Bamboozled April 25, 2019: Verizon bills confound veteran after iPhone purchase. What’s up with that invisible phone line?

Verizon customer Joe Schwartz holds his Verizon bill. The bills have been for a different amount every month. (Credit: Joseph Schwartz)

Verizon customer Joe Schwartz holds his Verizon bill. The bills have been for a different amount every month. (Credit: Joseph Schwartz)

Back in September 2018, Joseph and Henny Schwartz needed new cell phones.

They visited the Verizon store in Brick, and they thought they were in luck.

“We were told that there was a special two-for-one program on sale that month,” Joseph Schwartz said. “If we bought one cell phone, we would get one free.”

The Manchester couple was interested, but first, they wanted to know the monthly cost.

The salesperson worked out the charges, Schwartz said. Taking into account a veteran discount, the total bill would be $100.99 plus a few extra fees: a universal service charge, plus regulatory and administrative fees.

“My thoughts were that those charges were small stuff and therefore acceptable,” Schwartz said.

The couple would keep their existing phone numbers.

Over the next six months, the bills made no sense, Schwartz said.

The amounts were always different, records show, and the couple couldn’t figure out why.

The first bill, in October, was $189.88. It included a charge for a third phone line – something Schwartz said he never wanted and never discussed with the salesperson.

He called Verizon.

“After the first month I complained about the additional phone number billing, and I was told it would clear up in a month or two,” he said.

That didn’t happen.

The November bill was $162.49 and December was $113.37. The next three months’ charges were $147.80, $152.84 and $147.84.

Come April 2019, the bill was a whopping $234.37.

“Each month I called to complain, but the billing got worse,” Schwartz said.

Even a letter written to the corporate offices yielded no response, he said.

“Seems like a odd way to get a free phone by paying for an invisible phone number,” Schwartz said, noting he’s a Verizon stockholder and doesn’t want to hurt the company but rather wants to correct the way it does business. “AlI want is to keep my two current phone numbers, pay for the two-for-one phones as I agreed and for Verizon to make everything clear upfront at the time of purchase.”

He asked Bamboozled for help.

What happened?

We asked Verizon to examine Schwartz’s case.

Schwartz got a call from a rep, who offered several credits to his account. The rep said he would follow up with a detailed email.

While Schwartz waited for the email, we asked Verizon for details on what went wrong, but it would only say the customer was satisfied with the resolution.

Trying to figure out what happened, we asked if a separate phone line was a requirement for the buy-one-get-one promotion. Verizon said it addressed the matter with the customer, and it had no further comment.

That’s not much of an explanation.

But a little more detail came when Schwartz received the email from the Verizon rep.

The rep confirmed Verizon was issuing several credits to his account. One credit would cover the charges associated with the phantom phone line. Another would cover five months of payments on the new phones.

And going forward, there would be an additional monthly credit for the next 17 months to honor the pricing on the buy-one-get-one-free deal on the new phones.

So how did the extra line end up on Schwartz’s bill in the first place?

It was a mistake, the Verizon rep said in the email to Schwartz.

“As we discovered it appears there was some confusion when the first two lines of service were established and when your wife’s number was transferred to this account,” the rep wrote. “I apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced and thank you for allowing me to assist you with your concern.”

Mistakes happen. It’s how a company handles the error that’s most important.

We’re glad Verizon made this right, but it’s a shame that six months of phone calls from Schwartz couldn’t have solved the problem.

“All I wanted was for the billing to be correct,” Schwartz said.

Hopefully, now, it is.

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