Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Customer Asks For Itemized Bill, Verizon Tells Her To Get a Subpoena

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the customer-is-always-right-when-backed-by-a-court-of-law dept.

Cellphones 415

suraj.sun writes with this quote from an article at Techdirt: "A woman, who called Verizon to try to find out about the $4.19 she was being charged for six local calls, was told by Verizon reps that the only way it would provide her an itemized bill was to get a lawyer and have the lawyer get a subpoena to force Verizon to disclose the information. Instead, the woman went to court (by herself) and a judge told Verizon (.docx) to hand over the itemized bill info. '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."

cancel ×

415 comments

I assume... (3, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about 3 years ago | (#36789050)

that this is Verizon, the RBOC, not Verizon Wireless. With VZW, you can view itemized billing on-line. Doesn't the landline company offer a similar capability?

Re:I assume... (4, Insightful)

jaymz666 (34050) | about 3 years ago | (#36789086)

They charge a fee to provide a list of itemised calls on my cellphone bill, that alone shows how little regard they have for being transparent about what they are charging.

Re:I assume... (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789314)

if your cellphone bill is mailed then I can understand why itemized billing costs money; remember the giant iPhone bills everyone was getting?

Re:I assume... (5, Informative)

BoogeyOfTheMan (1256002) | about 3 years ago | (#36789330)

Only if you want it in print, you can view it for free on your myverizon.com website.

Re:I assume... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789090)

The landline bills provide an itemized list of long distance (in-state and intra-state) calls but not local calls. Usually plans have unlimited local calls so nobody cares.

Re:I assume... (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | about 3 years ago | (#36789150)

Yep. I'm an 'ol Commonwealth resident, and Verizon is our ILEC/RBOC, formerly known as Bell Atlantic.

Re:I assume... (5, Interesting)

Dryanta (978861) | about 3 years ago | (#36789186)

Typically the LEC can bill for intra-LATA charges however they see fit due to the kludge of complexity the original anti-trust left recovering charges from another carrier. Because these rules are so convoluted and don't even make sense to the carriers themselves they tend toward official policy being "we say so and get a subpoena if you don't like it." As a telecommunications agent and broker, much of my interactions with carriers is resolving billing disputes and bogus charges. I got $ 14,000 back for a client in one instance where I had to file a California Public Utilities Commission grievance and escalate to the top tier of AT&T consumer affairs department. Most consumers don't even realize they have recourse and that the carriers are terrified of regulating bodies... but knowing how to handle these things is why people like me make money.

Can we get this judge... (5, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 3 years ago | (#36789066)

Can we get this judge to look into medical billing too? It is the only place worse than cell phone billing, and not by much. Both are worse than used cars sales...

Re:Can we get this judge... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789272)

I'm a physician and I couldn't figure out what the charges meant on my last hospital bill. Turns out the hospital couldn't either. They had to drop the charges. This sort of thing happens all of the time and I'm constantly telling patients to look at their bills and appeal things that don't make sense. Ah, American medicine. The best there is ....

Re:Can we get this judge... (3, Informative)

kidsizedcoffin (1197209) | about 3 years ago | (#36789542)

I've found that insurance companies don't always want you to know either. My current explanations of benefits from my insurance company will not tell me what any of the procedures are, and I've found they won't tell me what they are when I call either. It is only by eventually matching it up with the itemized doctors' bills later, that I'm able to have any idea why a visit warranted 4 charges. I would not think this would be a good way to get people to report fraud.

Re:Can we get this judge... (1)

Leibherk (112156) | about 3 years ago | (#36789720)

Even if they tell you something is covered when you call them before a Dr. visit, they will still deny the claim later and say its not covered.

Re:Can we get this judge... (1)

jcoy42 (412359) | about 3 years ago | (#36789644)

The last time I went in for surgery I got somewhere along the lines of 11 bills after the fact, all with poor descriptions and from various entities. Some from the place where I had the initial review, some from where the surgery was done, some from the anesthesiologist, and some from a lab. It's freaking insane.

Re:Can we get this judge... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789688)

I was once charged for a doctor from another state (a neurologist) when I had a straight forward no complications thyroidectomy. I turned it over to the insurance company's fraud department. I've also been charged because someone had the same last name as I. Again, turned it over to the fraud department.
My experience is that if you report the 'error' as an 'error' nothing gets fixed. If you report the 'error' as fraud. It gets fixed.

