Interesting Vonage Customer Complaint

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Interesting Vonage Customer Complaint

vonage customer cancel complaintFrank Trama told me his horror story about how he tried to cancel Vonage and how Vonage continued to bill him even though Vonage no longer was in control of Frank's phone number. When I first signed up with Vonage eons ago, Vonage told me NOT to cancel my SBC phone service - that they would take care of everything, including porting the phone number and cancelling my service. This certainly made for a nice easy transition for me. Contact my new phone company (Vonage) and they handle everything on my behalf.

The problem is when you try and cancel your Vonage service and port your number back to a traditional phone carrier. You can't simply do the reverse, i.e. have your new phone company contact Vonage on your behalf and cancel service with them. Yes, your phone company will contact Vonage and get your phone number ported over, but Vonage will NOT automatically cancel your service with them. So basically you're paying Vonage for a phone number that they don't even own/control! Ridiculous? You bet. I can't do the story justice, so I'm going to include Frank's horror story verbatim below. I also found a copy of a video interview Frank did with a local TV news outlet as part of their "Fight Back Friday" series. I included it below as a Flash video. Fascinating how quickly after the TV story aired a Vonage executive contacted him and offered a refund AFTER Frank went to the media to complain. Interestingly, the TV news spot mentions that Vonage had its membership to the Better Business Bureau revoked due to "unanswered complaints" back in March.

Frank's email follows...
_______________________________
Tom,

Read your story and I have my own story that needs to be told. I'm sure you know the FCC better than I so humor me for the first part. Let me know if there is anything else I can do. Thanks again. It a Bit long wind with plenty of typos i'm sure.

Vonage Billing and Number Transfer Scam

Let me give you some Telecom and FCC background before I get to my story and problem.

The FCC mandated to the telephone carriers of Local Number Portability LNP, which means the consumer owns the number and the consumer can authorize the new carrier of their choice to take the number. The carriers will tell you not to contact the old carrier and they will take care of the move. Behind the scenes the carriers submit a LOA, Letter of Agency which is mandated by the FCC and below is what the LOA's intent is;

LETTER OF AGENCY
Is a document authorizing a telecommunications provider to act on your behalf. This is generally required in the United States when switching a telephone service provider while keeping the current telephone number or any other service which requires transfer of information from one provider to another. The regulations governing this are maintained by the FCC.

Pretty straight forward, you authorize the new carrier to act in your behalf. Meaning the new carrier verified all your information and confirmed you are the owner of the number.

Here is the trickery from Vonage. Vonage put this silly little blurb in their Terms of Service which states basically the account holder must contact Vonage to cancel or make any changes to their account (This is if you can get through). So even though you authorized the new carrier to take the number, Vonage says screw you you still have to call us to authorize changes. Even if the number has been moved legally based on FCC laws,

Here's the great part, Vonage will continue to bill you for a number they do not route or control. Yes believe that, so now you will be getting two bills from two separate companies for the same number and they (Vonage) do not care because they think that silly little blurb is allowing them to do that.

Here is the kicker. Vonage states in their terms of Service “the account holder must contact Vonage to cancel or make any changes to their account”, and yet makes the phone transfer to the new carrier without my phone call to them, as is in my case and many others from what I'm reading.

So basically I called my new carrier, they followed mandated laws from the FCC, Vonage moved number, four months later, they continued to bill me for that same number because I did not call them and notify them of the move and yet broke their own policies and moved my number without my so call phone call to them. Confused? Good! That's the scam!

So some poor shmo forgets to call and gets a month of extra charges from Vonage, so the poor guy calls them and he says oh well my mistake I understand and moves on. Scammed another one for $24.99. Now take that and multiply it by hundreds even thousands of unsuspecting people. That's a lot of money.

Its subtle but effective because of that silly little blurb in their terms of service, which is ridicules since they already got authorization from the new carrier and then they turn around and break their own Terms of Services by moving the number without your so called phone call to them.

So I have filed paperwork with the FCC, FTC, IC3, BBB, and various private consumer complaint agencies on the web, Attorney Generals in my state and NJ, PA and NJ congressman and every news outlet that will hear me.

I had my first news interview today Wednesday August 15th 2007 and it will be airing Friday on KDKA Fight Back Channel 2, with Yvonne Zanos.

Now here is my story!

I signed up for Vonage back in December of 2006 I researched them for a little while and thought it was a better deal than Comcast at the time.

So I went on the Vonage site and signed up. During the signup there is an authorization you had to authorize Vonage to roll the number from Comcast to Vonage. Standard practice between phone companies; what the authorization says is me the verified owner of the number authorizes the new company to take the number. This is a FCC law which allows me the consumer to move to which ever phone company provides better service and/or pricing with out losing my number.

