Verizon, state reach agreement on phone complaints

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The state is considering giving you more power over the phone company. This, following a deal meant to address a surge in complaints about Verizon.

The deal means customers don't have to take "No" for an answer when talking to a customer service representative. It's meant to get a repair crew to your house faster.

Ron Makela drove for two-and-a-half hours to sit in the witness chair, and tell the State Corporation Commission about life out in the country.

"In our area, cell phones don't work," said Makela to the regulatory agency.

As a result, the Rappahannock resident depends on his land line phone, which also fails from time to time. Last August, about 260 other Virginians reported their dissatisfaction to the SCC, an unusually high number for a single month.

At a hearing today, the state wanted to know: Was Verizon doing enough, to fix all these disconnected customers? And why would some customers have to wait almost a week to get repairs?

"Oftentimes, customers might ask something to the effect of, 'Is that the best you can do?' And customers tell us that Verizon was saying, 'Yes, that's the best we can do'. Now this will change that," said Steve Bradley of the SCC.

The deal struck by Verizon and State Corporation Commission staff gives customers who require extended repair intervals more negotiating power to get repairs quickly.

Under the agreement, if the first extended repair date you get isn't good enough, you can ask for a better one. If *that* date *still* isn't good enough, you can ask again. Finally, if you don't like that third offer, then Verizon agrees to get a repair crew to your property within four business days.

"So we're paying attention to this. Customer service is something that, in a competitive market like ours,  you've gotta do right," said Harry Mitchell, Verizon spokesperson.

While many of the summer complaints have disappeared (50 complaints reported to the SCC in November), Ron's still waiting for a reliable connection.

"If they can only provide 50% of the service, then they should reduce the rate by 50%," he said.

In a rare move, Verizon also agreed to allow the state to look at monthly service reports, so regulators can make sure the company is keeping its promises.

Today's agreement is considered tentative. A three-judge panel of the SCC must still approve it. A Verizon spokesperson says the company is going ahead with the changes anyway.

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