This is a shortened letter that was sent to the FCC, Verizon Wireless, and the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission in November 2011:
This letter is a last recourse follow-up to futile efforts call that I have made to Verizon Wireless on Monday, November 1, 2011. (I write now after getting the runaround by them and after a lengthy visit to their office). I have also not received any further communication them. I specifically requested it in writing due to their habit of passing me from department to department.
I know the PRC regulates unfair and unethical practices and schemes by telecommunications firms who operate in New Mexico.
I have used their service since January of this year and my contract with them will expire in January of 2013. I have paid all bills on time.
This month we had some unexpected surprises with the total bill amount and also with one of the two cell phone lines under my contracted account. It is called a Family Share Plan whereby the two lines share a total of 700 minutes.
During the previous billing cycle one of the phones had been mysteriously down for 1-1/2 weeks due to a software/computer system glitch (says Verizon) that they call an error 523. We tried to fix the phone using recommended on-line software repair techniques and through conversations with their help line on the phone. Basically, that was an exercise in futility and additional time wasting trying to fix Verizons problem for Verizon. (Research on the error 523 shows is it is a recent system-wide common error message on Blackberry cell phones from Verizon.)
After the attempt by their phone representative failed they told us to go in the store and have them fix the phone at the Verizon Wireless store, or replace the phone. It turns out that the error 523 was global in nature, according to the news. (Coincidentally, the error 523s and other major Blackberry outages occurred only on Blackberry phones and on the week before Verizon was to introduce the new I-Phone, a likely replacement for Blackberry customers.) We ended up getting a new phone because they said they could not fix the second Blackberry in the store after we waited patiently for a considerable amount of time.
During the interim time that the second cell line was down (due to their system problems) ended up spending a large amount of time fielding calls on the main cell phone (for our business). When we received the attached invoice we were shocked to see it was over $600.
I called them, as discussed above and regarding: 1) the overage charges (the term they use on the bill), 2) to remediate the lack of information about specific charges, and 3) to discuss the apparent new billing plan that they are using to charge higher rates to consumers, like me, without forewarning, or any opportunity to opt out. The attached invoice shows:
None of the call charges are itemized by them. Amounts charged are simply shown as dashes (-). They lumped everything into a mysterious charge. Note: I was never notified that the account was in overage (their word for over the minute limit). The account rep Mishka said We dont have time to notify everyone about overages, yet they regularly have time to send texts to all customers about special sales deals and promotions. I also spoke to a supervisor Stephanie who could not resolve the issue, and Jennifer, her supervisor, was then supposed to call me back. But I have had enough of the run around game they play. I know deception when I see it.
1) Verizon Invoices (at least mine) now have a new format. The bill states the rates have not changed, but as the invoice shows, the rates appeared to have increased in my case (and likely in other customers cases too)----by a total amount of $217.35. (Note: my median monthly bill is around $300 -still outrageous- and minute usage is typically the same or less).
2) The Verizon billing format is designed to be mysterious and confusing, eliminating accurate scrutinization by the customer. In my opinion, Verizon has its customers brainwashed into accepting their whimsical invoicing totals. They make reviewing their invoice with certainty impossible. The net result is most customers back down and just pay the bill rather than deal with the time consuming hassle that Verizon creatively engineers. To top it all off, they flat out accuse the customer of carelessness for incurring overages, and they change plans on a whim and still force you to stay in contract.
3) If the customer declines to pay the mysterious charges on the invoice in full, they simply cut your service off. I understand that a contract is between two parties that agree on the terms that are of mutual benefit. I agreed to good cell phone reception service, accurate and clear billing, and reasonable customer service (not a time consuming nightmare of endless iterations, rude comments, computer glitches, dropped calls, and doublespeaking customer reps.)
4) I must also note that these customer service reps refuse, by phone, routinely, to provide their last names so that they can be held accountable and identified in legal complaints. All firms that I am aware of that are ethical and accountable provide their employees last names if they are involved in customer service issues.
5) I estimate the total time I have spent on this issue at 15-20 hours which is obscene. The billing is confusing and mysterious. For example, on page 9 of 16 there is $0 charge for the voice charges, yet on page 3 the charge is indicated at $217.35. I had signed up for a family share plan which was a primary line with 700 shared minutes. Now, it appears they consider each line a separate Account with its own monthly access charge (which also was increased)! Also, now, they tell me that to terminate my account contract they can charge each line as a separate line!
6) I am concerned that my second phone lines down time with the error 523 (which was an international event according to the news) might be a ploy to cause tens of thousands (or more) of Verizon users to have their bills increase.
7) The attached invoice also indicates they charged me for going over voicemail charges when the shared plan is exhausted. This is unfair and misleading.
8) As discussed above, the bill also does not indicate how much they are charging per alleged call.
9) Verizon used to have nights and weekends free allowances (under the plan that I was sold), but, for example, the invoice indicates at least one call on 10/14/11 was considered peak and partial allowance, this being at 0830 pm.
Hopefully the New Mexico PRC, will help spearhead the FCC request that Verizon notify customers of huge potential overage charges, which can be devastating to people in these tough economic times.
All reasonable indications are that Verizon is playing gouging games against at least some of its customers again. Possibly against those that they have identified are financially able to pay false over-charges.
Verizon has become accustomed to wearing customers down should they inquire about problems with their account that originate on the Verizon end. This, obviously, would enable them to reap millions of extra dollars most likely because customers a)most likely dont know their rights, b)they simply dont have the time or patience to devote to migrating through the Verizon-engineered maze of iterations, c) they cant risk losing their critical telecommunication services and a ding in their credit report.
Again, the contract system with Verizon is one-sided in their favor and they win no matter how bad their service is, how much time they waste to wear you down, and no matter what they decide to bill you today. That must be illegal. What kind of a contract is that?
I am requesting you (PRC) contact them immediately (as a taxpayer-hired protector of the public) regarding my case (and in others that are similar), so that:
a) they agree to remove the $217.35 (mysterious total shared usage charges) are removed at no cost to my credit.
b) the contract that I signed up for protects my rights too, rather than exclusively the rights of Verizon. My understanding is that one may terminate within thirty days of any contract change Verizon makes.
c) I also request that you advise me if it possible for the PRC to initiate action on behalf of the consumer so that cell phone contracts are regulated to protect the consumer also. (And that they are limited to one year.)
d) you issue a written reprimand (and fines, if possible), to Verizon---and that you warn consumers.
e) you advise me (and the public) of how it is that Verizon can get away with changing the terms of a contract on a whim without mutual consent by the consumer, the other party to the contract.
I am also submitting this to Ripoffreport.com because corporate ripoffs on the public and on small business are not limited to just the major banks and Wall Street. The telecommunications titans, like Verizon, have an equal share of mistreatment of their customers.