Vonage told us not to contact the current carrier because it could delay things and that the transfer will go through without a hitch. I did not have to contact Comcast and terminate because they where already informed of the transfer. The number took about 7 days to become active on the Vonage service.

After a couple of months my wife decided that she liked Comcast better and to avoid an argument I agreed to switch the number back. Since I wanted my own phone number and I liked the idea of Vonage VOIP service for my office I decided to add an additional number to my Vonage account before she switched our primary number.

So we did everything in reverse, we contacted Comcast and authorized the move of the number back and waited. They told us not to contact the other carrier because it could delay things. The number switched in about 10 days and everything seemed fine.

Here is where it gets weird. I wasn't paying attention to the email about the Vonage invoices and just assumed everything worked as smoothly as when we switched to Vonage. Well about 2 days ago I looked at one of the Vonage bills and noticed that they where still billing me for both numbers.

I thought it was a simple clerical error and that they would rectify it. So I sent them this message;

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Subject: [vonage.com #13777846] Other

We had our 412-734-xxx transferred back to Comcast 4 months ago and I just happened to look on our bill and noticed that you have been billing me for that number. Comcast has owned that number for months now. I need credited for the 1-412-734-xxxx. The only number that should be on this account is the 412-894-xxxx. Comcast confirmed to me that they sent you all the termination/transfer and we have been receiving calls normally through Comcast. Frank
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They responded with;

--------------------------------------------------------------
Dear xxxxxx,
Thank you for choosing Vonage, the #1 rated digital phone service!
I understand you have transferred one of your numbers to Comcast and you want credit for non usage of service.
After further review, I am unable to process a credit as requested for the following reason:
I checked our records and found that your number 1-(412)-734-xxxx is still active in your account. You will be charged for the monthly plan charges till your is Active.
I regret to inform you that we do not have the roll in porting out a number. Once the number transfer gets completed, you need to contact our Voice Support at toll free number 1-VONAGE-HELP 1-866-243-4357 to cancel your account. We apologize for any inconvenience that may have been caused.

Sincerely,
Vonage Customer Care
-------------------------------------------------------------------

I responded with;
-------------------------------------------------------------
So let me understand this, you are charging me for a number you do not own? When I transferred my number from Comcast to you, Comcast immediately terminated billing for that number once they received the roll over notification. Vonage on the other hand continues to bill customers even when they where notified of a similar roll over request. That some how does not seem legal and is completely unacceptable. I can not believe that even now that I sent you a complaint regarding incorrect billing, Vonage would still bill me for a number they are perfectly aware they do not own if I do not call them first.

Well now I'm wondering how many others you scamming, scam a month or so from customers that are not aware or this ridicules business practice. I was going to keep my second number but given the latest I will be terminating the entire account and notifying my five friends of your business practices and lack of customer care, hopefully they contact a couple of their friends, and so forth. I'm sure they will terminate this scam.

In addition I filling formal complaints with the FCC and local internet regulating agencies because in my opinion this is a scam and last I looked I still have plenty of options to be heard and Vonage be revealed.

Frank

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Now remember that Comcast has had my number and billing me for months now. Even after I told them (Vonage) they don't own the number, they where still going to charge me for something they don't own or route. Remember Comcast has already notified them and they (Vonage) switched the number to Comcast already. So Regardless of me calling them or not is irrelevant. So Vonage is very much aware of the disconnect.

So anyways, I tried calling them this morning to cancel and the customer service was closed, so I called them around noon after I received this message from them;

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Dear xxxxxxxx,
I understand you have ported your number to another carrier and you are concerned about the charges.
Though your number has been transferred to a different carrier, you need to call us to cancel your number. This is why you are still being billed for the service. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
You will be billed for the service as long as the number is active in your account. For security reasons I am unable to process cancellation requests via email.
Please call our Account Management Department at 1-VONAGE-HELP (1-866-243-4357) to remove your number. We are here to help you Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM EST.

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So now they admitted they know it's ported, they don't run it and yet they still billed me for it.
So at this time I'm a bit angry because the logic is escaping them. They are charging me for a number they don't own and are aware they don't run. What's so hard to understand? Simple right? Wrong!

I called them and got on the phone with their rep, and she said she needed to verify who I was to cancel. I kept my cool and answered her questions. She then came to the big question “Why are you canceling?”.

Trying to be mature about this I explained to her the entire situation that although the number has been ported, they know it's ported, they where notified it was being ported, they did the porting, what's the point of calling you if I already authorized the porting? Crying out loud they already received my authorization through my new carrier.

It not like I'm still waiting for them to move it, nor have to authorize Vonage to let it go. Its already moved by my authorization that I gave Comcast.

