Can Verizon Hike My Cable Box Rent In The Middle Of A Contract?

Jeanne has had her Verizon FiOS settop boxes for three years now, and the rent for them has remained the same. Until now. The difference is only a dollar, but what vexes her is that she just signed a contract in order to get a discount on her service. They shouldn’t be able to raise the rent when she’s signed a contract. Should they? And why is the rent higher when she still has the same old boxes?

I just received my Verizon cable/internet bill and noticed a strange $1 fee for partial month set top box rental, and then noticed that the monthly rent on each box had increased by $1.

Verizon did not notify me, nor call out the increased rental fee on the bill.

When I called Verizon I was told that there was nothing they could do, the rental price for all boxes of this type had increased, and the hold time for a supervisor was 45 to 60 minutes.
These are the same boxes that I have had for almost three years, and they have not provided any increase in service.

My current options are limited because I stupidly agreed to a two-year contract in December to secure a $5/month discount after they increased the monthly fee by $10. And they are giving out $300 gift cards for new installations with no contract. [hand to forehead]

1. Can they increase the rent on an item that’s already installed?
2. Can they do it without notice?
3. Is there someone I can complain to at the FCC?

You can try to make the case that the raised fee is a materially adverse charge, but that depends on the contact of the contract that you signed with Verizon. You can also try to just get the rental fee waived for the remainder of the contract. Verizon has proven receptive to executive e-mail carpet bomb in the past.

Comments

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  1. TuxMan says:

    Read the contract. It protects them, not you. Cancel or pay up.

    • Geekybiker says:

      Yup. Contracts with service providers almost always say they can do whatever they like and all you can do is leave without additional fees.

    • KenyaDigIt says:

      Actually, contracts that say one party can do anything while the other party is still limited in their actions are generally held as invalid, especially when the party who can do anything is a large business and the other is a customer.

  2. FatLynn says:

    Great pic.

    • chemmy says:

      Cable bills are too damn high! I just returned my cable box to Charter last night.

      • Shouhdes says:

        You will be getting it back soon enough, or not getting any cable.

        Company is going Digital Only at a decent clip. Several areas will be Digital Only by the end of the year.

      • Shouhdes says:

        Unless you have a QAM tuner.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Jimmy MacMillan. Always relevant.

  3. Lackwit says:

    “…that depends on the contact of the contract that you singed with Verizon.”

    Well, there’s the problem. Next time burn it, don’t just singe it.

  4. Important Business Man (Formerly Will Print T-shirts For Food) says:

    I wish I lived 50 years ago when companies actually cared about their customers.

    • huadpe says:

      They didn’t.

      When AT&T was the monopoly, you had to rent your phone from them, and they charged out the wazoo.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        That’s because they were THE phone company. This is why monopolies, granted or de facto, should be illegal.

        • Kate says:

          And there was much screaming from people that felt there was no reason to break up Bell.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      50 years ago they still screwed you and there was no Internet to publicize it.

    • majortom1981 says:

      No you dont. There was a reason why they broke up ma bell

  5. Goatweed says:

    The contract is for the bundle (which comes with 1 box), it doesn’t cover additional boxes unless that is stated in the contract agreement.

    If you have three or more boxes you may be entitled for a group discount on them (I am). Worst case, call them up and speak directly to retention. They’re usually pretty good about compromise and may give you a monthly credit to offset the charge for 12 months or so.

  6. MonkeyMonk says:

    I had a similar thing happen with Verizon. I signed a 2-year contract at a price “guaranteed for 2 years” and when it was over I was paying a good $3 more per month than when I started. Most of the increases were due to taxes and equipment rental fees.

    I recommend ponying up the additional $1/month and then do what I did: Cancel cable.

    It’s kinda nice not having TV cable service. I kept Internet for streaming and it suits me just fine w/ the $35 antenna I bought for local channels.

    Also on the plus side, Verizon has made numerous offers since I cut cable to try to get me back. The offers have gotten so good that they’re already a good $10-$15 lower a month than what I originally signed up for 2.5 years ago.

  7. Extended-Warranty says:

    Why are you here asking us? Don’t you read what you sign?

    Was it a contract locking in all prices, or a commitment that you will purchase service from them?

