Verizon Charges Customer $299 For Refurbished iPhone That Never Worked

It hasn’t even been two years since a New Jersey teen first received his iPhone 4. He’s since been through four of the devices, following a string of faulty refurbished replacements. To rub salt in that wound, Verizon Wireless charged him $299 for the most recent refurb, claiming the damage was his fault.

Telling their story to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, the teen and his parents say the initial iPhone 4 started acting up in Feb. 2012. That’s when the Home button just stopped working.

A trip to the Apple store confirmed the issue, and that it could not be repaired on-site. So the customer received his first of many refurbs.

That phone began failing within the first month, turning itself off at random. This time, the family packed it up and sent it to Verizon, which sent out a second refurb replacement.

The teen says that this one never worked from the moment he opened the box.

“(It) had problems where the phone would not stay turned on and would shut off even when charged,” he tells Bamboozled.

And so it was that refurb replacement #3 arrived.

A few weeks later, Verizon tells the family that they owe $299 for this latest replacement iPhone, claiming that the problem wasn’t a manufacturing defect but water damage.

The family says Verizon refused to listen to its assertion that the phone had never been near water and had never worked.

Verizon sent photos of the iPhone to the family, but the family expressed doubt that the images they were seeing were even of the phone that had been returned. Since the family had not taken photos of their own or documented the phone’s serial numbers before returning it, they were unable to prove their case.

“We got the bill for someone else’s damage,” says the mom. “I think either they mixed up the phones or gave us a defective phone in the first place.”

The teen says he’s actually repaid his parents for the cost of the original phone and the $299 replacement. In total, he estimates he’s spent $600 “for this phone, which they now give out for free with a two-year plan.”

After Bamboozled got involved, the family had a fruitless conference call with Verizon in which a company rep refused to budge on the disputed water damage.

Then the family received a call from Verizon, offering them $136 — what would have been paid if they had insurance on the phone — but only if the son signed a non-disclosure agreement.

“We are not inclined to do so at this point,” says the mom, who wants other customers to be alert to the potential for problems with refurbs. “The whole process illustrates that whatever goes on with the refurbishing process is not foolproof.”