Verizon Tells Customer She Needs Lawyer & Subpoena For Itemized Bill, Judge Disagrees

Earlier this year, a woman in Pennsylvania contacted Verizon to find out more information about the $4.19 she was being charged on her home phone bill for six, unspecified local calls. Big V told her it would provide the itemized information, if she got a lawyer with a subpoena. Several months later, and without an attorney, she finally got a judge to agree with her.

“I think I have the right to know what I am paying for,” the customer, who just happens to reside in my home town, told the Philadelphia Inquirer back in June after she’d taken her complaint before a judge for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. “I’m not alleging that there was any mischarge, but it would be possible for the company to charge people for calls they never made.”

Earlier this week, the judge released her ruling on the matter and agreed with the customer that Verizon should be able to tell you why you’re paying what you’re paying:

It is a basic matter of fair business practice that a consumer should be able to contact a utility about a charge on a bill and learn what the charge is for and learn that the charge was correctly applied. The only verification that Verizon’s witness could offer that a charge like [the customer’s] $4.19 measured use charge was accurate and billed correctly was her faith in the accuracy of Verizon’s computer system. The only way that Verizon would offer any information about a past charge in response to a consumer inquiry was to require that customer to hire a lawyer and subpoena their own usage information. By no reasonable standard could this be considered reasonable customer service.

Verizon will provide customers with itemized bills, but it requires a one-time $40 payment and a $.02/call charge after that. Unfortunately, the judge wasn’t able to side with the customer on this point because the retired school teacher was unable to provide “cost studies or expert testimony” to show that such a charge is unreasonable or that “billing of residential measured use calls is feasible.”

The judge has proposed fining Verizon $1,000 for failing in its duty to provide adequate service. That decision ultimately lies with the powers that be at the PUC.

Montco woman wins victory over Verizon []

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.