Re:Can we get this judge... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789480)

Wait what? You pay for medical care? Why? Do you live in in a rural country without health care?

Re:Can we get this judge... (1, Flamebait)

TheABomb (180342) | about 3 years ago | (#36789566)

All medical care is ultimately paid for. The parent is probably in the "rural country" that's about to go belly-up from the trillions of dollars in foreign aid it subsidizes smug a-holes like you to the tune of.

Re:Can we get this judge... (1, Insightful)

toadlife (301863) | about 3 years ago | (#36789618)

Foreign aid makes up around 1.5% of the U.S. federal budget.

Re:Can we get this judge... (0)

omfgnosis (963606) | about 3 years ago | (#36789714)

And the portion of it that funds other countries' medical care is approximately dick.

Re:Can we get this judge... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789726)

Have you ever considered a career as a TV news host? You have just the right mix of indignation and intense, naked ignorance.

Re:Can we get this judge... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | about 3 years ago | (#36789506)

I've never had a problem getting an itemized bill from the hospital. Have you tried asking?

Once I was charged for a pair of crutches when I had actually brought my own in.

Re:Can we get this judge... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#36789666)

Itemizing it isn't necessarily the problem, it's the hours it takes to figure out what the various codes mean and it's frequently cheaper to just pay than to take time off work to go through the list with somebody that knows what all those codes mean.

Re:Can we get this judge... (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 3 years ago | (#36789832)

Well if anyone can provide a website for said judge, or an email address I think we all need to send that judge a thank you note. It is so damned rare in this "the corps are always right" atmosphere to see a judge use good old fashioned common sense and apply simple fairness when it comes to the little guy dealing with supermegacorp he really does deserve to know he is appreciated.

I just wish we had judges like that in MY area, instead they are bending over backwards here for these natural gas wildcatters who are causing all kinds of tremors and tearing shit up all over the place, and we all know once they've gotten what they desire they'll disappear and leave the state the cleanup bill. But it is nice to know there are still a few good judges using plain old common sense out there, even if they are few and far between. You sir have my heartfelt thanks.

EAT SHIT AND DIE VERIZON !! (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789072)

What he said !!

Where's my meds !!

Re:EAT SHIT AND DIE VERIZON !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789754)

Where's my meds !!

Oh, a medicated psychotic, eh. You must be American [slashdot.org]

Nothing will change. (5, Insightful)

koreaman (835838) | about 3 years ago | (#36789080)

Nothing will change; the utilities will keep fucking us over every chance they get. I'm not sure why this still surprises anyone.

Our political system is so locked down by corporations that there is less of a chance of meaningful change here than in China or even North Korea. I'm not saying we're as bad as those places, but we're certainly headed that direction and there is literally no way to change that within the current system.

Nothing will change in the United States without a revolution, which would first require a huge sea change in the culture to even be remotely effective.

Again, chances are slim. May as well move to Europe or Canada as soon as possible.

Re:Nothing will change. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789110)

Have you been to Canada recently? Our government is more in the pockets of corporations, as least in regard to utilities and wireless service, that the U.S. could ever dream of.

Except for healthcare. We have that part covered.

Re:Nothing will change. (2)

koreaman (835838) | about 3 years ago | (#36789118)

Well, that sucks... I had hoped Canada was at least better off. Europe certainly is, although like most places it's moving in the wrong direction.

Re:Nothing will change. (2)

MachDelta (704883) | about 3 years ago | (#36789294)

I don't entirely agree with GP. There are some area's that definitely need work (CRTC, i'm looking at you...), but on the whole I don't think Canada is near the plutarchy that the US has become. YMMV.

Re:Nothing will change. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789508)

The problem in Canada, is that just 4 companies outside quebec own 99% of the telecom infrastructure. Depending which side of the country you are on, you have no choice at all. Out West (which is arguably more competitive because they have to compete with the east telecoms at some level) you have only the choice of:
1. Shaw Cable (TV,Internet,Telephone,and Cellular in 2012) Also Satellite
2. Telus (Telephone,Internet,TV,Cellular)
3. Rogers (Cellular)
4. Bell Satellite
Out East you have:
1. Rogers(TV, Internet, Telephone, Cellular)
2. Bell (TV, Internet, Telephone, Cellular) Satellite
3. Shaw Satellite

To make up triple-play bundles, Telus and Bell share their Cellular and Satellite systems and rebrand.
So out West you have Bell cellular, which is just Telus. Telus Satellite is rebranded Bell Satellite.
Out East you have Telus cellular which is rebranded Bell. You can easily tell by dialing 611 and which companies customer service you get.

So no matter which part of the country you're in, you can get services from all 4, however you can only get an effective triple-play bundle from the local duopoly which is Shaw/Telus out west or Rogers/Bell out east.
Rogers, Bell and Shaw all own media companies, Telus does not. Since there are no companies left to buy up, I wouldn't be surprised if Bell and Telus end up merging at some point, which nobody wants. I'd much rather see Shaw, Telus, Rogers and Bell broken up into infrastructure and services companies. So instead of paying 100$/mo to one of them for infrastructure we want and services we don't want, we pick which services are necessary, and can roam anywhere without incurring roaming, long distance or other stupidity taxes.

We have some independent ISP's that are dependent on some part of the 4 listed above. Uniserve, Primus, Teksavvy, and they're unable to offer their own triple-play systems because the pipe isn't being treated as neutral.

Anyway, least evil company currently is Shaw, but only because they react to customer outrage. The most reliable is Telus, as they have had UBB for a long time, but their services never feel as oversold as Shaw does. There was a TV show a year or two ago that showed who had the fastest internet, Bell was at the bottom. This is likely still the case.

Re:Nothing will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789560)

While it is true that there is next to no competition, this is worse in theory than it is in practice. At least, based on the horror stories I read on this site from Americans dealing with their telecom companies (such as this article, for example), I'd say that our situation up here is really not that bad in reality.

Re:Nothing will change. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789572)

Everyone knows that the "free" healthcare in Canada is very shoddy. That is why Canadians often come to the US for healthcare.

Re:Nothing will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789576)

Utilities are primarily the responsibility of the provincial governments (and unlike the U.S., we respect the separation between the two, even though our constitution technically reserves more rights for the Feds). This isn't a Canadian thing, it's provincial. Some are much better than others.

Wireless is under Federal jurisdiction. While the CRTC definitely needs help, a lot of help, I don't think it's as bad as the FCC is in general. They do make decisions that the telcos don't like, they do make decisions that encourage competition (the "new wireless companies only" spectrum auction that enabled Mobilicity, Wind, Videotron, and Shaw to break into the game, for instance). They also make a healthy amount of stupid decisions. But relative to the U.S.? No comparison.

Re:Nothing will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789790)

Except for healthcare. We have that part covered.

The Harper Government is working on that.

Re:Nothing will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789132)

Nothing will change because you (everyone reading) expect someone else to do something about it.

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

mariasama16 (1895136) | about 3 years ago | (#36789142)

Not like moving to either place is any better. There's a reason that Great Britain is also called the Nanny State.

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 years ago | (#36789308)

There's a reason that Great Britain is also called the Nanny State.

I expect there is, but it has fuck all to do with utility billing. It's actually about laws that try to influence the way people live their lives, like excessive taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, or car seat legislation, or cycle helmets: that sort of thing. I'd have mentioned prohibition but I don't think we ever had that here.

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#36789490)

ASBOs are the ones I read about and shake my head. Well, that and the continued war against knife crime. I can only assume that England isn't as dangerous as portrayed by the BBC, but the whole notion that nobody goes around with a knife that isn't up to no good is just bizarre.

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | about 3 years ago | (#36789530)

I expect there is, but it has fuck all to do with utility billing. It's actually about laws that try to influence the way people live their lives, like excessive taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, or car seat legislation, or cycle helmets: that sort of thing. I'd have mentioned prohibition but I don't think we ever had that here.

I was under the impression that Great Britain employed prohibition to much the same extent the government does here in the US.

Or have you adopted sensible decriminalization policies like Portugal?

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

iserlohn (49556) | about 3 years ago | (#36789562)

Actually, the "Nanny State" is more than that. It has to do with the idea of positive freedom, and where the line is drawn - ie. should we allow people to choose an alternative option if that option harms society, etc, etc.

