion says:

    Does Illinois have a Public Service Commission that would intervene in a case like this? I can see no credit for a short outage but three weeks? A mass complaint from all who were affected might get the government off its duff and on the side of its citizens.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @H3ion: We have a Citizen’s Utility Board which is pretty proactive, but we also have major complaints pending against virtually every utility in the state. Things are not well-run.

  9. hamburglar says:

    Whether or not Verizon was “directly responsible” for the storm that caused the outage, the fact remains that they were not providing service for almost three weeks (and from the context of the linked article, it doesn’t sound like everyone has been restored yet). That they feel they can still bill for that service is simply shameful.

  10. West Coast Secessionist says:

    Incumbent land line companies are astonishingly entitled. They seem to think they deserve your money for simply declaring that you have phone service — whether or not you actually do.

    The cable company will come into your house or apartment, install their equipment, and make sure your TV, phone, and computer have access to the 3 services you’re paying for before they leave… The phone company, for their phone service, is content to just begin billing you for the service, without ever sending anyone to the premises or confirming that you have dial tone. They’ll just remotely “light up” two random terminals in a phone box somewhere in your building and declare their job done. Yes, it’s legislated that that’s their only legal obligation, but I’ve got news for them–doing the absolute MINIMUM mandated by law to help your customers is a pretty shitty business model, and I’ll take my business elsewhere if that’s how they’re gonna play it.

  11. levenhopper says:

    This is one of those cases I’d be really interested in reading a follow-up article on, to see what ends up happening…

  12. jaydez says:

    haha. I read that title and thought they were talking about the Blackberry Storm. My girlfriend has that phone, and is on her 2nd. It has to be the least reliable phone I have ever seen. It crashes at least 4 times a day and no one knows why.

    • c_c says:

      @jaydez:

      Ha that’s what I thought too when I first read it, I was like “damn that poor phone gets a lot of bad press!”

    • rickatnight11 says:

      @jaydez:
      Same here. My girlfriend was super excited to get the Storm, even though I warned her against it. She hated it as soon as she got it, and it broke three weeks in.

    • SanDiegoDude says:

      @jaydez: Word at crackberry is the big V is finally going to be releasing an official operating system update… I’ve been running the leaked version of that OS (4.7.148) for awhile now and I gotta say, it’s WAY better than the release OS Verizon shoveled on Storm users.

  13. chucklebuck says:

    I smell lawsuit^H^H^H^H^H^H^H mandatory binding arbitration!

  14. slimBoost says:

    I really thought this headline meant the Blackberry Storm and I got really excited :(

    • SanDiegoDude says:

      @slimBoost: LOL ditto! although I must say, I love my Storm running a leaked OS version I found on Crackberry.com. I really feel sorry for Storm owners running the HORRID verizon “official” operating system… My Storm crashed within 1 minute of me turning it on the first time. At that moment is when I decided to go looking for 3rd party help, and Crackberry had what I needed.

    • Jason Miller says:

      @slimBoost:

      i had exactly the same reaction = (

  15. Ronin-Democrat says:

    How ironic, calling to get a credit for no phone service….

  16. parnote says:

    The true Verizon “Storm” victims are the ones who purchased the Blackberry Storm. I’m included in that group. While it has many “cool features,” it truly SUCKS as a phone. Any conversation over it sounds as if it’s occurring from the bottom of a 55 gallon drum! And the poor sound quality doesn’t matter if you are speaking on the handset or using a bluetooth device. Now, I’m stuck with it until my two year contract is up. ARGH!

  17. hamburglar says:

    After the original post last night, I sent an email to Lee Gierczynski, the Verizon spokesperson quoted in the original news story, essentially saying “for shame.” This morning I received the following reply:

    Mr. [hamburglar]:

    The article you reference contained inaccurate information.

    Verizon in fact is providing credits to customers for the time they have been without service, and the paper ran a clarification, which obviously you did not see.

    The “policy” the article refers to is not a company policy. The reporter failed to note that what it actually referenced was a section of the Illinois Public Utility Code dealing with service outage credits and exceptions to the rule, which include emergencies as defined by the Commission. However, what the reporter asked about was automatic credits, which the company is not offering. Credits are being given to any customer that contacts Verizon to report a service outage because that is the only way we know for sure that a customer was out of service. [emphasis added] This is something Verizon does companywide, regardless of what the regulatory rules may dictate in a specific state.

    The storm that hit southern Illinois was not just your average spring storm. It was a hurricane-like event. Our crews have been working non-stop since May 8 to restore service. To give you an idea of the impact, our crews have replaced nearly 500 telephone poles, more than 98 miles of individual phone lines to customer homes and are replacing more than 13 miles of larger, main telephone cables scattered across 128 locations in southern Illinois.

    Thanks for your feedback, and I hope this clarifies the situation for you.

    Lee

    Giving prorated credits to those who ask, since it would be difficult or impossible to determine who has been without service: That makes a lot more sense.

    Not to completely tow the company line here, but it seems like this is potentially less a matter of Verizon “changing its mind” and more a matter of sloppy reporting in the original news story.

  18. Bocachica says:

    Why on earth does anyone still have a cellphone with a contract? This proves that prepaid is the only way to go… again!