Phone accidentally turns on inside purse for 1 day in Israel, gets $1800 in roaming fees! Verizon forces payment. AYFKM?

Here’s what happened…  Rebecca went to Israel for 10 days in November 2010.  She wasn’t going to use her Verizon HTC Android phone while she was there, so it never occurred to her to call VZ and change her plan to an international roaming plan.

Well, of course her HTC Android turned on accidentally inside her purse and started downloading emails and such.  Unfortunately, Rebecca didn’t discover this for about 18 hours.  When she noticed it was on, she immediately turned it off and didn’t think anything of it because of course, she didn’t use the phone.  No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong!

When she got back home, her phone had been disabled.  So she called VZ and asked, “Why did you turn off my phone?”

They said, “Because you incurred $1800 of roaming fees last week in Israel.”

So Rebecca says, “Uhh…excuse me?  How is that possible?  I didn’t even use it.”

“But we show that you had wireless data roaming for about a day.”

“Oh my gosh…I know what happened.  My phone accidentally turned on inside of my purse.  When I saw it was on, I turned it off.  I didn’t make any calls or anything though.”

“Well, we’re showing that the charges are valid and you did incur data fees, so you owe us the money.”

“Wait a second…I DIDN’T, USE, THE, PHONE!  Do you see any outgoing calls?”

“No.”

“Were there any incoming calls?”

“No.”

“Do you see any outgoing text messages?”

“No.”

“So obviously I’m not lying to you.  My phone turned on accidentally.  Can’t you just remove the charges?”

“We have to charge the account first, and then we can remove them for you.”

“What?”

“Yes maam, to remove the charges we have to wait until the next billing cycle.”

“Ok, I’ll call you back when I get my next bill.  Thanks.”

Several weeks pass by and the phone bill arrives with the $1800 roaming charges.  Rebecca calls back and says, “Hi, I’ve got a dispute on some roaming charges that I need to take care of can you help me with that?”

“Sure, I’d be happy to assist you.  Let me pull up your account infor…oh my GOSH!!  Yes, I see.  Wow…that’s quite a large amount of roaming charges.  Let me see what I can do to take care of this for you.  Please hold.”

<Hold music…doo dee doo doo dee doo doo….about 5 minutes go by…>

“Ok, Rebecca, I am only going to be able to credit 25% of these roaming charges to your account.  So your new total will be $1,350.”

“Excuse me???  What are you talking about??  Why can you only remove 25%?  That ridiculous…I didn’t use the phone.  The stupid phone turned on and started doing stuff and I didn’t notice.”

“Well Rebecca, I see a note here that we attempted to call you while you were in Israel to tell you that your phone was on.  But your voicemail box was full.”

“Well, duh!  I wasn’t checking my voicemail because I DIDN’T WANT TO GET ROAMING CHARGES!  That makes sense, right??”

“Yes, I completely understand.”

“Well then, why can’t you reverse 100% of the charges?”

“Because I can’t.”

“Well, is there a supervisor I can speak with?”

“Yes, please hold and I’ll transfer you.”

<Hold music…doo dee doo doo dee doo doo….>

“Hi Rebecca, I see that you would like to have some roaming charges removed from your account?”

Rebecca explains the whole story again…

“Yes, I understand.  If you would have called us before you left, we could have changed your plan to an International Roaming and you wouldn’t have incurred these fees.”

“Well how much would that have been?”

“$69.95.”

“Uhh…can I sort of do a ‘time machine rental’ kinda thing and you can charge my account $69.95 now for those fees, and then wipe out the $1800?”

“No, I can’t do that.  But as a supervisor, I can credit your account 50% of the charges.  So you only owe $900.”

“ONLY $900???”

“Yes maam.”

“Put yourself in my shoes for a second…you can see why only paying $900 is still not an acceptable resolution to me, right?”

“Yes, I understand.  If Verizon was at fault, we could credit 100% of the roaming charges.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t intend on using my phone, so why would I have needed to call you?  And as a matter of fact, I stand by the statement THAT I DIDN’T USE THE PHONE.  IT SIMPLY TURNED ON AND STARTED GRABBING DATA!  And since you sold me an HTC Android with a push button power on the case, it is Verizon’s fault.”

“Yes, I completely understand………..”

“………….”

“Maam?”

