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Customer Asks For Itemized Bill, Verizon Tells Her To Get a Subpoena 415

suraj.sun writes with this quote from an article at Techdirt: "A woman, who called Verizon to try to find out about the $4.19 she was being charged for six local calls, was told by Verizon reps that the only way it would provide her an itemized bill was to get a lawyer and have the lawyer get a subpoena to force Verizon to disclose the information. Instead, the woman went to court (by herself) and a judge told Verizon (.docx) to hand over the itemized bill info. 'It is a basic matter of fair business practice that a consumer should be able to contact a utility about a charge on a bill and learn what the charge is for and learn that the charge was correctly applied. The only verification that Verizon's witness could offer that a charge like [the customer's] $4.19 measured use charge was accurate and billed correctly was her faith in the accuracy of Verizon's computer system. The only way that Verizon would offer any information about a past charge in response to a consumer inquiry was to require that customer to hire a lawyer and subpoena their own usage information. By no reasonable standard could this be considered reasonable customer service."
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Customer Asks For Itemized Bill, Verizon Tells Her To Get a Subpoena

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  • I assume... (Score:4, Informative)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:23PM (#36789050)
    that this is Verizon, the RBOC, not Verizon Wireless. With VZW, you can view itemized billing on-line. Doesn't the landline company offer a similar capability?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:31PM (#36789110)

    Have you been to Canada recently? Our government is more in the pockets of corporations, as least in regard to utilities and wireless service, that the U.S. could ever dream of.

    Except for healthcare. We have that part covered.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:59PM (#36789272)
    I'm a physician and I couldn't figure out what the charges meant on my last hospital bill. Turns out the hospital couldn't either. They had to drop the charges. This sort of thing happens all of the time and I'm constantly telling patients to look at their bills and appeal things that don't make sense. Ah, American medicine. The best there is ....
  • Re:I assume... (Score:5, Informative)

    by BoogeyOfTheMan ( 1256002 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:07PM (#36789330)

    Only if you want it in print, you can view it for free on your website.

  • by kidsizedcoffin ( 1197209 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:57PM (#36789542)
    I've found that insurance companies don't always want you to know either. My current explanations of benefits from my insurance company will not tell me what any of the procedures are, and I've found they won't tell me what they are when I call either. It is only by eventually matching it up with the itemized doctors' bills later, that I'm able to have any idea why a visit warranted 4 charges. I would not think this would be a good way to get people to report fraud.
  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @08:34PM (#36789750) Homepage

    I left Verizon Wireless in the late '90s precisely because they were billing me for things that I couldn't identify and that they wouldn't itemize.

    Let me tell you how "leaving them" worked out for me. After lots of attempts to get them to itemize, I just paid everything and said cancel (my initial agreement period was over and I was on monthly). Then, I got a bill from them the next month—for the same monthly service, including things they wouldn't itemize, as before. I called them up.

    Me: WTF? I quit last month and paid off.

    Them: Yes, but you re-opened your account.

    Me: WTF? How did I do that? I haven't talked to you since then.

    Them: We don't know. But there is this charge that you incurred that means you continued to use the service.

    Me: How did I incur the charge? That sounds like the same amount I was asking about before?

    Them: Must have been local calls or sth. We can't tell you. But it's there. So your bill / account is back also. You owe for the month.

    Me: But I threw away the VZW phones, like, three weeks ago!

    Them: Sorry. Pay up.

    Me: Get your supervisor.

    Song and dance, yadda yadda, I ended up giving in, paying off the month again, and cancelling again.

    Next month, WHAT DO YOU KNOW, another VZW bill lands in my mailbox for monthly service AS USUAL.

    I called again, same song and dance, only this time I also wrote a letter to corporate describing the sequence of events and suggesting that I was ready to take legal action. Then the retention department or someone behaving like a retention department called me and asked if I didn't really want to stay. I was so livid my head nearly exploded. Then, finally, this last person agreed to cancel me and I stayed cancelled...

    Until I got a COLLECTIONS LETTER for another VZW monthly amount. At first I refused to pay in case it was going to go this way every month again, but when two or three months had passed and just that one charge seemed to be left, I paid the collections bill and that was the end of it.

    But you'll never get me to go back to VZW unless every other telecom has been carpet-bombed. Even then, I might prefer tin cans and strings to VZW.

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @09:14PM (#36789942) Homepage
    They are all like it. In the UK, I had a very similar experience with British Telecom, trying to cancel my phone + internet account because I'd emigrated. Yet they still kept on charging for me long after I'd left the country! (The procedure to actually notify them that I'd cancelled both accounts was Kafka-esque in its byzantine intricacy and ineffectiveness). In my case I simply refused to pay and eventually when it got to the legal proceedings stage, I could simply prove my case that I'd moved abroad and it was immediately dropped. Bloody stupid that it had to get that far though.
  • Re:I assume... (Score:3, Informative)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @01:26AM (#36790958)


    In other countries they're required by law to provide you with an itemized bill and sometimes they'll even give you a small bonus (e.g., doubling your FTP quota) if you choose their online billing system instead of having them send you a hardcopy.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @05:03AM (#36791564)

    I wonder. What percent of the *actual* cost does $40/month cover? What pays for the rest of it? And what would a 5-minute wart spray cost in your country?

    I can't speak for the GP, but here in the UK the NHS doesn't have a great many funding sources. Obviously they are paid for with taxes (the actual amount that goes to healthcare isn't specifically itemised in our tax), but the NHS also carries out some private procedures for medical insurance companies and charges them - I don't know how much profit they make from this.


    - If I'm sick, I don't have to worry about paying for healthcare.
    - I have no idea how much of my money goes to healthcare but there is no earthly way it's anywhere near the $1400/month someone earlier on said their employer was paying. The NHS is almost certainly considerably cheaper per patient than the US system.
    - I'm not banned from taking out private medical insurance (I don't know where Americans get this idea that socialised healthcare immediately means a ban on private healthcare) - lots of people do. There's not a great deal of benefit for really serious illness - you'll generally be seen quite quickly for that under the NHS.
    - Prescriptions are a fixed cost per-item (about £8, IIRC). If the item costs £1, the NHS is making a stonking profit; if it costs £50 it's making a stonking loss.


    - If I have a condition which is uncomfortable but not so serious that my health is really threatened unless it's seen to FAST and it cannot be dealt with by my GP, it can take a long time to get sorted. I'd have to visit my GP who would refer me to a specialist (maybe several weeks wait), I'd spend about 5 minutes with a specialist who would order more tests (another 6 weeks), once I'd had those tests I'd get another visit to the specialist who would discuss what, if anything, they showed (another 6 weeks wait). If necessary, the specialist will book me in for a procedure of some sort (another 6 weeks). It could easily be 4-6 months, and that assumes the specialist finds something they can do after the first round of tests. They may not, in which case I may have more tests and returns to the specialist to look forward to. This is the sort of thing people pay private health insurance to avoid.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake