"Automatic Bill Payment" Means Verizon Pays Your Bill, Then Sends You Another One

Just when you think you’ve head everything, Rebecca writes you. She thought she’d set up her Verizon DSL with automatic payments. When she could suddenly no longer log in to her Verizon email, she called them up and found out that she was way overdue. Once she paid her past balance, and waited several days for Verizon to turn her service back on, she logged in to her account and sure enough she did have automatic payments set up:

On Monday I came to work and was finally able to log into Verizon.net. This allowed me to view past bills, which did state that they were paid in full every month automatically. I called Verizon again and demanded to know what was going on. The man explained that because I originally asked for my (Verizon) DSL to be on the same bill as my (Verizon) phone line, the way they handle it is to have Verizon’s phone department pay off the Verizon DSL bill every month and add that amount to the Verizon phone bill. Logging onto my Verizon account would only show an amount paid in full each month, which I assumed was paid by my bank account but was in fact paid by . . . VERIZON.

Gee, that’s not confusing at all. Rebecca canceled Verizon and called AT&T, but was given the usual AT&T runaround over the price. Now she doesn’t want to give her money to liars, and,consequently, is without internet.

Can anyone recommend an ISP? Because you know us. We can’t. We’ve stared too long at the sun that is our tipline.

Rebecca writes:

Last week, I was suddenly unable to log into my Verizon account to retrieve e-mail. My DSL and phone line still worked, but when I tried to log in on Verizon.net I got a message simply stating that my account had been “disabled.” There was no explanation, no instructions, and no contact information. I searched the site for a phone number, first clicking through “help” and then a “contact” link, which asked me whether I’d prefer e-mail or phone. With no way to e-mail, I clicked “phone” and was prompted to log in. Upon doing so I got the same message about my disabled account. No information.

I visited gethuman.com and dialed the number posted for Verizon. I spoke with someone at Verizon who told me that my account was overdue, even though I could have sworn I checked my bill online a month ago and all was fine, set up with automatic payment. They assured me I owed them, and the account person on the phone could not take my payment. She had to direct me to another system that would take my payment, and then I’d have to hang up and call the first number back to get my account reinstated. She said this might all result in a few days of disruption to my DSL service.

She transferred me to the system, which simply asked me to enter the amount I’d like to pay. The woman had never told me what I owed, and the system wouldn’t tell me either. So, I had to call back, go through the waiting process, finally got the figure (more than $200!), transferred back, paid off the amount, hung up, and called the first number for a third time. This person told me that she couldn’t simply turn my account back on – she had to cancel my DSL and put it through as a new order, a process that would take up to two weeks during which time I’d have no DSL service. I pointed out that my DSL was still connected, and I had now paid off the bill, so why would she have to cancel it? The woman claimed that it was because they needed to give me a new account number and there was nothing to be done about it.

Thinking this was absurd, I decided to check my options and see if I should just switch to another service. I made a list of other providers, but before I switched I wanted to make absolutely sure that Verizon couldn’t streamline the process to get my DSL back up and running quickly.

The next day was Friday and my DSL was still working. From my office, I called Verizon one last time. I explained the ordeal to the man, pointing out that service was still on and the account was paid in full, but I needed my e-mail log-in turned back on. He said that was no problem, that he could have it running in a few hours. I asked him repeatedly whether or not my DSL would remain on, and each time he said yes. While we were on the line, he asked if I wanted to upgrade to faster DSL. I had been considering it, so I agreed on the basis that my DSL would have no interruption in service. He assured me I’d have it all weekend, and on Monday the faster service would start.

Arriving home from work Friday night, I found that my service was disconnected, and it remained so all weekend.

On Monday I came to work and was finally able to log into Verizon.net. This allowed me to view past bills, which did state that they were paid in full every month automatically. I called Verizon again and demanded to know what was going on. The man explained that because I originally asked for my (Verizon) DSL to be on the same bill as my (Verizon) phone line, the way they handle it is to have Verizon’s phone department pay off the Verizon DSL bill every month and add that amount to the Verizon phone bill. Logging onto my Verizon account would only show an amount paid in full each month, which I assumed was paid by my bank account but was in fact paid by . . . VERIZON.

This explanation took awhile to sink in with me. When I finally got it, I moved on to the next problem. Why was my DSL shut off? The man explained to me that the man I spoke with on Friday was mistaken, and that there was no way to stop the shut-off order which had apparently been sent out Wednesday but wasn’t acted upon until Friday. The third person I spoke with was the correct one – it would take two weeks to reconnect. He made it clear there was no way around this.

I was so frustrated by that point that I asked him to please stop the DSL upgrade I had ordered and cancel the DSL altogether, as well as the phone line, because I had no desire to do business with Verizon any longer. He put me on hold for five minutes while he wrote a detailed note of everything we discussed (covering his ass, I’m sure), and then confirmed that all services would be shut off. There was absolutely no attempt to keep me as a customer.

On a side-note, I then called AT&T and asked for information on the cheapest phone and Internet plan they had, explaining I wanted something comparable to what I was paying through Verizon (less than $30 a month). The woman first told me the cheapest combo was $65, and when I balked she pretended to spend three seconds looking again and said the cheapest was actually $45. When I asked a third time if that was the lowest price available she changed her mind again and said it was actually $35. I hung up on her. If it weren’t for the fact that I need the Internet to run my web site and do my weekly podcast, I’d settle for using the library. Now I’m not sure what I’m going to do, since I’m in no mood to hand over money to liars.

(Photo: Maulleigh)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SBR249 says:

    If the person lives in a Bellsouth service area, he/she can try to sign up for the $10 DSL that the FCC has required Bellsouth to offer. It’ll take some effort to stop the upsell attempts and it’ll be somewhat slow but it’s cheap.

  2. jpp123 says:

    Pity she’s not in California – sonic.net is by far and away the best ISP I’ve ever dealt with (I’ve been on line since 1983 – before there were ISP’s)

  3. The Walking Eye says:

    If her DSL was getting paid by Verizon and added to her phone bill…did her phone bill actually increase? She probably would have noticed that. And, I’m sure she had to enter bank information to set up the auto bill pay.

    Good job Verizon! I’ve had similar things with the auto bill pay w/ VZW, crappy auto bill pay services and erroneous billing.

  4. myrall says:

    I know Earthlink is run by a bunch of Scientologists, but I’ve had consistently good service with them for 6 years. Granted, i don’t have any special needs mitigating complicated DSL set-ups or anything. They even lower my prices when I periodically call in to get the latest sales deal.

  5. Well, we all know how well Verizon does with math so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this makes sense to them.

  6. JLA says:

    Doesn’t AT&T have a secret $10 DSL offer that they legally have to provide(as seen on the consumerist)? It’s worth a shot to call them again and insist on that plan.

  7. luxurypunk says:

    Sonic is incredible. Unfortunately, they are pricey compared to the comcasts and AT&Ts of the world. However, the quality of service is worth it. I love that you can call them, and an actual live human being picks up the phone, deals with your issue in an informed and friendly manner. I think I actually proposed to the last agent I spoke to.

  8. MexiFinn says:

    Not quite the same, but when I got my first Verizon phone line 6 years ago, I set up auto-bill pay which was fine for the first two months of service. Then, I noticed on my credit card that my bill was $10 higher than previously. I logged into the Verizon site and found that they had automatically added features on my phone that I had never requested. I got the extras removed and credited back to me after a half hour on hold and on the phone with various people, but after that I decided never to use automatic bill pays if I didn’t have to.

    Speaking of which, I need to find out why RCN is charging $5 more a month now :(

  9. not_seth_brundle says:

    @The Walking Eye: Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. If the DSL bill is basically being transfered to her phone bill, she should be current as long as her phone bill is current.

  10. boandmichele says:

    i have charter communications, and i love it!

    too bad they are only in a few areas. helpful, reliable, and they countersued the RIAA!

  11. Chairman-Meow says:

    First mistake: Letting a company,…ANY company automatically deduct from your checking account. This is guaranteed to be a 100% disaster. Once they screw you oh just try to get your money back!

    Second, you trusted Verizon to properly deduct from your checking. See where that got you ?

    Third and lastly, you actually thought AT&T was going to be a suitable replacement for Verizon.

  12. Chairman-Meow says:

    Oh yeah, before I forget.

    I have Verizon cellular, home service, AND DSL. The paper bill that arrives once per month (paper bill ? what’s that?) gives me ONE price to pay for all 3 services.

    You would think that Verizon with all that hi-tech magic at their fingertips could not somehow screw-up a bill.

  13. lincolnparadox says:

    It sounds like you want to find an ISP that is a little less corporate. The problem is, that’s really tough to find. You’ll find some smaller local ISPs, but many of them will just be different faces for the corps.

