Ever have one of those door-to-door cable (I know, it’s not cable, it’s fiber) salesmen come to your door hoping to change your provider? This happened to me three months prior to moving across the country.
I dismissed the salesman originally by telling him I was about to move and the savings would have to be huge to warrant the effort of switching from Comcast to Verizon. He showed me some numbers and the savings simply weren’t there. He walked away.
Five minutes later, he came walking back. He had called up the chain, found a way to save me money, and was ready to show me the new plan. It was a good deal and worth the effort to make the switch for the three month period.
Throughout this process, it was made abundantly clear that I was moving very soon (he was inside our house and we had already started packing boxes). He assured me multiple times that because I was moving to Portland, OR and Verizon does not serve the area, that I would be able to close my account without any recourse. We went so far as to actually confirm this lack of coverage on his phone. My wife was witness to this conversation; I’m not imagining things.
He left, we switched over, and were very happy saving $30 a month for what we considered to be a better service.
Three months later, we pack up, close the account, and make the move.
We receive our final bill, and sure enough, there’s a $210 early termination fee. $10 per month not served on our two-year contract.
I immediately contact Verizon support. They treat me like a piece of meat and spit me out saying that the fee is mentioned in the contract and I’ll have to pay it. I explain that a verbal agreement is a contract too. They disagree. I ask if it is common for them to not honor the words of their salesmen, and they more or less ignore the question. Infuriated at the lack of customer “service,” I end communication.
And then I traveled a month or so, ignored the issue, and hoped that someone from their billing department would take a second look and waive the fee. Nope. I continue receiving bills.
At the end of my travel, I take to Twitter to share my story. I am contacted by Verizon’s social media support team. I’ve dealt with such support groups when I’ve been vocal on other issues with other businesses so I’m left very hopeful. They’re pleasant, seem to listen to my case, and send it it up the chain. A day later, they receive word that there is no notice of a waive of the fee noted on my account. So apparently this is something that could have been noted when I originally signed up, but the salesman neglected to make it happen? Not only did he fail to do that, but he first lied to me about it being a policy of not charging a fee when you move out of coverage. Double whammy of failure and lies.
So I paid the amount. This $210 fee, which cost them $0 will end up costing them a vocal supporter (I was an early adopter of FiOS and have always loved it) and future customer. They care not. They got their money and the case is closed.
What recourse or protections do we have as consumers anymore? The big companies want money at no cost and there’s nobody to protect us. I’ve filed my case with the FTC (should I do the same with the FCC?), but I’ll never see anything come of that. Had I stood my ground, which was the right ground to stand on, I’d have had my credit wrecked.
I wish I had an answer. All I’ve got is this blog.
Update: January 17, 2014 — Following a series of snafus with my bank (they froze my account after I sent a bill-pay to my landlord for rent and I was unable to get it unfrozen for a matter of weeks [I can't run away from E*Trade fast enough, either, but I digress]), it turns out my payment did not go through. Verizon has since sent us to collections and added another $30 fee. Before receiving notice of this, my wife went in and paid the original amount again, but now I’m sure we get to deal with this extra $30 too since it was en route to us. Anyway, I’m fully fed up with the lack of service we’ve received on this and have notified Verizon of my intent to file with small claims court.