Comcast & Verizon outages: Consumer attorney reaction

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It's been about two weeks since Irene hit, and many of you continue to call 12 about either your Verizon or Comcast service being out.

As we have reported, The State Corporation Commission says cable companies are not regulated by the government, so your options are limited. We talked to a Consumer Attorney about your rights and the possibility of seeking legal action and getting a break on your bill.

For Dr. Katrina Walker and her family a dial tone is sweet music to the ears. So is the fact that her cable and internet service is finally restored. 18 days without service and she remembers the exact time everything came back on.

"It was about 9:57 a.m. this morning and believe it our not I had a few tears," she said.

Dr. Walker has service with Verizon -- like other customers that have called 12 -- she says she was fed up with broken promises to restore service. She told us," I didn't know what else to do so I turned to you."

Now that the service has been restored, Dr. Walker wants to talk money with Verizon.

"I don't want to bankrupt the company, none of us do, but like I said even if it's not a prorated bill, something," she said.

Wether you use Verizon or Comcast many of you have called 12. We wanted to know what your rights are, so we took contracts from both companies to Consumer Attorney John Gayle, with The Consumer Law Group.

He said, "The contract or the agreement that the customers signed stated that Verizon nor Comcast are liable for suspensions of service that are the results of Acts of God."

He says bottom line, the company is not obligated to give you anything under the circumstances of the outage. Gayle says now there is one big question.

"How long is this Act of God or hurricane that we all went through, how long does that window or defense last?" he asked.

Gayle says the hard part is proving the companies are at fault for the continued outage. And then, there's there is the cost of taking legal action.

"Your damages are not going to be so much that it is going to be worth it to go through the hassle of an arbitration or court," he said. "This is a good time to read your contract. The reality is, after you've signed it, your options are limited. And even if you win a judgement, the contracts limits how much you can recover. In these sort of cases when you are dealing with an unequal bargaining term, if you say I don't agree with that they will say well you go somewhere else."

Remember, it's up to you to call the company to workout a deal -- don't wait for them to call you. Dr. Walker admits she hasn't read her contract and was not aware of the Act of God provision but she's hoping the company will see the light.

"I have not read that long contract with the tiny print but I think in good faith maybe they could do something," she told us.

Statement from Verizon:

Overall, Verizon's land line network performed well. We didn't experience any major problems as a result of Hurricane Irene. Water and wind damaged some of our facilities. Our teams of technicians were out assessing the damage and making repairs as they were able to gain access.

Many of our facilities were on backup generators or batteries until commercial power was restored. This enabled us to provide land line phone service even though the power was out in some areas. Some utility poles and wires also were down in the Potomac and mid-Atlantic region. But, other than that, we faired pretty well. As you may know, if a customer is using a cordless phone and he/she loses power, then that customer will not have phone service. That's why we encourage people to have a phone in the home (or office) that plugs into a jack. So, when the power goes out, these customers still can make and receive phone calls. I don't have total numbers of customers out of service in a given area or specific estimated restoration times. For the most part, we've been dealing with some scattered outages and restoration depends on the customer issue. Of course, our goal is always to restore service to our customers as quickly and safely as possible. If customers are having a problem with their Verizon service, they should call 1-800-VERIZON to let us know. Reimbursements for lost service are handled on a case-by-case basis.

Sandy Arnette
Verizon Public Relations

Statement from Comcast:

The vast majority of issues had been directly related to commercial power outages and, for most customers, service was restored as power came back on in their neighborhoods following the storm. Given the severity of the storm, we also saw some more extensive damage caused by fallen trees, poles and flooding that has taken longer to repair. We have had thousands of employees working across the footprint to assess and repair damage in impacted areas as they have been provided clearance that it's safe to do so. Thanks to the tireless work of our employees, many of whom were personally affected by the storm, we've made tremendous progress, and appreciate our customers' patience and understanding. For any customer who might still be experiencing issues with their service, they can call 1-800-COMCAST.

Alisha Martin
Comcast Public Relations

If you would like to contact Consumer Attorney John Gayle visit this link:

For a look at service agreements from Comcast and Verizon click the link below:

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