Verizon forgives balance of $18,000 cellphone bill
Bob St. Germain said he was not sure at first whether to believe the Verizon official who called to tell him that the balance of his $18,000 cellphone bill had been forgiven, ending the Dover resident's long-running dispute with the company over the staggering amount, which his son mistakenly accumulated over a six-week period in 2006.
"Nice to see Verizon dismiss all the charges," St. Germain said. "But it's still on my credit report. Someone has to take the next step."
According to Verizon, the settlement is indeed official: In a statement, the company confirmed it is no longer insisting St. Germain pay the bill.
Last month, the Globe reported that four years ago St. Germain's son, Bryan, now 26, tethered his cellphone to a laptop computer to connect to the Internet, racking up $18,000 in charges over six weeks. Bryan said he did not know the two-year promotional period that had made the access free expired when his father renewed the family's cellphone plan. As a result, Bob St. Germain received a bill more than 100 times higher than his normal statement.
"Bills of this nature are exceptionally rare given our policy of clear disclosure of price plan details at the point of sale and through confirmation letters, the customer's ability to change price plans at any time without fees or extensions, and the many customer tools available for monitoring and managing voice data usage," Verizon Wireless spokesman Michael Murphy wrote. "This combination of transparency, flexibility, and technology serves our customers very well."
He declined to comment further about the case.
The Globe story about St. Germain's predicament prompted the Federal Communications Commission to consider adopting new rules to prevent such consumer "bill shock." The agency is now accepting comments from consumer groups and industry specialists about outrageously high wireless cellphone bills.
The full statement from Verizon Wireless is below:
"Despite making a substantial adjustment to the customer's bill in 2006, we concluded last week the remaining balance was uncollectible, wrote it off and consider the matter closed. Bills of this nature are exceptionally rare given our policy of clear disclosure of price plan details at the point of sale and through confirmation letters, the customer's ability to change price plans at any time without fees or extensions, and the many customer tools available for monitoring and managing voice and data usage via the Internet, from handsets, and by text or email notification.
This combination of transparency, flexibility, and technology serves our customers very well. For example, in March, over 97 percent of our customers did not exceed their voice minute plans. With our Parental Controls feature, customers can set voice and messaging allowances and receive free text alerts when a family member nears or reaches their limit. Our Mobile Broadband data customers are alerted through both email and text message when they reach 50, 75, 90, and 100 percent of their data plans.
The reality is the vast majority of our customers effectively manage their wireless accounts. The wireless industry is extraordinarily competitive and customers have many choices, which is why we continually focus on providing the best network, devices and account management tools to increase customer satisfaction."