Bamboozled October 22, 2018: Should Verizon charge a fee to cancel service after senior moves into a facility?

Rosemary Scragg pictured at the 2016 Montclair Fourth of July parade. Scragg moved into a memory care facility and Verizon was going to charge an early termination fee of $215 to her account.

Rosemary Scragg pictured at the 2016 Montclair Fourth of July parade. Scragg moved into a memory care facility and Verizon was going to charge an early termination fee of $215 to her account.  (Sandy Scragg)

When you sign a contract for a service, there’s usually important fine print to read and remember.

Not every policy is consumer friendly, but if you sign, you agree to the terms and you’re usually stuck.

Still, there are times when a business policy should be reconsidered. When rules should be broken.

Times when a business could show a little empathy.

Sandy Scragg was looking for a little empathy from Verizon.

Sandy Scragg (left) and her mother Rosemary on Election Day in 2016.

Scragg’s mother, a longtime Montclair resident, had to move to a memory care facility.

Rosemary Scragg, 71, wouldn’t have the opportunity to continue her Verizon service at the facility, so her daughter called to cancel her service.

But when she called, Sandy Scragg learned her mom would be charged a $215 early termination fee.

“This is such a terrible policy and it comes as an awful surprise,” Scragg said.

She said she first spoke to a customer service rep and then a manager. Both told her that early termination fees are only waived in cases of death, she said.

Unsatisfied with that answer, Scragg said, she Tweeted Verizon and also emailed two employees at the company’s Basking Ridge offices.

No one immediately responded to her emails, but on Twitter, Verizon said she should call again. This time, she should ask for the “retention department,” she said.

So she did.

“I received the same response, but this time, the woman told me that if Verizon FIOS service was not available at my mother’s memory care facility, they would waive the fee if I sent verification of her new residence,” Scragg said, and the rep told her to upload the residency agreement for the facility.

Scragg did as she was instructed, but then, she said, she received an email telling her the document was inadequate.

“On the phone, they assured me that it would be acceptable,” she said. “More time wasted.”

So Scragg Tweeted Verizon again.

“They sent me a direct message that read: ‘We hate there isn’t more we can do,'” Scragg said. “Wow.”

A screenshot of a direct message Sandy Scragg received from Verizon on Twitter.

We reached out to Verizon for help and for an explanation about its policy in cases like Scragg’s.

In just a few hours, Scragg received an email from Verizon. The company would waive the $215 fee.

“I sincerely apologize for the trouble and inconvenience you have experienced,” the rep said in the email.

We’re glad Verizon is helping this customer, but we wanted to know: What about everyone else? What’s the company’s policy for helping customers who have to cancel their contracts under similar circumstances?

Verizon waives its early termination fees for several reasons, including natural disaster, military deployment and moves out of FIOS areas, said spokesman Ray McConville.

“While the policy does not automatically cover illness, supervisors can use their discretion to apply a waiver on a case by case basis,” he said. “Certainly a situation like Ms. Scragg’s could have fallen into that category, but our supervisor discovered she automatically qualified for the ETF waiver based on her move to a non-FIOS area, which will be reflected on her final bill.”

McConville explained the initial representative Scraggs spoke to didn’t have the authority to waive the fee because of illness, but could have waived the fee because of the address change.

He also said in Scraggs’ case, after she sent the requested paperwork, the request “was denied because it was incomplete – specifically it did not contain the necessary address info of where she was moving. We later approved the ETF waiver after we received the complete paperwork.”*

So, dear readers, remember that if you ever have to cancel a FIOS contract, you can do it without an early termination fee if the home you’re moving to doesn’t have Verizon service, or if you’re moving to a facility in which you don’t have control over your communications company.

And if illness is your reason for cancellation, be sure to ask for a supervisor.

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