One mistake by a Verizon employee almost cost Jim DiOrio $170.
DiOrio had Verizon service — copper, not fiber — at his Morristown home.
In 2017, he received several letters from Verizon saying DiOrio’s service needed to be upgraded to FIOS because the company was no longer going to support its copper wire network.
DiOrio put it off, but Verizon was persistent. It started calling him to schedule the change.
He finally said yes and in July 2017, and a technician came to his home.
“The technician came out the first time but couldn’t install the fiber optic cable because he said it was a two-man job,” DiOrio said. “I then set up another appointment and the same thing happened. The technician needed a helper which he didn’t have.”
So he set up a third appointment, making it clear two technicians would need to come.
But when the new date came, only one technician came. Rather than reschedule yet again, DiOrio stepped in as the helper.
The job was done after three hours, he said, and the technician gave DiOrio some papers to sign.
“I noticed that there was a two-year term to the agreement,” DiOrio said. “At that time I knew that I would be moving full-time to my existing house at the Jersey shore in Belmar in February 2018.”
DiOrio said he asked the tech, but the tech said not to worry. He explained that ending the contract early wouldn’t matter because DiOrio was moving.
“At no time prior to this time did Verizon indicate in writing or on the phone that in order to accomplish the upgrade, I would have to commit to a two-year term,” he said. “I reluctantly signed.”
Months passed, and DiOrio was ready for his move to Belmar. On Feb. 16, he, said, he called Verizon to cancel the service effective Feb. 22.
“The customer service representative immediately told me that I owed $170 for an early termination fee because I had ‘upgraded’ the service,” DiOrio said. “I explained that I didn’t upgrade the service and that Verizon had upgraded it and I had no choice in the matter.”
The rep asked where he was moving, saying that if FIOS service was transferred to the new house, he wouldn’t have to pay the early termination fee.
Verizon does provide service in Belmar, but it wasn’t that simple.
DiOrio already had a contract with a different service provider for the Belmar home, and if he canceled, he’d owe that company an early termination fee.
DiOrio’s call was escalated to a supervisor, but the verdict was the same. Unless he took his FIOS service to Belmar, he’d have to cough up the $170 penalty.
Frustrated, he reached out for help.
THE MISTAKE, REVEALED
Two-year contracts are quite common among service providers, and most offer the same “out” for customers who move. If the customer moves and continues service at a new home, the contract would continue and no fees would be due. There would also be no fee if the service provider doesn’t do work in the town.
But DiOrio’s situation was a bit unique. He wasn’t trying to leave Verizon, but he already had a relationship — going back seven years — with a different company for his Belmar home.
Plus, prior to the change away from copper, he didn’t have any contract with Verizon. The change to FIOS wasn’t his choice, but at Verizon’s insistence.
We asked Verizon to take a closer look, and in a couple of hours, the case was solved.
DiOrio got a call from a customer service rep, who DiOrio said “was delightful and fixed everything.”
The rep explained that the switch to FIOS shouldn’t have been considered an upgrade with a two-year contract, and DiOrio would not be charged the $170 fee.
Verizon confirmed that customers who agree to change to fiber at Verizon’s request, as a matter of policy, are not asked to sign a contract.
What happened to DiOrio was a mistake, said Paul Sullivan, a Verizon vice president.
Sullivan also clarified the company’s policy when a person moves.
He said when a FIOS customer moves to an address where FIOS is not available, a customer can share proof of the new address. Once that’s validated, the early termination fee would be waived.
If the new address is able to get FIOS, and if the customer sticks with the service, there would be no fee.
There would only be an early termination fee if the service was available and the customer chooses to use another provider, he said.
We thank Verizon for fixing this issue so quickly.
DiOrio said he was impressed by the rep who contacted him, calling him a “true customer service advocate.” He said the rep is the kind of person who should be training others who deal with customer problems.
He hopes his story is a warning for other customers, and he wants our readers to be careful when initiating new service or changing an existing one.
“In my case, the change to my service was initiated by Verizon so I was very unsuspecting,” he said, noting that he worries about people who have no luck with customer service reps. “If they couldn’t pay the termination fee, they would then get hounded by collection agencies and have their credit score damaged. These folks need to be protected.”
Amen to that.