Verizon Wireless subscribers may want to take a closer look at their February bills. In them, Verizon notifies subscribers of its impending $.30 administrative fee increase, effective March 15, 2007. While this may not seem like a substantial increase, for subscribers who want to get out of their contracts without paying a $175 per-line early termination fee, it may be the excuse they've been waiting for.
According to Verizon Wireless's Customer Agreement, any change that has a ?material adverse? effect on the agreement between the carrier and the subscriber opens allows the subscriber can terminate the contract without incurring an early termination fee. The key is that you must exit the contract within sixty days of receiving the notice, as per the Customer Agreement. Whether the change triggers the ?material adverse? clause may be a point of contention between a subscriber and the company, however. According to Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon Wireless spokesman, the fee increase does not trigger the ?material adverse? clause. ?This change is not a material change in the contract,? said Nelson. ?Any individual customers who have a concern should call Verizon Wireless directly.? Consumer advocates disagree, however. ?It would certainly seem like this is a change that would trigger your right to get out of the contract,? said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action, a San Francisco-based national consumer education and advocacy group. ?I think they are being evasive,? said Sherry. Indeed, when we pressed Verizon Wireless to specify how large a change would trigger the ?material adverse? clause, Mr. Nelson could not specify a dollar amount that would do so.
Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Debbie Lewis suggested that an attorney could answer the question of what constituted ?material adverse,? but would not refer us to a company attorney who could answer the question. TRAC suggests that subscribers who wish to try and get out of their contracts due to the change call Verizon Wireless customer service directly. Since Verizon Wireless does not spell out on the Customer Agreement what change constitutes ?material adverse,? any change in the customer agreement that raises prices for service should qualify and allow subscribers who do not agree to the change to exit the contract without paying an early termination fee. If the customer service representative claims that the change is not ?material adverse,? then escalate to a supervisor. If this still doesn't work, then consider filing a complaint with the FCC, your state public utilities commission, or the Better Business Bureau. In rare cases, a resort to arbitration with the company or small claims court may be necessary.
Source: Telecommunications Research and Action Center. http://www.trac.org