Re:Nothing will change. (2)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 3 years ago | (#36789674)

I think I agree with your point re positive vs. negative freedom, but not the example you give: there are many things that are bad for society that are rightly criminal but for me the nanny state is exemplified by laws that restrict things that harm the individual only, if anyone at all.

Take seatbelts - the oft-given example - if I don't buckle up I might die in a crash but it doesn't harm anyone else. I suppose it might weigh on the conscience on someone that causes a now lethal accident but if that person can't accept that it was my own dumb fault then it's their problem, no?

Re:Nothing will change. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789800)

I'm not disagreeing with you here but just wanting to point out that seatbelt laws were lobbied for by insurance companies. Their interest in the laws are that passengers in a vehicle wearing a seatbelt will be less likely to incur injuries that cost the insurance companies money than otherwise if they weren't. It goes to show basically how big corporations run our lives. Though I think in the seatbelt instance you'd be crazy not to wear them.

Re:Nothing will change. (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | about 3 years ago | (#36789274)

Well, if this "huge sea change in the culture" were ever to occur, you would hardly need a revolution, not of the violent kind anyway.

Court of the Bleeding Obvious? (3, Interesting)

mevets (322601) | about 3 years ago | (#36789092)

To determine that by no reasonable standard could Verizon's customer service be considered reasonable?
Nice that they were stupid enough to pursue it to court - now their competitors can use the decision in their ads....

No one routinely gets a list of local calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789098)

The company just keeps track of the minutes, and one never got a list of local calls. this was true at least in the 1970s when I had measured service in CA. With unlimited local they don't report either.

Re:No one routinely gets a list of local calls (5, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 3 years ago | (#36789258)

The company just keeps track of the minutes, and one never got a list of local calls. this was true at least in the 1970s when I had measured service in CA. With unlimited local they don't report either.

Yes and no.

No, the company does *in fact* keep tack of every number you call.

And yes, normally you don't get a bill which itemizes local calls.

But none of this is the point.

This lady had a "customer service issue" where in she was disputing a charge. Verizon should be obligated to detail to any customer, on request, the nature of a charge. It's just that simple.

Now, Verizon has an "Itemized Bill Service" for which they charge, and it probably does cost them marginally more in computing and paper, but it's all there in their computers...

If I want ITEMIZED LOCAL CALLS on every bill, I might reasonable expect to pay a small fee.

But if I have a BILLING ISSUE, I expect them to pony up the data as a matter of doing business with me.

Fuck Verizon.

Re:No one routinely gets a list of local calls (1)

Sinthet (2081954) | about 3 years ago | (#36789470)

Exactly. Otherwise, its like Best-Buy demanding you pay for a TV without giving you a TV.

Re:No one routinely gets a list of local calls (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about 3 years ago | (#36789260)

You are wrong Coward. I get an itemized list from T-Mobile online anytime I want it at no charge. It lists every incoming and outgoing call with date, time and the other number.

Re:No one routinely gets a list of local calls (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 3 years ago | (#36789286)

Uh, what? I routinely get a list of all calls on all lines I have through T-Mobile. I can verify every charge if I so see fit.

Re:No one routinely gets a list of local calls (1)

Aranykai (1053846) | about 3 years ago | (#36789378)

This is about verizon land-line service, not verizon mobile or t-mobile. They are different entities within the company.

Title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789114)

"Subpeona"? Could the editors possibly invest in a copy of Firefox - it comes with a spellchecker.

Re:Title (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789336)

This is an untermensch working the fields.

nice fine ! (4, Interesting)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | about 3 years ago | (#36789136)

to top it all off the judge assessed a civil penalty of $1000 dollars against Verizon, as a deterrent for treating customers badly in the future !

Re:nice fine ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789206)

That'll learn 'em.

Nothing like a fine which is probably about .001% of what better customer service would cost them to implement. Hooray for justice.

Re:nice fine ! (2)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 3 years ago | (#36789214)

A $1,000 fine for not explaining a $4 charge is a pretty heavy fine-to-damage ratio. It might not be sufficient to change all business practices, but the hope is to send a message that not disclosing billing details to customers could be costly.