    • bmath18 says:

      Great question i am sure since this is the consumerist and every commenter on here is perfect you read the terms and conditions for every product/service you sign up for because you know this is the internet and comment posters never do anything wrong.

      • belsonc says:

        Punctuation.

        Learn it, live it, love it.

        • bmath18 says:

          internet tough guy who always fall back on grammar, continue to be an internet superstar and offer nothing to society….grammar is not important when your audience is mentally incapable of understanding common sense, etiquette, and common decency in discussions, but that is ok, +1 to your awesome internet comment war. when you have nothing to add the best comment is always nice punctuation but that is fine keep fighting that awesome battle and making consumerist a helpful place by pointing this out…how’s that for a run on sentence. and no capital letters? oh my i must be the devil or by your standards i must be mentally retarded because i don’t spend my time trying to get a passing grade in your writing class

      • j2.718ff says:

        like using run-on sentences?

        I didn’t read the comment as yelling at anyone. Rather, he appeared to be indicating where the answer likely is: in the contract. The OP might want to pull it out and take a look now.

    • shepd says:

      For a contract to be valid, it has to be a two way offer. You cannot get into a legitimate contract whereby you only agree to purchase service for 3 years for no benefit to yourself. Instead, it would need to be something exactly like “3 years for this discounted price”, or “3 years, get free installation”, etc, etc.

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        You cannot get into a legitimate contract whereby you only agree to purchase service for 3 years for no benefit to yourself.

        What? The benefit to you is that you get the service.

        • shepd says:

          In that case, I imagine the Cableco would need to prove they would not offer the service at all if you didn’t sign for three years.

          I’ve never seen that in my whole life, not even for rural areas (although I have seen expensive install fees in those cases, like $25,000 to run cables, but those aren’t waived by getting the service for 3 years). The judge would call bullshit.

          They couldn’t argue that you got a discount instead, because if they did, then hiking the rates is a material change in the entire reason for getting the contract.

  8. MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

    My guess is that the contract was for the content package only, and didn’t specify equipment rental prices at all. I’d say complain to the FCC anyway, and your local cable/utility commission, as the former scares the telecos more, but the latter is more likely to act and will do it more quickly.

  9. Thyme for an edit button says:

    People who ask about whether a company can do something based on the contract should really include a copy of the contract.

  10. BurtReynolds says:

    I received a letter in the mail saying the rate was increasing. Not sure what happened with the OP. I’m not one to defend Verizon, but they did inform my house anyway.

    If it were up to me, I’d cancel the whole thing except the 35/35 internet, but my wife feels differently about the need for TV.

    • frank64 says:

      The “I would cancel cable but……” is why they can do what they do. People say it isn’t worth it but I need my sports, or I need the food channel.

      Cable companies know they can rook most everyone because most people have a “but”.

    • raitch says:

      I got the same letter.

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    You’ve had it for three years? Buy the damn thing outright and save yourself a lot of money.

    • Cat says:

      Aye, there’s the rub: You can not buy it. Why would pay tv company allow you to purchase a device that is a source of recurring income for them?

      Reminds me of the “good old days” when you HAD to lease your telephone from the phone company – they would not permit you to buy one.

      • kathygnome says:

        You can’t buy their box, but you can buy a TIVO. You lose on demand titles though. Comcast is just now rolling that out to tivo’s and it isn’t even on the horizon as far as I know for Fios.

        • kingofmars says:

          Tivo is an option. So is Windows Media Center with a $5 a month cable card and ~$200 quad tuner. Granted this is more complicated, but there is not a monthly service fee with WMC.

  12. chucklesjh says:

    DirecTV did this in February when the fees for the DVR service went up a dollar to $8 and all of the package prices increased. Surprisingly enough, I don’t recall seeing any posts on Consumerist regarding that.

    Read your customer agreement, they reserve the right to increase fees at any time and you can’t do anything about it but complain and they /might/ give you a credit.

    • dpeters11 says:

      But they don’t require you to sign a contract to get a discount, and they definitely notified customers. I know I got an email.

  13. homehome says:

    I have fios and it’s in the contract that they can do that. End of story. If you don’t like it, cancel.

  14. daveinva says:

    Awww, great…. I just signed that *very same* two year contract with FIOS last week.

