Me vs Verizon
June 13, 2016 10:02 PM   Subscribe

Traveled to Mexico. $800 in charges. Verizon doesn't care. Help me understand whether or not this is my fault.

Went to Mexico last month for a week. Before I left, I went to Verizon's site and added the 'Travel Pass' plan. It sounded great: $2/day. 'Take your plan with you'. 'Use your phone just like you do in the US'. The idea is that you use your minutes, data and text messages just like you do in the US and it's not a separate plan. I signed up.

When I got to Mexico, I got a notice on my phone that the plan was activated and that I would be billed $2 for every 24 hour period where the data, voice or text services were in use in Mexico. Great (I thought).

On the third day of my trip, I had to call into work to participate in a team meeting. Two hour call. The number was an toll-free 877 number. I was on the call for 130 minutes.

Last week I got my bill from Verizon with $786 in extra charges for 'Pay As You Go Long Distance'. My plan has unlimited minutes so I was sure it was a mistake. I spent 45 minutes on chat with a rep who ultimately agreed with me but said he couldn't issue the credit because it was over both his and his manager's limit. He had me call in (while I was still in chat with him) to complete the refund. Once I got on the phone with the rep, we disconnected the chat.

New rep decides that the charges are still due because the 877 number that I called for the team meeting 'gets routed through an international satellite number' and is actually classified as an international call (not a US call). The Travel Pass only includes calls to the US or to the country you're in, so this call isn't covered. Additionally, because of the 'satellite' situation, the cost is $6/min.

Verizon can't find the chat text from my conversation with the chat rep (they're looking for it). They've offered me 10% of the fees back. I told them I want all the fees refunded because the call would have been free in the US - which is how the TravelPass plan is marketed. I couldn't find any language on the site or on the Travel Pass FAQ that carved out 8xx or 'satellite routed' (wtf is that?) numbers.

Is Arbitration my next best move? Or am I in the wrong?
posted by shew to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bump up to a manager or advanced customer service. Note the name of the rep you speak with. Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:55 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Look into executive customer service. I've never used it with Verizon, but when I was having problems with Comcast's notoriously useless CS, a call to their executive support number resulted in a tech coming out the next day and getting everything fixed. The key is to be polite and have all your ducks in a row before you call. Explain the problem clearly, your prior contacts with support (names, methods, and times), and what you'd like them to do. They have the authority to do what needs to be done.

BTW, the "international satellite number" thing sounds like utter BS to me. I'm not an expert in telecommunications or anything, but that sounds like the exact tech-mumbo-jumbo that a lazy CS rep would use to try to get you to agree to a crappy deal. I would push for a full refund.
posted by arcolz at 11:07 PM on June 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

Looks like they're referring to a clause in the Terms & Conditions - International Services (while traveling outside the U.S.):

TravelPassSM: World capable device required; not available with unlimited data plans/features and select other plans. Calls to International numbers, other than the country traveling in, will be charged standard international long distance rates. TravelPass service may be removed, or data speeds may be slowed, if international Talk, Text, or Data usage exceeds 50% of total Talk, Text or Data usage over any 60 day period.

So that's in the fine print. However, that is not in any way clear from the "take your plan with you" and every other piece of information they provide. That's actually incredibly deceptive, looking through it all. I'd recommend not acknowledging that fine print, and instead pointing out every other piece of info they publish which would support you getting a refund.

Are you currently month to month? You could try letting them know that this is way more than enough to move you to a great new welcome deal at another carrier. Good luck.
posted by reeddavid at 12:48 AM on June 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

As this was a work-related call, can your employer assist (or otherwise be on the hook for reimbursing you)?
posted by Schielisque at 12:58 AM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't go to arbitration, keep calling customer service and asking for this to be escalated. I would call and as soon as the person answers, say, "I've called about an issue several times already and have been told I need to talk to someone at a higher level to resolve it. Can you connect me with your supervisor?" If they refuse, say, "I'm disputing a bill that's nearly $800. I need to talk with someone who has authority to refund that amount. Do you have authority to refund that amount?" Do this at every level, don't just stop at the first supervisor you are connected to.

Then in your explanation, mention your past service contacts, and make your arguments:
1. Verizon advertises its service as 'Use your phone just like you do in the US'. In the US, if you call an 877 number, it is toll free. If they are charging you for this, it's false advertising.
2. 877 is not an international exchange. You did not call an international number.
3. You have no way of knowing where calls are routed after you have dialed the number, and can't be held responsible for this.
4. You specifically signed up for a travel plan knowing you would need to make calls while traveling. The amount you agreed to pay was $2 per day and that is what you will pay.