    My only hope now is that you backed up your email contact list if you’ve been using the Verizon.net email system. Now that you’ve canceled, you will not be able to access that data ever again. If your busy is web-based, you might want to get a new account and look into email forwarding options.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    if you’re in a cablevision area, i highly recommend them. super fast – 15Mbps down, 1.5Mbps up & they run a promo at $29.95 (it jumps to $49.95 after 6 months). if you sign up for their “triple play”, you get cable, phone & internet for

    someone else mentioned charter…if this is the cable provider in your area, ask around to see how the service is. we had charter in our office & had to switch to dsl b/c the service was incredibly unreliable (service down for >1 day at a time EVERY month…not exactly the type of service a business requires). i’m sure it’s not like that everywhere though.

  15. mandawest says:

    T-Mobile does the same thing.

  16. Brigitte says:

    We’ve never had a problem with Time Warner in the 5 years we’ve used them for high speed internet/cable access.

    I do, however, understand the frustration with Verizon. I recently signed up for online statements, and in 3 months, have yet to receive a bill. I also just signed up for automated payment, so we’ll see how that goes. After reading this, I’ll be sure to stay on top of it.

  17. Ray Wert Jr says:

    Time Warner is utter, utter, utter crap. At least in my area. their DNS servers crash all the time, they drop my connection like crazy, and when you call them to find out if its a service outage or something it takes at least 30 minutes to get through their BS. On top of that my 1.5mbps connection is roughly 700mbps.

    Also the “trained tech” who ran the cable under my drive way the first time, decided it was a good idea to run it through a drainage pipe. Which is excellent for, you know fuzz.

    They reran it again and I still think they did a crappy job and they refuse to rerun. They came out to hookup my HD and the “trained tech” managed to knock out my internet connection completely and didnt get the HD up. I didn’t notice the internet was down till a little while after he left, it was a friday, so they refused to come back out till Monday.

    I have Windstream now. 3mbps connection. Screw Time Warner.

  18. lo_fro says:

    Never use automatic bill pay. Ever. My boyfriend had Verizon draft his bill from his account every month until one month when they drafted it THREE TIMES — Thereby overdrafting his account twice and incurring 2 overdraft fees from the bank. After settling it with the bank and they waives the fees, he had to deal with Verizon who said they could mail him a check in 2 weeks. But still, he was down a crucial $300 for two weeks.

    Isn’t it awesome how easily they can take money out of your account, and how hard it is for them to put it back?

  19. mcpeepants says:

    I had a similar problem with TWC NYC a few months back – had autopay set up with a credit card, then we suddenly got calls for being 3 months overdue. Logged in and it was all still set up; they just didn’t feel like deducting. Oi.

  20. veronykah says:

    I had some ridiculous problems with Verizon and their “billing” and after fighting with them for a year [1 hour + calls every month], I switched to Speakeasy.
    I can’t believe no one has recommended them yet. When I left Verizon I was determined to NOT have to deal with them in any way, I signed up for Speakeasy DSL and VOIP and never looked back.
    They are a great company, never had any problems with them. When you call…they actually ANSWER the phone. A rep within 30 seconds! Its amazing. My DSL is fast and best of all [after Verizon] CONSISTENT.
    They are more expensive, but I learned you get what you pay for.

  21. Artnchicken says:

    @Veronykah: Well, they’re now owned by Best Buy, so people might be shying away now, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them. I don’t think they provide service here. All we have is TWC, who has been OK regarding Internet service. TV, on the other hand,…

  22. night_sky says:

    Speaking of Charter, I have their internet service and I would rate it 3.5 out of 5. Firstly, it costs an arm and a leg. I pay about $55 for a 5MB/256k line. On DSL, it would be about $20 dollars less for the same speed. Secondly, I have had my net go down 3 times since I’ve had them. Two of the three times, it took me weeks to get it back up again (I don’t know how many hours I spent on the phone, but it was a lot). They continually blamed me for the problem saying there was something wrong with my computer. I told them, “I have four computers. One is a normal PC, another is a Dell notebook, another is a Macbook Pro, and another is a Sony Vaio. Are you telling me there just happens to be something wrong with all these computers simultaneously and they all happen to have the exact same problem?” Of course the lady following her script with no clue about what advice she was giving from it meant had nothing to say to me exept, “That’s not our problem. Call the manufacturer.”

    So what’s good about them you ask? Well, my P2P works great and haven’t yet had an RIAA/MPAA letter in the mail/email.