    I love my FIOS service, why not save the $5 bucks a month for something I wasn’t going to get rid of?

    But noooooooo, now I have to be paranoid that they’re going to start billing me more for my ancient DVRs and that crappy CRAPPY old router they give you. Blech.

  15. PhiTauBill says:

    It’s not just the equipment costs that will be rising wtih FIOS… http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57435906-94/verizon-plans-price-hikes-for-fios-wireless-users/

  16. gnubian says:

    Comcast does the same .. business class service, 3 year contract .. Noticed my monthly charges had gone up $2/mo .. called to sort out why when I was contracted into the amount and it shouldn’t change. They have a clause in the contract that allows them to raise the cost of equipment charges. They also have a nice CSR who then turned around and waived $60 worth of modem rental fees which evened things out again.

    To quell any “why don’t you just buy your own modem?” curiosity .. I can’t .. If you have static IP addresses (I have 5), you have to use the Comcast provided equipment.

  17. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I’m surprised no one answered the question above with “because they can”. Plain and simple. And if you’re really unlucky, like I am with Comcast, you don’t have an alternative other than canceling cable all together.

  18. KenyaDigIt says:

    I’ve done this song and dance before. Here’s how I handled it and it worked out well. The main problem is that very few people understand what a contract really means, so sometimes you have to explain it in extremely plain English. Here’s what you do:

    Let them know that you had an agreed upon monthly charge for their services, cable box included, and they have increased this charge without your permission, which is a violation of the contract. If they raise any objection to waiving the fee, ask them, “Would it be fair if I reduced my monthly bill without your permission and only started paying half?” This has always elicited a “No” response when I’ve done it. Follow up by asking, “Then why do you think it’s fair to raise my monthly bill even though we’ve already agreed upon a monthly price in a contract?”

    This has always worked for me, and they’ve never had to get the supervisor. I think something about the clear reasonableness of the contract makes the employee realize the company is treating you unfairly, and they suddenly feel obligated to help you.

    • homehome says:

      No, it’s not that, it’s just the policy is to hold strong until the customer starts crying.

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    Between the fine print and an attitude of the step child cry baby bell that Verizon is they will try to do anything they can get away with in the name of greed.

  20. SabreDC says:

    The problem is that they aren’t raising the rate of your *service*. You pay a contract for services that cost $X/month. This is an increase in the STB rental price. It’s a sneaky tactic, but the price of your STB isn’t in your contract. The agreement specifies “Rate may increase after 24 months. 2-year agreement req’d. Beginning month 2, up to $230 early termination fee (w/ $10/mo. prorated reduction) applies. Other fees, taxes, equipment charges & terms apply.” The rate is staying the same for your contract’s duration.

    Also, notification of this rate increase was distributed months ago along with bills (and to email addresses associated with FIOS). I got 4 notices for my FIOS subscription. It was also on the Consumerist. While I disagree with this tactic, this really shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

  21. Professor59 says:

    They probably saw Comcast doing and said what the heck. My modem rental went from $5 to $7 to $10 a month in 6- month increments. Did my modem get any better? No, it’s the same ten year old modem they gave me three years ago.

  22. diagoro says:

    It’s that ‘small print’ disclaimer at the end of the contract which states “we can change the terms of the contract at any time for any reason. You, as a customer, are legally bound to ‘suck it up’ and deal with it.”

    And all this, without any guarantee as to the quality of service…

  23. baristabrawl says:

    Changing the terms of a contract during the contract voids the contract, right? Right?

  24. scottd34 says:

    So you signed a 2 year contract to get a $5 per month raise in rates, and then didnt bother to read the contract and youre surprised you got extra fees? Sorry, but you should have read the contract before signing and if you didnt agree with it then dont sign it. It isnt the companies fault, they didnt force you to sign it so ya dont be surprised when they wont reverse it.

  25. syxx says:

    Are you still under contract? Also I hate how Laura always tries to get people to e-mail carpet bomb Verizon for every little thing.

  26. Yorick says:

    Verizon can’t even close my account, how can you expect them to do any billing correctly?

    I still get a bill by email and by mail (forwarded from my old address) telling me I have to pay them $0.