I would also dispute this bill in writing. Write a letter to Verizon's customer service. Keep calling at the same time, but this will give you a paper trail and will help you out if the bill becomes past due while you're still disputing it.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:21 AM on June 14, 2016 [44 favorites]

Usually complaining on the company's Facebook or Twitter page will get you a response--especially if you stay calm and explain what steps you've already taken. It makes the company look bad to have you airing your (their) dirty laundry on the their page, especially if you come across as a reasonable person with a legit complaint they can't just write off.
posted by whitewall at 3:52 AM on June 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I had a somewhat similar issue with calling a 1-877 number from Canada on at&t, where I was probably less in the right than you (except I spent the call time mostly on hold to an airline during a blizzard, so even more annoying); I was able to get it reduced to a few hundred dollars, and this seems like the minimum of what you should be able to accomplish given your cell plan and sufficient determination.

From this experience I learned that calling toll-free numbers from a US cellphone while abroad is not very straightforward, because of the way it's funded. Here's how I understand it, which does not exactly mesh with what your verizon rep said: toll-free calls are actually not free, but are paid for by the receiver, and the setup for this is kind of complicated and probably not very modern (not well-integrated with cellphones). For one they aren't usually set up to cover international rates, unless something explicitly says otherwise. And cellphones add a wildcard that can be plan-specific; even if a toll-free number is set up to pay for international landline calls (as mine was) it won't necessarily pay for cellphone minutes. So international cell calls to 800 numbers often end up in a weird corner case where basically no one wants to/has agreed to pay for them and it falls back on the caller, but there's no warning. Also, in north america there's some oddities about how the 800 numbers work and get mapped between different countries that may be contributing (at one point 877 would have been 882 in mexico, not sure about now). Your case is a lot better than mine was in that it really does sound like your plan should do this, but it wasn't properly set up for this call (or there was some fine print that almost never gets triggered, or something).

also I switched to t-mobile after that one, if you travel to mexico a lot you might want to consider that. And/or use it as a negotiating tactic.
posted by advil at 5:24 AM on June 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

If there is a deceptive advertising issue, don't hesitate to get in touch with your state attorney General or department of consumer affairs.
posted by slateyness at 7:08 AM on June 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

If your employer required you to make the call while on vacation, they should be paying the bill. You should be talking to your manager.
posted by monotreme at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

This has happened to my friends dad more than once. I also have a friend who went through the exact same scenario as scrittore.

Call verizon after telling yourself that you are right like 100 times until you will not accept no for an answer, and do exactly what chickenmagazine suggests above.

Seriously, i know people who have gotten this kind of thing reversed repeatedly. I myself have done it with cell providers and ISPs. If they seriously wont help you, the final step is asking to be transferred to retentions.

I, honestly, would not even accept some reduction of the bill to like $100. I would be adamant that this was their fuckup, they needed to own it, and i was paying $0 above what the stated rate was for it.

I can't guarantee they'll cave, but just know that they have in the past and they can. Someone isn't paying for this BS right now as i write this. Keep that in mind while you're on the phone.

On a side note, fuckity FUCK international "roaming deals". I always buy a sim in the country i'm visiting, or buy something like the aforementioned tmobile service. EVERY provider sucks at this, at least in north america. It's entirely a scam to milk rich people who don't look at the bill, and people who wont fight it. I swear every single person i know whose tried to use it has some story about some HUGE bill showing up they had to fight. Or some tacked on charge that wasn't mentioned, with some shaky explanation like the satellite transfer thing that almost sounds legit but probably isn't. Just say no to that turdslurry.
posted by emptythought at 2:07 PM on June 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

advil has it -- calling an 8XX number from overseas is very complicated because of the routing and intercarrier compensation issues between the various international and domestic local and long-distance/interexchange carriers involved (as well as the called party, who typically pays for 8XX calls). For this reason, many conference bridges have international access numbers -- a local and country-specific number to be used by callers in foreign countries -- because it's generally much less expensive for the bridge provider to buy those local access numbers than for it to have to pass on international charges to its conference bridge customer (or, in this case, to the caller because the interconnection agreements between the various carriers doesn't address this particular edge case).

That being said, there is no reason for you to have known that the 8XX call would be billed back to you because 8XX calls in the US are not billed to the caller -- and you purchased a plan that said you would be able to use your phone in Mexico just like you use in the US, for only an additional $2/day. I agree that chickenmagazine's script and escalation tactics are the way to go.
posted by devinemissk at 7:08 PM on June 15, 2016

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