12-02-2019 10:47 PM
Does anybody know if there have been any actions initated against Verizon vis-a-vis a state consumer protection board or agency? The door-to-door solicitation is an unfair or deceptive practice.
The fraudulent scheme unfolds like this: Verizon door-to-door representatives (who presumably are not actual employees of Verizon - an agency employment arrangement specifically used by Verizon in order to avoid liability) - provide false information about a triple play or some other plan. You tell them it sounds great but you'll review it on Verizon's website. They tell you that this is a "door-to-door" neighborhood deal only, and that it is unavailable by going online or calling sales. They forward a text to you with a link for you to sign up for services, and as you're reading pages of tiny text on your phone, they tell you that its the same offer that they just discussed, so all you have to do is click "I Agree." You trust that Verizon - with annual revenues in the billions - would not send out representatives to lie about the services you are about to sign up for - so you trust them and do as they say.
A couple of months later, you discover the original deal was only a 30-day teaser deal, and the monthly price goes up $60 after that first month. It took you longer to discover the fraud because the representative offers you a $10/month discount if you sign up for automatic bill pay. I'm sure market research has revealed, if you're being billed electronically, and paying automatically, there's a better than 50% probability that you won't notice that the bill increased steeply after the teaser rate disappeared. Because the automatic bill pay arrangement is aimed at hiding the deception for more than the 30-day trial period, you are no longer free to terminate the contract without penalty. You call Verizon corporate to complain, and the representative tells you "hey, you signed the deal," leaving the customer with two unpalatable choices: cancel the horrible service and incur a hefty cancellation fee, or keep the horrible service for another year and a half. Verizon makes money no matter which option you choose.
Last June, two Verizon neighborhood representatives knocked on my door and offered me a deal that seemed too good to be true. Of course, I discovered a month or so later that it wasn't true at all. The representatives were working off of commission, so a month or so later - when the fraud was discovered because the bill went up by $60 - the representatives were long gone. I called Verizon customer service - they were unsympathetic and seemingly are not concerned about the fraud, because, as they (gleefully) point out, legally speaking, I did sign a contract and it was my duty to review it and not trust the word of the representative. I was thoroughly shamed for naively assuming that the representative was not lying to me when I was told that the small-print contact is identical to the deal that I had just discussed and verbally agreed to.
Sending out representatives who knowingly misrepresent the scope of services and/or the cost and convince customers to sign a contract different than the one described is conceptually similar to the mortgage fraud schemes undertaken in the late 2000s (e.g., teaser mortgage rate that the lender knew - or should have known - was going to cause a financial hardship when the initial period expired). In this case, you are signing up for a service which is far inferior to the one that has been described to you and it is too late to cancel when you discover the promotional services expired after 30 days. I am wondering whether any state attorneys general have inititated an investigation into these practices.
12-02-2019 11:48 PM
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