“I’m just floored at the idea that because my phone turned on, I owe you $900.  But if I would have called just a day beforehand, it would have only been $30 more on my data plan.  So obviously, it’s not like it cost you $1800, right?”

“I’m not sure maam.”

“Well, tell me, why can you only refund 50%?  Is that some sort of arbitrary number in your computer screen that you can only plug in up to that?”

“It’s figured out on a case by case basis.”

“Can you do 51% off?”

“No maam, I can only credit 50% of the charges to your account.”

“Ok, let’s say this… what if my phone was on for 10 days and I racked up $18,000 in roaming fees?  Would you still be able to refund 50% of the amount??”

“It’s on a case by case basis.  I can’t tell you what would happen in that case, only this case.”

“And in this case, the most you can credit me is 50%, or $900, and I still owe you $900 for 1 day of roaming fees.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me, do you have to pay $1800 to Tel Aviv Cellular or Hebrew Wireless to cover the cost?”

“I don’t know maam.”

“Well, it sounds like it costs $69.95 a month, or $1800 a day.  But there’s no way on God’s green earth that you are writing a check to Israel Mobile or whoever for $1800 or anything even remotely close to that amount, so what you’re charging me is pure profit!!!”

“…..”

“Look, it’s this simple.  You can reverse 100% of the roaming charges and continue to bill me $100/month as a happy and relieved Verizon customer, or I’ll cancel my account and you can hound me forever and ever, spending hundred dollars with collection agencies trying to get your damn $1800.  Because this is just ridiculous.  I can’t believe you’re treating a customer this way because I didn’t think to call and change my plan just in case my phone turned on!  It’s OUTRAGEOUS!”

“I’m sorry maam, but there’s really nothing more I can do.”

“Well, is there any one else there I can speak to about this?”

“I can have my manager call you back, but he’s just going to tell you the same thing.”

“Well, I’d like to speak to him anyways and clearly voice my dispute.  I believe the facts are obviously on my side.  I’m not trying to squirm out of something.  In fact, I’m offering to pay you for the backed dated fees of switching my plan, but you’re not willing to do that and I just think it’s sad.”

…………

As of Dec 30, 2010 4:36p MST, after speaking with Verizon Customer Service Supervisor Sheila, extension 1226, Rebecca’s dispute has not been resolved.  I still have hope that someone with a brain and a heart will mark the box that says, “Verizon’s Fault” and then the program will allow them to credit 100% of the fee to her.  When/if that happens, I’ll update this post.  But if this isn’t blatant overcharge and abuse, then I don’t know what is.

—-

Btw, you too can submit your own story at VerizaRape.com.

UPDATE: Based on the comment from Kathryn, Rebecca found Andres Irlando’s name on Verizon and emailed him the following polite, but firm email:

Dear Andres Irlando,

I sincerely hope you are willing to take the time to read this e-mail and come to the correct resolution, for a loyal customer who hopes to continue doing business with your company. However, after having dealt with the horrible customer service the past 2 months, it seems I am thought of as just a “number” at Verizon, instead of a loyal customer.

I have repeatedly called customer service to try and resolve roaming charges to my account while I was in Israel. $1,800 of roaming for one day.

I did not use my phone overseas. I took it with me to use at the US airports only. Customer service stated they can credit 50% of the charges. That is still $900!!

I am willing to pay the $69 it would have cost me for the International package, had I known I needed to call Verizon before I left the country. There is no lock button on my phone, and therefore it turned on, in my purse, un-benounced to me.

Your customer service team is unwilling to work with me in getting this resolved. As I said, I am more than willing to pay the $69 cost for the International Package. This is ludicrous that I have spent so much time trying to resolve the issue, only to hear your customer service team tell me “It isn’t our fault”.

To our shock, Mr. Irlando replied within a few hours saying, (paraphrased, since I didn’t get his permission to post his reply)…

“Thanks for bringing this to my attention.  My apologies for going through this.  I’ve forwarded to one of my people to review your account.  He’ll get back to you ASAP.  I can assure you, you’re more than just a number.”

And by the next day, the situation was resolved!  VZ removed the $1800 roaming fee and had her pay $69 to switch her account over…exactly what Rebecca had been offering to do the whole time!

It’s nice to know that there are real humans at Verizon who can look at a crazy set of circumstances and do right by the customer.

Unfortunately…the customer support supervisor should have been allowed to fix this instead of Rebecca going around them to reach Mr. Irlando.