Re:nice fine ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789264)

The judge should have taken into account verizon's size when he set the fine. It should have been MUCH higher, on the order of one million dollars or so. That might provide actual deterrence for verizon to engage in such activity. One grand isn't going to do shit to change verizon's behavior.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

magarity (164372) | about 3 years ago | (#36789496)

The judge should have taken into account verizon's size when he set the fine. It should have been MUCH higher, on the order of one million dollars or so. That might provide actual deterrence for verizon to engage in such activity. One grand isn't going to do shit to change verizon's behavior.

Well the woman did go to court herself over a $4 charge, so it might be small claims court. If that's the case I don't think a small claims court judge can hand out million dollar fines; $1,000 might be the limit in that jurisdiction.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#36789684)

Read the story.

It was heard before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Which means it was heard by an Administrative Law Judge.
That judge would have the authority to hand down a huge fine but instead of a bitch slap, she waved her hand in the general direction of Verizon's wrist, and I'm sure there were chuckles all around over cheese and wine that very evening.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 3 years ago | (#36789634)

One of the things the judge mentioned in the ruling is that this complaint appeared to be unique. In other words, nobody else bothered to complain about the same issue.

That should speak volumes about people who try to stand up for principles, as usually if there is a complaint like this there are hundreds of others who have experienced a similar problem. If it had been a recurring problem with Verizon, the judge stated that the penalty would have been much higher.

That is something which I would like to encourage others to do, to simply let folks know when you are being wronged. Sometimes it is futile and falls on deaf ears, but not always. Had somebody, anybody else bothered to lodge a similar kind of complaint it could have been millions of dollars or at least a couple thousand. But nobody bothered, so the judge had to apply the principles of the law in this particular situation.

All this said, if somebody else complains about this same issue, the judge might not be so "nice" the next time. The fine could have been up to $4000 and stayed within the scope of potential penalties under the discretion of this judge. Multiply that by a couple hundred or a thousand complaints like this one, and it certainly could have been a million dollars. Verizon also knows that any future complaints could use this ruling as precedence too, so there is a huge incentive on the part of this company to clean up its act to avoid such a huge penalty in the future.

The sad part was the ruling by the judge that the $40 "setup fee" for the itemized billing was reasonable. The citizens of PA should try to push to get that tariff rule revoked, but that takes somebody who is paying attention to the games happening with regulated utility commissions.

Re:nice fine ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789290)

The damage isn't $4, it's the time and effort required to get the information out of Verizon.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 years ago | (#36789438)

$1000 would cover a development project to put a flag on her account to tell customer service to giver her that information when she calls.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#36789692)

Development?
All CRS systems worth running have a comments section.
I'm sure there are some choice notations in there already.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 3 years ago | (#36789302)

The $1000 charge probably covers what the woman lost/spent pursuing this $4.19. My hats off to her for looking out for her own interests as well as ours.

Re:nice fine ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789444)

From the document it seems that the $1000 is to be paid to the local government, not to the lady who filed the complaint. All she gets "awarded" is the knowledge that her complaint was partially upheld.

Re:nice fine ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789394)

As the Verizon lawyer reached into his pocket for the $1000.00 in pocket change!

Re:nice fine ! (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 3 years ago | (#36789434)

You mean between the seat cushions in his Mercedes.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#36789702)

They didn't even bother sending their own lawyer.

Verizon was represented by one Mr William E. Lehman, Esquire, which google will reveal is a small potatoes lawyer who grosses (not Nets, grosses) less than 500k per year.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789396)

Did Verizon ask to see that fine itemized?

Here it is (4, Funny)

elashish14 (1302231) | about 3 years ago | (#36789482)

  • Being a dick: $1000

Re:Here it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789642)

Being a dick: $900
Administrative fees: $10
Other fees: $90

Re:nice fine ! (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 3 years ago | (#36789648)

They did, and it was. Read the ruling for the details.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

yuhong (1378501) | about 3 years ago | (#36789592)

Suggested, not assessed.

Re:nice fine ! (2)

yuhong (1378501) | about 3 years ago | (#36789612)

Sorry, it is assessed. From:

That within 30 days of the date of entry of the Commission’s Order in this case, Verizon Pennsylvania Inc. will remit a civil penalty in the amount of $1,000, payable by money order or certified check to:

Re:nice fine ! (1)

icebike (68054) | about 3 years ago | (#36789660)

In addition the judge ordered them to cease and desist in violating section 1501 of the Public Utility Code which required them to provide information about charges. So they can't do this again.