She then paused, and said well what I can do it is credit you 50.00 or half the amount of the incorrect billing if you stay.

I responded with, why I should lose 50.00 of the 100.00 you robbed from me for? You incorrectly kept billing me for 4 months and now you want to keep 50.00 of the 100.00 that you should not have taken. I said no I want it all and if you cant credit the correct amount terminate the account and I will deal with this legally.

She puts me on hold for 10 minutes and returned to say are you sure you want to cancel, I said unless you credit me the entire amount that you incorrectly billed me for, yes terminate the account.

To my amazement and utter shock she said that there will be a 39.99 early termination fee for each phone number. One of which the they don't own and haven't owned for 4 months now.

I responded with this is going be the best legal and news story ever. Have a nice day.

I then got and email from them which stated;

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Dear xxxxx,

Your Vonage service has been cancelled and we successfully processed the below amount to the credit card on your account.

Vonage Account Number: xxxxxx
Date Processed: 08/13/2007
Debit Amount: $79.98

A disconnect fee of $39.99 per voice line is charged to all customers plus any applicable taxes per our terms of service. Your total debit of $79.98 includes the disconnect fee, all pending charges, credits and applicable taxes. For more information about the return policy, please visit our terms of service:
----------------------------------------------------------------

I think they have scammed thousands of customers on bogus policy that says you have to contact us for a roll over, when you have already contacted and authorized the new carrier to speak in your behalf. Its absurd and I bet if you look further into this I bet there will be a lot of 24.99 over billings they have over charged people for. This is not about the money with me.
_______________________________
[end story]

About a week went by from Frank's initial email and I was too busy to follow-up with him for more details. I contacted him this past Saturday to ask for any updates on his Vonage woes and he wrote me the following.
Anyways the news spot aired on KDKA and the reporter nailed it.

About thirty minutes after the spot ran I got a call from Vonage Executive care basically saying we will comply with everything I'm asking, and they sent me an email;

Oh yeah it says thank you for contacting executive support in their email, I made no such request.

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Dear Francesco Trama,

Thank you for contacting the Executive Response Team.

I understand that you were having some difficulty in receiving a refund from Vonage. This is regarding the fact that you had transferred your phone number to another carrier, and because Vonage was not made aware of it, you continued to be charged. I wanted to let you know that I will be fully cooperating with you regarding this issue. As long as I receive confirmation that the Vonage phone number transferred to another carrier on a certain date, I will refund the charges.

If you have any questions in the future, please contact Vonage at any time.

Sincerely,

Regina Evaslin
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I wrote back;

-----------------------------------------
Regina

First things first, your about a week to late. I would have gone away if you simply refunded my money on Saturday, and no one would have been any wiser on your shady business practices.

You left me a message stating that all you need is proof of the number move to Comcast? I find that perplexing because in every email up until yours states,

"VONAGE IS AWARE OF THE NUMBER MOVE, BUT WILL NOT REFUND YOUR MONEY AND WILL CONTINUE TO BILL YOU BECAUSE VONAGE WAS NOT CONTACTED."

Yes….I’m shaking my head in disbelief at your comment. Never the less, keep the money its so in the past that now. Your company has scammed hundreds maybe thousand of customers on this "You have to contact us anyways" blurb in your terms of service.

Its wrong, and its fraudulent! Unfortunately for you I tweaked lots of interest in the media and our government’s judicial sector on your shady business practices

You will answer for your money skimming business practices which Vonage has adopted.

I have accepted my 180.00 as a sacrifice to protect other unsuspecting consumers from your company. I suggest Vonage circle their wagons because a storm is coming and coming real soon.

This result shouldn’t be a news flash for you because in every email I sent and replied to you regarding this matter disclaimed a warning that I will not go away and will bring as much attention and legal action to you as possible until you stop this shady business practice.

So all I can say now is "I told you so".

Have a nice day!
---------------------------------------------

You do not know how good I'm feeling right now. Anyways I'm not giving up and taking this to the end. I'm supposed to be meeting with the Attorney generals office next week sometime to go over my complaint.

Any addition light you can shed on this to protect other consumers from Vonage would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again!

Frank Trama

The question is how many other Vonage users have changed to another phone company, thought their Vonage service had been cancelled, only to continue to receive a monthly bill from Vonage? Is Vonage playing games to try and squeeze as much revenue as possible from defecting customers? Many customers won't deal with the hassle of fighting Vonage to the end. Frank on the other hand, had no problem battling Vonage. He's even going to the Attorney General to continue the fight. Don't mess with Frank. Heck, he even looks like an former Marine - or at least a police officer. (image to right)

Do you have a Vonage horror story to share? Post a comment. And in the meantime, check out the TV interview Frank had explaining his Vonage horror story. It's good stuff!

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