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Cellphones Verizon Businesses Handhelds The Almighty Buck The Courts United States News

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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  • by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:25PM (#36789066)
    Can we get this judge to look into medical billing too? It is the only place worse than cell phone billing, and not by much. Both are worse than used cars sales...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:25PM (#36789072)

    What he said !!

    Where's my meds !!

  • by koreaman ( 835838 ) <uman@umanwizard.com> on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:27PM (#36789080)

    Nothing will change; the utilities will keep fucking us over every chance they get. I'm not sure why this still surprises anyone.

    Our political system is so locked down by corporations that there is less of a chance of meaningful change here than in China or even North Korea. I'm not saying we're as bad as those places, but we're certainly headed that direction and there is literally no way to change that within the current system.

    Nothing will change in the United States without a revolution, which would first require a huge sea change in the culture to even be remotely effective.

    Again, chances are slim. May as well move to Europe or Canada as soon as possible.

  • Re:I assume... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jaymz666 ( 34050 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:28PM (#36789086)

    They charge a fee to provide a list of itemised calls on my cellphone bill, that alone shows how little regard they have for being transparent about what they are charging.

  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:56PM (#36789258)

    The company just keeps track of the minutes, and one never got a list of local calls. this was true at least in the 1970s when I had measured service in CA. With unlimited local they don't report either.

    Yes and no.

    No, the company does *in fact* keep tack of every number you call.

    And yes, normally you don't get a bill which itemizes local calls.

    But none of this is the point.

    This lady had a "customer service issue" where in she was disputing a charge. Verizon should be obligated to detail to any customer, on request, the nature of a charge. It's just that simple.

    Now, Verizon has an "Itemized Bill Service" for which they charge, and it probably does cost them marginally more in computing and paper, but it's all there in their computers...

    If I want ITEMIZED LOCAL CALLS on every bill, I might reasonable expect to pay a small fee.

    But if I have a BILLING ISSUE, I expect them to pony up the data as a matter of doing business with me.

    Fuck Verizon.

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:10PM (#36789348) Journal

    I would agree that this was just bad customer service training, but since this actually made it to court, AND WAS CHALLENGED BY VERIZON, this tells me that it is a matter of corporate policy. Verizon wanted so bad to NOT give her an itemized bill, they paid lawyers to go to court to try to defend their behavior and lost.

  • by toadlife ( 301863 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @08:08PM (#36789618) Journal

    Foreign aid makes up around 1.5% of the U.S. federal budget.

  • Re:I assume... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by index0 ( 1868500 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @09:15PM (#36789948)

    If a company wants to use brand name recognition, it works both ways. Good and Bad associations.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @09:21PM (#36789984)

    Nothing will change; the utilities will keep fucking us over every chance they get. I'm not sure why this still surprises anyone.

    You're part of the problem, but this doesn't surprise me at all. Greater society is to blame. I've been reading and thinking intensively in the area of economics and the foundation of wealth. Why are some societies better off than others? Ideological purity? I think not.

    The people thinking above the scale of the last quarterly profit report are widely in agreement that wealthy societies have superior social institutions. This shows up most of all in discussions about the rule of law. If you think rule of law makes a society impervious to corruption, you're smoking the drapes. But on a larger scale, there's a lot to it. There are certain kinds of financial and legal shenanigans that we implicitly don't accept, where someone in Africa would be posting "I'm not sure why this surprises anyone" about intermittent refrigeration.

    America is the most effective venture capital market in human history for good reason: pragmatic presumptions about rule of law are right more often than wrong. You think the Russians drink for no reason?

    This is a bit like people thinking there's a health care crisis in America, completely blind to the retirement savings crisis. These are not compatible crises, to the discerning mind. Yes, the health care system is mired in lamentable suckitude. Rule of law is the nucleus of the fruit, not the whole thing. The flesh of the fruit is the venal nature of business and politics as usual. Yes, we've noticed.

    The reason that people act as if this kind of behaviour from Verizon is shockingly unexpected is because we cling to the march of human history as mediated by communal opprobrium. The rule of law is still in there and dictates shared attitudes more than you think.

    Not in a thousand years will you catch me playing the learned helplessness card on the rule of law. Yes, you might look more hip by stating what's superficially obvious. You're also throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Recently I listened to Dan Carlin interview Gwynne Dyer. He echos what Stephen Pinker has also put forward: human violence is on a significant downward trend over the past 3000 years. It spiked wildly upward when we first started to confine ourselves to permanent settlements. Since then, we've been coming to terms, with millennial stubbornness.

    Concerning nuclear weapons in the 20'th century Dyer remarked "we passed the midterm", i.e. we haven't yet blown civilization sky high. Dyer is a specialist in the history of warfare. I didn't much care for his lectures on global warming, nor his comment in the Carlin interview that replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources is just a "diddle" costing 1% of GDP, or some insanely small figure. Shockingly, one idiocy doesn't make him wrong about everything else. He views a looming evacuation of Bangladesh as portent to the end of civilization. Clearly he sees the progressive detente of the past 3000 years as strictly territorial, as if the moment you displace a human from his emotional patch of soil, we're right back to baboons. He could be right. Israel has only taught us so far how things could get an awful lot worse. I got sucked into a long conversation with a Turkish political refugee (now Canadian) about the Israeli question the other day. My god, the learned helplessness card had never looked fatter or more attractive. But still I resist.