BUT if they do, everybody gets to go to court all over again, at great time and expense.

The $1000 fine was merely an embarrassment to the green behind the ears lawyer they assigned to this case, management probably is entirely unaware of this issue, and they will probably continue to demand a subpoena because updating their procures and retraining their CS reps will cost more than 1000 bucks.

(The attorney Verizon sent, William E. Lehman, Esquire, does not appear to even be a corporate employee, instead he runs a firm of 1 to 4 lawyers which grosses 500,000, so strictly small time hired gun. That's how much Verizon though of this case).

A fine of two orders of magnitude greater might catch management's attention. This will be expensed as a cost of doing business, and taken as a tax write off.

Re:nice fine ! (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | about 3 years ago | (#36789664)

Yeah! Enough to be punitive, but not so much that they can cry that the damages were excessive. I suspect Verizon would make that much in about a minute, and their lawyers cost them more than that to go to court. Serves them right for being so dumb in the first place. Heh - it would probably cost them more than that to appeal.

It'll probably also cover this lady's phone bill for the next 5 years!

Actually, they do have the records. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789178)

Common carriers are already required to maintain toll records for a period of at least 18 months under the Commission’s existing rules, see 47 C.F.R. 42.6.

Verizon has call detail records for all incoming and outgoing local calls, regardless of whether you have local measured service or not. I access them all the time for tracking down deadbeats. The BS you see on TV is just that --- BS. There is no need for a trace or keeping people on the line for some period of time. They have the call detail records for each call, even if it is not answered (which is whey when I get copies of those records, they have a column that indicates if the call was answered or not).

Re:Actually, they do have the records. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789292)

Nobody (including verizon or the article or the summary) said otherwise. The issue is that Verizon customer service refused to provide that information without a subpoena.

Like Pulling Teeth from Sprint (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#36789182)

I tried to get Sprint to itemize a "sales tax" item on my company's bill (many mobile phones + 4G/WiFi hotspots) that added to about 17% (NY sales tax is about 8.5%). It took 2 months and several dozen emails through my dedicated account rep, two different divisions of Sprint, to finally get me the raw data in pieces that I put together and explained to them. It was legit, but they do charge a tax on a tax, which they're probably withholding from the government in a neverending lawsuit against "taxing taxes" while they collect interest.

The telco cartel runs the US. Except where some other cartel has staked its flag deeper.

Try doing this... (1)

brim4brim (2343300) | about 3 years ago | (#36789234)

in the EU. Watch what happens next.

I can't believe they even tried it. Surely America has quite a low, cheap court to get accept such a case and they would have to send their own team of lawyers to for $4?

This is essentially corporate bullying, she should have tried to get them on that.

Re:Try doing this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789346)

Says someone who obviously didn't read the article

Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (0)

haulbag (1160391) | about 3 years ago | (#36789250)

Sorry to disagree with all of the Verizon bashers, but I think this is just a case of bad training of call center staff.

I have been in the telecom industry for 20 years, and I've never heard of such a thing happening. As far as I know, all customers have a right by law to see the call detail they are being billed for. Customer service staff are trained on how to treat CPNI (Customer Proprietary Network Information) confidentially and what can and cannot be done with the information. There is an element of that training that usually involves how entities other than the customer (e.g., law enforcement agencies) can get access to the CPNI of a customer, and the only way to do that is with a subpoena (Sorry Jack Bauer!).

For most call center staff and direct supervisors, training always seems to be an issue. The customer service rep was probably just confused. People make mistakes. Do we have to sue to solve every problem? (Don't answer that . . .)

lnstead of clogging our courts with a stupid case like this, couldn't the customer just hang up and call back to get a different rep? Or how about this simple line, "May I please speak to your supervisor?" Or how about calling Verizon's executive offices or main number and ask for a customer ombudsman? Most big companies like Verizon have such a group. Here's another tactic: Call Verizon and select the option for canceling your account. You'll be routed to a retention group who will bend over backwards to save your account.

