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Verizon Bills Dead People: We’ll Settle for Half Because She’s No Longer Among the Living

Phillip Dampier May 31, 2011 Consumer News, Data Caps, Verizon 1 Comment

David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times relays southern California consumer horror stories regularly in his twice-weekly column, but this week’s news that Verizon provides a 50% discount for past due balances owed by those who have passed away represents a whole new level in customer service failure.

It seems Betty Howard forgot to include disconnecting her Verizon Internet service as part of putting her affairs in order before passing away after a valiant battle against breast cancer.  Verizon ended up billing Howard’s survivors $110.80 for three months of broadband service she was unable to use… because she was dead.

Lazarus reports Verizon considered that an insufficient excuse to waive the charges:

This was the final insult for Howard’s daughter-in-law, Marilynn Loveless, who’d been battling with the phone giant for months over what she termed broken promises and questionable bills, not to mention an inability to grasp that its former customer was no longer among the living.

“I don’t like bullies,” Loveless told me. “That’s what this seemed to be. They bully you and bully you until they get what they want.”

Verizon cut Howard’s bill to $54.82 but then turned it over to a debt-collection firm. Loveless started getting calls from debt collectors trying to recover the cash from her dead mother-in-law.

As the collection calls started coming, Loveless reached out to Lazarus in hopes of giving the story enough exposure to get Verizon to pay attention.  Lazarus quickly uncovered the fact Howard was being double-billed for Internet service — once as part of a standalone account and a second time as part of a bundle Loveless herself pays for.  Neither account worked for even a single day.

No matter, Verizon would now only pony up a credit to reduce the bill to $42.75, even after understanding a reporter from the Times was witnessing this publicity train wreck in the making.

Shortly thereafter, Verizon finally relented and issued a full credit and a brief statement:

“Mistakes were made,” a Verizon spokesman said. “We apologize.”

Lazarus ponders whether Verizon will learn from any of this:

A good first step would be to empower its service reps — many of whom are overseas — to actually deal with specific issues, rather than follow scripts and hope a problem goes away.

Like I say, there’s a reason many consumers view big companies as heartless and unbending. It’s not because these businesses are misunderstood.

It’s because their actions speak for themselves.

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Paul Reed
Paul Reed
12 years ago

You think this is bad? Try canceling an EZ Pass with NYSTWA for someone who is deceased! My mother received bills for months or even years after my dad passed away. She finally got tired of arguing and gave up, eventually the bills finally stopped coming. Somehow, although dead, my father was crossing several of the NYC bridges and tunnel occasionally.

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