    Side note: if you’re wondering why I don’t just switch to a different ISP, I can’t. I can’t get DSL through my phoneline (it’s jacked and no one wants to take responsibility to fix it, not even the phone company. So I’m stuck with cable as my only way to get internet.)

  23. Chicago7 says:

    This happened to me with my RENT. I set up automatic deductions for rent and they double billed me. I called them and said “Quick, cancel that double billing, because it will create an overdraft!”

    They said “Prove that you paid twice”, basically accusing me of stealing from them. I said look at records and they said “No, you have to prove to us.”

    Fortunately, my statement came the next day and I showed them. They didn’t even apologize, but I forced them to pay the THREE overdrafts totaling almost $200. Real smart.

  24. skepchick says:

    Hey all, this is Rebecca. Thanks for the suggestions…I live near Boston and my town is currently setting up a wireless network, which they’ll offer to residents at about $20/month, so I might try to hold out until then.

    In regards to the phone bill question, that was my major mistake — trusting Verizon to accurately report information on my account page at verizon.net. I’m still not sure if there’s a separate site that would have shown my phone bill, actually. Instead, I assumed that the amount shown on Verizon.net was the full amount including phone, since I had agreed to have them put the phone and DSL together on one bill. So, they have a stupid, confusing system with poorly informed customer service reps, and I have a problem with staying alert and double-triple-checking to make sure automatic billing is working correctly.

  25. Anitra says:

    I’d look into getting internet service from your local cable company. I’ve had both Charter and Comcast, and while we had issues with the TV several times, our internet connection was pretty solid.

  26. skepchick says:

    @Myrall: whoa, Earthlink is run by Scientologists? That’s a new one to me. I had dial-up through them for some time and never really had a problem. Now I feel dirty. And not in the fun way.

  27. rmz says:

    @skepchick: The founder of Earthlink, Sky Dayton, is an interesting character. He’s also the founder of Helio and is known for posing on the beach and trying to look hip.

  28. ATTSlave says:

    Rebecca I work for at&t what If you tell me what state you live in and what speed internet you are looking for I can tell you what the cheapest package is with a ballpark on taxes and fees.

  29. JohnMc says:

    As a former Verizon employee I can let you all in a little secret. The bills are consolidated from the 3 different lines of business. So yes, Verizon Wireless, Verizon ISP, Verizon Communications (POTS) are all paid by a central billing system. If in any situation a portion of the One Bill is not forwarded to any of those subunits they will cut off your service.

    This kind of crap even happens internally! Verizon cutting its own service off to employees using a Verizon service!

  30. john85 says:

    I have found the best system is to stay away from triple play offers. Rather have each service from different companies. This allows me to switch my services to the best deal being offered.

    I use Vonage for phone (no problems yet) and I have called them told them I am quiting and they gave me a good deal.

    Every 6 months to a year I switch between Comcast and RCN unless one of them offers a good deal to stay. This has resulted in cable internet costing less then $30 dollars a month.

    The big problem with triple play offers is keeping your old phone number can be a pain, but when your just moving cable services its fairly simple. The only downside is that you have to be at home for 4 hours (the range of time it takes for the installation guy to show up). No bigy if you schedule for a day that your going to be around the house anyway.

  31. FLConsumer says:

    I’ve had nothing but confusion & incompetence when dealing with Verizon. Whether it’s technical support (offshore, of course!), billing, orders, etc. They always seem to get it wrong, transfer me to 15 different departments, all which claim they can’t help me and will transfer me to another hold queue. I’ve often wondered if Verizon’s “customer service” goal is to put people on hold / make it so frustrating that customers give up and leave them alone.

    The best part was when they sent me 3 different modems — ALL the wrong model. One of the wrong models was totally DOA. Trying to get Indian technical support to understand why I needed a modem which supported bridge mode instead of a router was a fight with futility. 4+ hrs…and finally got transferred to a US rep who made it happen instantly. I know offshore tech support is cheap, but when I’m trying up their reps for 4+ hrs, it can’t be THAT cheap.

  32. Bunnymuffin says:

    Verizon was such a pain the hiney with their double billing that my BofA representative hung up on their customer service person because she refused to work with the bank to figure out the problem. BofA disputed the second payment and gave me the money back. I closed out my Verizon account and thought I was done with them. Then I found out that Verizon’s double bill was on my credit report for nonpayment. I had to dispute it with all three companies.

  33. IC18 says:

    This is why I never use AutoBill, Verizon should have just called it Autoscrew.