If none of those work, you can always go to the Web site of either the FCC, your state's Public Utility Commission, or the FTC and file a complaint. These complaints actually get worked by real people, and the problems usually get resolved pretty quickly. Any of those options would cost our taxpayers far less than the route this person took.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (4, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | about 3 years ago | (#36789348)

I would agree that this was just bad customer service training, but since this actually made it to court, AND WAS CHALLENGED BY VERIZON, this tells me that it is a matter of corporate policy. Verizon wanted so bad to NOT give her an itemized bill, they paid lawyers to go to court to try to defend their behavior and lost.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

Xtifr (1323) | about 3 years ago | (#36789522)

If it was handled in Small Claims Court, they may not have sent a lawyer. In many jurisdictions, you're not allowed to be represented by a lawyer in Small Claims Court. Also, it's possible that Verizon simply ignored the whole thing, in which case the lady may have won a default judgment.

I could probably find the answers to some of these questions by Reading The Fine Article, but I can't help feel that that's cheating. :)

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789352)

It may very well be bad training, but I wouldn't blame the woman for stupid use of courts. If she was told the only way she'd receive that information was if she got a subpoena, she can't really be blamed for not knowing about the alternatives. She shouldn't be blamed for not assuming they were lying to her about the path she'd need to take.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

Threni (635302) | about 3 years ago | (#36789362)

> Instead of clogging our courts with a stupid case like this, couldn't the customer just hang up and call
> back to get a different rep?

Why should the customer have to do this? The company got punished and presumably won't do it again; the customer got some cash out of it. I'm not sure what taxpayers have to do with this.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 3 years ago | (#36789384)

If this were simply a case of bad training, why did the rep that Verizon sent also claim that the only way they would give any information about a past charge in response to a consumer inquiry was to require that customer hire a lawyer and subpoena their own usage information?

Bad training for their witness too?

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789390)

couldn't the customer just hang up and call back to get a different rep?

Why yes, they could. Thus allowing the status quo to continue.

Or, they could sue the fuckers who have *notorious* poor service of which this is not an isolated example, and maybe, just maybe shine some light on that fact. And cost them a few bucks in the process.

Sorry dude, but apparently you're a bit out of touch with the quality of service we receive from the telecom industry.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

dwreid (966865) | about 3 years ago | (#36789494)

Your basing your argument on the assumptions that she did none of the things you suggest. Verizon also had the option, once they received a summons, to solve the problem out of court. I see that they didn't do that either.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

sjames (1099) | about 3 years ago | (#36789578)

If they actually had decent customer service, that decision would have seemed so out of place that nearly any CSR would have questioned it and found out otherwise. The fact that it seemed consistent enough with other policies to not be questioned on Verizon's side says a LOT.

The fact that they actually went to the mat trying to maintain their no itemized bill decision shows that it was a lot more than just one CSR that believed it to be their policy (including their legal department). I'm guessing that if when they got their summons they offered the lady the itemized billing (or, as a way to apologize for the error, just credited her the $4) she would have happily dropped the whole thing.

They said she'd need a subpoena to get the itemized billing and she took them at their word. As a representative of the people, please feel free to send Verizon a bill for the costs to the public for their idiocy, but be sure to itemize it.

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

Internal Modem (1281796) | about 3 years ago | (#36789596)

I'm glad they sued so the rest of us don't have to go through all that...

just hang up and call back to get a different rep? Or how about this simple line, "May I please speak to your supervisor?" Or how about calling Verizon's executive offices or main number and ask for a customer ombudsman? .

Re:Bad Training - Stupid Use of Courts (1)

Teancum (67324) | about 3 years ago | (#36789700)

Keep in mind what she did here wasn't to "clog the courts with a stupid case like this", she went to the public utility commission and filed a formal complaint. What happened was that after the complaint was filed, Verizon dismissed the complaint and moved the issue up the food chain, which was an administrative law judge who hears complaints being made through the utility commission.

She did exactly as you claimed that somebody ought to do here, and since Verizon objected to the complaint, it went to court. What else was supposed to happen? I suppose it could be like the FTC which receives a complaint that is filed away in "/dev/null" for all of the good it does. Ditto for the FCC, at least from my personal experience.

Goes well beyond call centers. (4, Informative)

aussersterne (212916) | about 3 years ago | (#36789750)

I left Verizon Wireless in the late '90s precisely because they were billing me for things that I couldn't identify and that they wouldn't itemize.