    Nothing will change in the United States without a revolution, which would first require a huge sea change in the culture to even be remotely effective.

    It was a huge insight for me when I read that disgust was a primary emotion, and that purity was a universal cultural response (emphasized to different degrees in different societies).

    We'll just suspend rule of law while we fix the purity problem by draining the creme of the social and

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2011 @12:13AM (#36790698)

    I've found that insurance companies don't always want you to know either.

    That's my experience too, and it's the part that baffles me. Does anyone know why? I would have thought they had a vested interest in reducing costs, but maybe they don't? Is it because they just scale premiums with cost? Does their profit increase as costs increase? If they encourage cost increase for that reason, then that is downright evil. Somewhere between Saruman and Sauron-level on the sinister scale.

    I went to my primary care physician (tvc.org) recently to have him spray a little liquid nitrogen on a wart on my foot. It took the family doctor a grand total of 5 minutes, most of which was friendly chit-chat. My insurance (Empire Blue) was billed $550, but that was knocked down to $450 thanks to the in-network contracted rate. That's $90 per *minute*, or $5,400 per hour. Now, I understand that medical school is expensive, but $5,400/hr? Really?

    Even if you assume the doctor spent two times as long doing other stuff related to my visit behind the scenes (15 minutes total), that's still $1,800/hr. Sure, there's lots of overhead with a building, nurses, receptionists, etc. But lawyers and CPA's somehow manage those costs while being paid a "measly" $200/hour.

    I called my insurance company and spoke with the insurance fraud department, but they said that $5,400/hour was normal and expected to spray one wart. (Procedure codes "17110" and "99214 25" for those of you following along at home.) Turns out that they pay the same amount whether the doctor spends 25 minutes or 25 seconds. But even if he had spent a full 25 minutes, that still comes to $1,080/hour (!).

    Here's where it gets even worse. My homeopathic doctor charges $15/hour for the exact same service that my medical doctor charged $5,400/hour for. (Actually, she does it for free, since it only takes her about 2 minutes, but if it did take longer for whatever reason, that's what it would cost.)

    But homeopathic doctors (mine, at least) aren't covered under my insurance, so I have to pay in cash. To add insult to injury, it's not even tax deductible (until the 7.5% IRS rule kicks in).

    Furthermore, with my Cadillac insurance plan, my visit to the medical doctor cost me nothing directly. No copay, no deductible, and no co-insurance. My nearest indirect cost is the $1700/month premium (more than double my mortgage, BTW) that is 100% paid by my employer. (Hey boss, if you're reading this, thanks!) The net result is that it's actually *cheaper* for me to go to the $5,400/hour provider than to the $15/hour provider.

    I used to wonder why "health care" costs were increasing so rapidly. Now I know one of the reasons first hand. No one has any incentive to reduce cost. Not the insurance, not the doctor, and not even the patient. There is no connection between the pain of increased premiums and the action required to actually reduce those premiums.

    Another reason that that affects me is that in the last three years, my employer has paid over $60,000 in health insurance premiums, while our "explanation of benefits" have totalled less than $2,000 in that time. A different plan would be more appropriate for me, but laws and the tax system severely penalizes choice and competition by making employer-provided benefits deductible above the line and forcing them to provide certain coverage for everyone, rather than what's appropriate to each.

    One action costs me $15 (cheap provider), and costs all policy holders nothing. The other action costs me $0, but all policy holders are charged $450 (spread out so that my portion is only a fraction of a cent). Now multiply that by millions of patients and health-related events and think of the effect.

    So what do we do about it? How do you incentivize someone in my position to put the good of the many (lower insurance premiums for everyone from the $15/hour provider) over the good of themselves (higher direct cost due to uncovered services)? How many people even bother to fin

  • Re:My Experience (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bledri ( 1283728 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @01:17AM (#36790932)

    Two, the fact that the MedicalMafia asks for, and then insurance companies pay, those unconscionable fees is the whole damn reason that our system is so farking broken.

    Ah, but here is the kicker. The insurance companies don't pay those fees. No doubt they pay "too much", but every insurance company that is accepted at that clinic has negotiated a deal with the clinic and they pay a small fraction of what the uninsured pay. The insurance companies (the largest ones in the area) have a great deal of leverage over the clinics because they have the "consumers" the clinic needs to stay in business. Individuals are screwed, you're sick, you need medical attention and no body represents your interests. Add to that that the hospitals are trying to make up losses on the people who default to pay with those that will pay and it is in the hospitals best interest to take you for every penny possible.

  • by The_Wilschon ( 782534 ) on Sunday July 17, 2011 @10:04AM (#36792408) Homepage
    Considering your post as a short essay, I have one general comment: Keep it together. You started out quite coherent and interesting, but as the post continued, you got more grandiose, less coherent, less cohesive, and less comprehensible.

"Everyone's head is a cheap movie show." -- Jeff G. Bone