Verizon Keeps Making Up Contract law To Prevent Customers From Cancelling Without Penalty

Michael tried to cancel Verizon without early termination fee because they raised the basic text messaging rate from .10-.15 dollars. Two customer service reps approved the disconnect without fee, but then it got rejected by the disconnect department. Their reason was that 1) 60 days had passed since the notice of the change was sent out and 2) Since Michael hadn’t used “enough” of the text messages, the change wasn’t materially adverse.

Listen to the voicemail Shamaya left him

Let’s recap: If one party changes the contract in a materially adverse way, such as increasing a price, the contract is void. We just had pizza and wine with a lawyer last night and he confirmed this was the case. It doesn’t matter if it’s 60 days or 600 years, the contract is completely over.

Also, the degree of adverse change doesn’t matter a wit either. Michael could be paying one extra cent a month, and it would still be materially adverse.

Michael sent the following complaint letter…

(Photo: Meghann Marco)

date May 6, 2007 3:54 PM
subject Need Immediate Assistance

To Whom it May Concern:

I cancelled my Verizon account on Friday, April 13th, 2007. I did this in response to a fee increase levied by Verizon in regards to text messages increasing from .10 to .15 per message. This directly and adversely affected me as I would send 10-20 text messages per month and the total would be $1.00 to $2.00. With the increase I would be “forced” to pay for a text messaging plan that I would not use completely.

I called your customer service and spoke with Diane who was in your Escalation Queue and after speaking with her for sometime, she agreed to waive the cancellation fee and noted my account accordingly. A few weeks later, I received my final bill in the mail stating that I indeed owed the $175 (see attached PDF). I called customer service once again and spoke with a Shamaya (pardon my spelling) and she did see that the account was approved for the waiving of the fee and promptly re-submitted it.

On Thursday, May 3, 2007, Shamaya left me a voicemail stating that we cannot honor this request, even though it was already approved and verified twice by your CSR’s. I have attached the voicemail to this message as well for you to hear (if you are unable to receive a ZIP file please let me know and I can forward it on in another way.) Shamaya stated that I did not do this properly and it does not adversely affect me in anyway. Unfortunately, nor Shamaya or your company knows what adversely affects myself or my family.

I do not understand how I can go about this in any other way. Everything was approved and then the rug was ripped out from under my feet during this process. I am hoping by contacting you directly you can point me in the right direction to resolve this issue. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.


Michael K.


Good job, hold their feet to the fire. If those emails don’t get you anywhere, try calling these 14 Verizon Executives’ Phone Numbers. — BEN POPKEN


Edit Your Comment

  1. gwong says:

    I’d like to know what Verizon considers to be “materially adverse.”

  2. timmus says:

    Thanks for getting the word out… if there’s anything worse than Verizon screwing people over it’s the fact that people keep flocking to Verizon. This is one reason why I will NEVER, EVER get into contracts with a megacorp unless it’s for something like a mortgage.

  3. If this is the case, why do so many moving companies get away with holding people’s stuff hostage and jacking up the prices before they’ll deliver (despite signed contracts)? There seems to be no regulation on this.

  4. heller01 says:

    How about cc’ing the BBB in one of those e-mails? That’d be sure to get the attention of these guys. Quite frankly, I find it ridiculous that Verizon thinks that it can continue to get away with this. They won’t stop until they finally get smacked down by the government for their misleading business practices.

  5. dragonflight says:

    I had to piss off enough people to be elevated before they finally refunded our cancellation fees. It took somewhere around three months, but it was worth it as I am paying just slightly over half of what I was before because I was able to consolidate two accounts into one.

  6. eldergias says:

    Question: Can you cancel a cell phone account but still retain the cellphone number and move it to another cell phone service?

    I am in love with what I have read about the Sprint SERO plan, but I still have a year left on my Cingular contract. I know that with the adverse changes to my contract (which there have been a few, you will notice them at the bottom of monthly statements), but I’ve been worried about canceling my service and being able to keep my phone number to move it over to Sprint. I have more faith that I would be able to keep my phone number when my contract comes up, and I can move over to Sprint (though I am sure they will try to swindle me into another two years and tell me there is a disconnect fee). The last time I moved my number, I had a prepaid phone and I moved my number over to Cingular, so I temporarily had two services (though I had already paid for the prepaid). But now, I don’t want to pay for Cingular and Sprint at the same time, so I don’t want to activate Sprint then port my Cingular number because I would have to be paying for two cell plans. What can I do (assuming I can get out of my contract)?

  7. DeeJayQueue says:

    you put .10 cents. that’s a tenth of a cent. no no no, that’s one tenth of one cent.

  8. mac-phisto says:

    @eldergias: yes. the entire purpose of number porting legislation was to thwart the concept of telecoms holding your phone # hostage so you don’t cancel service. the key is timing. you either need to port your number before your account is officially closed, or make sure the csr knows you plan on porting your number & make sure they take the proper steps to facilitate the transaction.

  9. mac-phisto says:

    @eldergias: also, make sure your number is eligible for porting. after rereading your post, i noticed that it was at one time a prepaid #. sometimes these numbers fail the port eligibility requirements. & when porting, make sure you have handy your account # with cingular, your name & address as it appears on your bill, & any passcode/password attached to the account.

  10. Cap'n Jack says:

    We really need to outlaw these cancellation fees. They’re totally erroneous and absurd, anyway.

  11. billpendry says:

    OMG, did you just say “.15 cents”? That cracks me up.

  12. Buran says:

    I think it’s time to file a lawsuit. The contract is null and void yet they try to hold you to it no matter how many times they say they will release you as required by law.

    Have the papers filed on one of their corporate stores.

  13. JonathanV says:

    The BBB is pretty worthless — I wouldn’t bother getting in touch with them. Its an opt-in system — a complete joke.

    What I would do is file a complaint with state + city authorities, as well as the state attorney general’s office, and CC the cable company.

    Most city/states have Telco and Cable agencies that do routinely fine and regulate the companies. Their employees are usually cheery/responsive, because few people know about them — and they very commonly say “So what BS did **** say to you?” (At least when I filed a complaint they did).

    The neat thing about filing through an agency, is that Verizon will have to file a formal response — that means you’ll end up with their legal department, not their CSRs. CSRs try to get money from you and keep it — Legal departments try to avoid spending money.

    If you’re in NYS, there’s: . There’s also a NYC cable/telco regulating office — but I can’t recall the name.

    The AG office won’t do anything until enough people complain and they can file a class action that will help make the AG governor, but its a start.

  14. I was eating Peanut Butter M & Ms, and when I looked at that cellphone bill, I almost inhaled an M & M.

    I’m about to call Cingular and see how much time I have until I can cancel my contract. Wish me luck!

  15. eldergias says:

    @mac-phisto: Thanks for your help. I’m not sure I would trust CSR to “take the steps necessary” to ensure I kept my number, which means that it is best if I do actually have some overlapping service from the providers to ensure that I port my number over while I still have both plans active. Sucks, but I guess ensuring the my number is lost to the void is worth it.

  16. Echomatrix says:

    Why cant you just Pay then request a chargeback? That will get their attention. At least send this whole thing to another department

  17. mac-phisto says:

    @eldergias: what i would do is contact cingular & tell them that you plan on cancelling your service but want to make sure that you will not be charged an etf. you may want to put this in writing (or at least get their response in writing–at least document everything like the subject of this story). then, port your number to sprint (which effectively closes your cingular account at the same time). if they charge you an etf, refer them to the email/letter/voice recording that confirms that you will not be charged.

  18. Seth_Went_to_the_Bank says:

    Verizon’s Equation

    Phone company won’t let customers get out of ETF
    + Millions upon millions of dollars in profit

    Cost of class-action lawsuit:
    – Some millions go to lawyers
    – Consumers get worthless coupons
    – Good lawyers get refunds for consumers who bother to ever fill out forms

    +Millions upon millions of dollars in profit
    -Jaded consumers, but they only have 3 other cellphone companies to choose from anyway. They’ll be back.

  19. txaggie90 says:

    I will preface this comment by stating that I’m not a lawyer, but thinking back from by business law classes quite a few years ago, I think you may be able to claim that since you were told by an agent of Verizon that the fees were waived, you should be able to hold them to the committment to waive the termination fees. They may come back with something along the lines of the person you talked to wasn’t authorized to waive the fees. This should not matter. There was at minimum an implied agent relationship. If they exceeded their authority, then it’s between Verizon and their employee.

    Any attorneys want to comment on this? I admit I could be completely wrong about this.