Let me tell you how "leaving them" worked out for me. After lots of attempts to get them to itemize, I just paid everything and said cancel (my initial agreement period was over and I was on monthly). Then, I got a bill from them the next month—for the same monthly service, including things they wouldn't itemize, as before. I called them up.

Me: WTF? I quit last month and paid off.

Them: Yes, but you re-opened your account.

Me: WTF? How did I do that? I haven't talked to you since then.

Them: We don't know. But there is this charge that you incurred that means you continued to use the service.

Me: How did I incur the charge? That sounds like the same amount I was asking about before?

Them: Must have been local calls or sth. We can't tell you. But it's there. So your bill / account is back also. You owe for the month.

Me: But I threw away the VZW phones, like, three weeks ago!

Them: Sorry. Pay up.

Me: Get your supervisor.

Song and dance, yadda yadda, I ended up giving in, paying off the month again, and cancelling again.

Next month, WHAT DO YOU KNOW, another VZW bill lands in my mailbox for monthly service AS USUAL.

I called again, same song and dance, only this time I also wrote a letter to corporate describing the sequence of events and suggesting that I was ready to take legal action. Then the retention department or someone behaving like a retention department called me and asked if I didn't really want to stay. I was so livid my head nearly exploded. Then, finally, this last person agreed to cancel me and I stayed cancelled...

Until I got a COLLECTIONS LETTER for another VZW monthly amount. At first I refused to pay in case it was going to go this way every month again, but when two or three months had passed and just that one charge seemed to be left, I paid the collections bill and that was the end of it.

But you'll never get me to go back to VZW unless every other telecom has been carpet-bombed. Even then, I might prefer tin cans and strings to VZW.

and i bet that cost verizon 3 grand to show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789344)

and i bet that cost verizon 3 grand to show up in court or more, now if everyone wants change you begin to see how it works....sue them back....

Landlines (1)

DaMattster (977781) | about 3 years ago | (#36789422)

Landlines are going by the wayside as they are just cost prohibitive in the current atmosphere. Verizon wants to encourage people to go with VoIP or wireless service. I believe Verizon's wireline division just went through massive cutbacks in personnel not too long ago. Personally, I don't see a need for a landline anymore and I haven't had one since 2001.

Re:Landlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789492)

So what has that to do with anything?

Read the judge's decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789440)

I know it's unfashionable to RTFA or links, but in this case everyone should read the judge's decision. It's very simple to understand, very clearly written. If only "click through" agreements were this easy to understand.

Sounds like a.. (3, Funny)

ickleberry (864871) | about 3 years ago | (#36789484)

4.19 scam

Re:Sounds like a.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789744)

You need to be like +10 funny for that!

Re:Sounds like a.. (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 3 years ago | (#36789844)

/sunglasses

Won't somebody think of the children? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36789548)

That's a necessary charge that mobile carriers are allowed to put on bills as it's needed to fight online child pornography. You see, children are being exploited all throughout the world, and people are using their mobile phones to spread it. There's so much that it costs $4 from each of the 100 million customers. Now, $400 million sounds like a lot, but it's needed to fight child pornography and counterfeit purses coming over the border. By putting the $400 million into executives' and board members' pockets, they can concentrate their efforts to find child pornography and snuff it out as soon as they discover their networks being used to spread it. That's also why they're getting rid of the unlimited data packages. Think about it. $4 charge to all customers, broadband caps on data usage, *and* removing the Hot Spot feature they advertised before but have since been removed, FIGHTS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY!!! Without it, child exploitation will spread like wildfire and nobody will be safe from it. Sweet Sister Mary Francis!!! Can't anyone else see this???

Verizon is known for shitty billing problems (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 3 years ago | (#36789558)

I have month after month of problems with Verizon Fios Billing.

It was finally sorted out after a good time, but they were charging me all kinds of things when I was told my bill would be a certain amount of month, and each month it was ridiculously different and incorrect and as they tried to fix it each month it get screwed up further.

In the end, I was credited for paying too much due to their stupid billing department... and the bill finally was what I was "SOLD" when I subscribed.

FIOS is a great service, I've had it for a long time now, but Verizon is well known for absolutely terrible billing errors AND very poor customer service when it comes to correcting those problems and fixing them.

Luckily FIOS is worth putting up with those problems, but you have to be vigilant with Verizon.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...