FYI: Switching phone, internet, TV providers

September 13, 2011 9:14:41 PM PDT
Many people now use a single company for their phone, internet, and even their television service. And it's common for consumers to switch providers in search of a better deal. But that could mean some hidden trouble.

Kati Burke had a bundled package with Verizon that included internet, phone, and FiOS.

She switched carriers after she says Comcast offered her a better deal..

"[They told me] 'we can offer you the same deal for half the price,' so I took them up on it," Burke said.

Kati says she canceled her service with Verizon and paid what she understood to be her final bill of $124.37.

So imagine Kati's reaction when she got a notice months later that Verizon had sent her account to a collections agency for money still due.

"I was shocked, I was surprised, I could not believe it because I made my final payment," Burke said.

Kati says Verizon's action affected her credit score.

"I could not refinance my loan at a lower rate because my credit report was not as good as it would have been if this had not been on it," Burke said.

Maryanne Mullen says she ended up in the same situation after she canceled her Verizon package.

"I thought it was taken care of and they told me the final bill would be X amount of dollars, I went online and paid it and about a week later, I got another bill," Mullen said.

Verizon eventually sent Maryanne's account to collections, too.

Here's what happened in BOTH cases.

When the customers canceled with Verizon, the phone portion of their Verizon package was canceled but the internet and FiOS portions were not canceled. They were still active. So while Kati and Maryanne thought they only had one final bill and paid it, Verizon says they still actually owed for the other services.

"Even though you cancel the whole thing at one time, they split it into three different bills," Mullen said.

So when switching to another provider or canceling a bundled package, you must confirm that each service is canceled and ask if you have separate final balances.

Verizon says, "We apologize for the confusion and the inconvenience. In hindsight, {we} could have more clearly communicated to the customer what the situation was and what needed to be done to close out her accounts permanently. Verizon has recognized how this process can sometimes be confusing for customers, and communicates to them via email steps they need when changing services. We also recently adapted our policy to automatically close out other services for customers if they haven't contacted the company within 30 days."

Meantime, with the help of Action News and our volunteers at Call for Action, we were able to get both Maryanne's case and Kati's case resolved.

Verizon waived their remaining balances and removed their accounts from credit reporting and collections.

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