Verizon Porks Leaving Customer One Last Time

It isn’t so much the incompetence, the obfuscation, the confusing pricing plans, the high prices for absolutely base minimum support. Those things annoy us here at the Consumerist, but at this point we’re almost stoically resigned to them as immutable physical laws. No, what really elicits the wailing and gnashing of teeth here is just how easy it would be for most companies to do the right thing and just how rarely they ever do.

Consider this email we got from John, who was charged an $175 premature cancellation fee by Verizon for breaking his cell phone contract. John believed his contract had already run out, having not been fully told by Verizon when he switched minutes plans that he was essentially renewing his existing contract. What frustrates us (and frustrates John even more so) is just how easy it would have been for Verizon to say, “Well, we can see how you might have been confused. Tell you what, let’s just call it even.” If Verizon had done that, John might have one day decided to return to Verizon as a customer, or at least not be compelled to write us and share his gripes with 10,000 other consumerists. But instead, Verizon decided to gouge a leaving customer one last time.

It’ll cost them — bad word of mouth spreads faster than avian bird flu. John’s email is after the jump.

I’m a frequent visitor to The Consumerist and have enjoyed the informative and helpful nature of this site to the disaffected consumer numb with corporate idiocy and dubious business practices. This email entails the latter, but to start off, I would have never thought that I would be submitting a complaint to
The Consumerist until I had a dubious run-in with Verizon Wireless customer service, the carrier we all love to hate. So here goes:

I signed up for a two year contract with Verizon back in January of 2004. At the time, I was going crazy with Sprint’s spotty network, and dropped calls. To Verizon’s credit, they had a very good coverage area and I experienced little to no issues with connections and calls. Now fast forward to January of 2006. I was solicited by a Verizon Wireless rep to renew my contract agreement. I ultimately decided not to renew my contract with them because of their high equipment costs and relatively expensive calling plans. Another reason was that I had changed jobs and was no longer able to expense my cell phone bill with my new company. In late February, I decided to make the final jump and switch carriers. I ported my number and switched to T-mobile. I’m sure to get some sneers for that move, but I was smitten with the Samsung t809 and I was able to get the kiosk vendor to match a Firefly promotion to get the phone for $200. Anyhow, earlier this week, I received my final statement from Verizon and lo and behold, a $175 early termination fee was assessed. I immediately called customer service and inquired about the charge. To my shock, the customer service rep told me that my contract term actually ended on March 16, 2006. I asked them to give me an explanation for this, to which they cited a calling plan change that I made to increase my minutes. I vaguely remember upgrading my calling plan over the phone because I was being charged with overages with my initial calling plan. Apparently, Verizon treats this as a “new contract” and pushed my contract term to a later date. So far, I have never heard of this being done by Verizon or other carriers. To rub the salt on the wound, Verizon failed to make this apparent to me over the course of my
contract while in the mean time they got rich off my overages, higher calling plan fees, and last but not least, the early termination fee. Having already gone through Verizon’s “Fee grinder” of sorts, they had no qualms about standing firm on their technicality to assess the termination fee. I then asked to speak with a supervisor to which I was put on hold for over ten minutes. I then spoke with a lady who parroted the same response and when I tried to explain my frustration, she suggested that the next step for me would be to bring this up with their contract lawyers for mediation. At that point, I decided it wasn’t worth my time and effort to be put on Verizon’s customer service conveyor belt and expressed my disappointment at Verizon’s dubious business practices and lack of transparency with their contract terms. I mentioned that I would be sharing my Verizon experience with sites such as Consumerist to expose the contract pitfalls that Verizon lays to rip off
unsuspecting consumers.


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Edit Your Comment

  1. Amy Alkon says:

    Companies are behind the times (living in a pre-blog world) if they think letters like John’s don’t make a difference with other consumers. There are a number of times I’ve seen stuff here and elsewhere that’s made me stop from shopping somewhere or using a particular company’s service. Bad will travels fast, all you honchos out there.

  2. GenXCub says:

    The one problem with all of these letters is: You can find a CSR horror story for every large company. Based on this, I’d definitely have qualms about getting Verizon Service. I’ve never had Sprint, but I’d never get it because of their reputation. I’m on Cingular/AT&T because work pays for it… however, I wonder if consumerist should keep a timeline on these things, like “Company that’s gone the longest without an egregious offense.” Someone has to be the “least evil” out there.

  3. non-meat-stick says:

    It is unfortunate your are an uninformed consumer. Realize that your old provider Sprint practices the exact same method and I wouldn’t put it past T-mobile either. It is too bad this was not communicated to you when you signed your original 2 year agreement. But it is also too bad you didn’t read the terms of your contract before agreeing to pay Verizon monthly for 24 months. Kind of makes that 50$ you saved over the 1 year agreement moot? No sympathy here, everybody knows verizon is evil!!

  4. Timbojones says:

    Someone has to be the “least evil” out there.

    Good point! Maybe Consumerist should do a least evil company ladder now that the most evil company has been decided.

  5. Aaron D. says:

    I have had the EXACT same experience, only with my 90 year old grandmother. It had been 3+ years since she got her 2 year contract. When we tried switiching to Cingular, we were told by Verizon th e contract was extended. My grandmother said she vaugley remembered adding more minutes, but never agreed to another contract.

    After a 30 min conversation, my grandmother, very persuasively removed the cancellation fee.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    J. writes:

    Yesterday I was replacing my phone and the guy next to me was complaining about the exact same thing to the “Customer Service Representative”. They had actually turned off his phone for “non-payment”. He explained over and over again that he had been through this on the phone, but Verizon was deaf to his pleas. He stormed off, a very unhappy (former) customer. And then a few minutes later, I was in another line (way to go, Verizon) and someone else was very politely complaining that he’d bought a $30 plastic clip that had snapped two days after his purchase. The reps just kept on robotically repeating that it was “physical damage” and wouldn’t replace it. This customer, by the way, had a $300 phone and had been with Verizon for a long time. After a while, when none of the “managers” would bother helping him, he understandably got a bit mad and walked out. I doubt he’ll be renewing his contract. Good one, Verizon: for a 45-cent piece of plastic, they just lost hundreds and hundreds of dollars in guaranteed revenue.