Rebecca remains a faithful Verizon customer.  And she’s extra excited that VZ is getting the iPhone! :)

13 thoughts on “Phone accidentally turns on inside purse for 1 day in Israel, gets $1800 in roaming fees! Verizon forces payment. AYFKM?”

  1. With every call placed to Verizon support, or visit to their website, you are guaranteed to have a horrible support/service experience.

  2. Verizon customer service is the pits. We have a business account with 13 numbers and they still treat me like a mark, so no surprise if you never hear from them again. Their customer service team borderlines on robotic in their responses, and they seem to be perfectly ok leaving you in a blind rage on the phone.

  3. It wasnt Verizons fault you roamed. They didn’t turn your phone on, you did. Does the charge sound excessive? Yes. Did you actually do what they said you did? Yes.

    Just cancel with Verizon, pay your early termination fee and enjoy your even worse service with any other company.

    Verizon is popular because they are pretty good, and in my opinion they treated you fairly by cutting the charge for no reason.

  4. She brought it to use on the way to and from the US side airport.

    I had a similar situation in Canada with AT&T, except that when I called them they said I could backdate an intl plan for $60 so that’s what I did. No problem. Huh and people say V is better that ATT.

  5. There are two legal principles here.
    #1 Is the charge unconscionable?
    #2 Duty to mitigate damages.

    The law says any part of a contract whose terms are unconscionable is void.
    Unconscionable means the charge is ridiculous, beyond any sane reason or expectation. Some of you are saying “If you didn’t want to pay $1800, you shouldn’t have turned your phone on”. OOOOkay… What about $18,000? $180,000? $1.8 million? When, for you, does the charge simply become unconscionable? There IS such a point.

    Mitigate damages says people in a contract must work together to minimize damages from a breach of contract. If you break a lease the landlord can’t just passively bill you for the year, he has to go find another tenant. That’s the law. Here, Verizon seeks to claim she’s in breach by not paying the $1800, well, Verizon had a duty to help her avoid those costs, not just laugh all the way to the bank. Lighting a little “R” in the corner of her phone does not cut it.

    Of course, there is no justice for those who do not pursue justice. Somebody’s gotta be _actually_ willing to go to court and make it happen. Mind you I say “willing”. Nobody wants to go to court, it’s the “nuclear option”. The credible threat, alone, is enough to make diplomacy work. Usually. Verizon does NOT want the question of $1800 roaming charges put in front of a jury. So bring the fight to them.

  6. The EXACT thing happened to me during a trip to China in November. They tried to charge me over $800 in roaming charges. Long story short, after MANY calls to customer service, I finally wrote a letter that I emailed to every Verizon executive. I got their names off the verizon wireless website. I made a logical guess as to how their email addresses were addressed…I guessed right. Within half an hour I got a call from a representative from the executive offices. They credited the entire cost except the $69 it would have cost me for the international package. Not a perfect solution since I never used the phone…but certainly better than $800+. Good luck.

  7. The sad part is that it took so much for something that Verizon SHOULD have agreed to from day one, and SHOULD be a part of their policy by now. Just because some random higher-up decided to pay attention to your issue, doesn’t make them less guilty… it makes them more guilty because they know it happens daily and they just wait for the top to blow before they do something about it. Those roaming charges are tantamount to profiteering.

  8. The easiest solution to this problem and it is a free one, is to pull your phone’s battery out of the phone. No way it can accidentally turn on if the battery is out. Then just simply put the battery back in when you are ready to use the phone again.

  9. Here’s another solution that might work. Most of the older cell phones had support for more than one line on the phone. This allowed for two phone numbers on one cell phone. My guess is that this allowed one number for business calls and another number for personal calls. Check to see if the smart phones have this capability. If so, then switch to the unused line that way there is no way for calls or data usage to occur. Also make sure the phone can’t switch back to the active line automatically as well before relying on it.

    1. Airplane mode is also an option, epspecially on a smartphones. It’s not hard to use, and on most phones Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are available in that mode.

      @Arcosanti, Support for multiple numbers is on most CDMA phones (Verizon, Sprint) today, but isn’t as accessable as it used to be. One would have to research NAM selection for their phone to use this method. Airplane mode would be the simplest method.
      Also, if GSM based (T-Mobile, at&t) one could switch their SIM with an international SIM such as Truphone, though that would require unlocking.

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