Is this a Breach of contract? A Cell Phone Plan Dilema

Hi folk…if anyone can help me with this problem, I know you guys would…

(kinda long)
OK, I signed up for a plan on **VERIZON Cell ** (I know…stupid me) for two years ending on August 1, 2004. I signed up for this plan in Hawaii with the understanding that I would be able to call Guam and Saipan for free (the sales person told me I could) under the America’s Choice plan. This was the what sold me for I have many families and friends in Saipan so I quickly signed up.

Now, foward to October of 2003 when to my surprise, I get a bill for $500 so I quickly called and asked them what was the problem since I know I wouldn’t be able to talk THAT much. After a ‘short’ 30 minute wait, the operator tells me that there was a ‘loophole’ or a ‘glitch’ in the system letting verizon cell users to call guam and saipan for free and since they ‘found’ the problem, they ‘corrected’ it and now they’re saying that calls to guam and saipan are 20 cents a minute.

I told them that that’s now what the salesperson said but said that nowhere in the contract it says that saipan and guam is free and even stated ‘look in the map of the plan and you’ll see that saipan and guam aren’t located’…now that’s a bunch of crap. The salesperson says one thing and customer service another.

I want to get out of the plan on the basis that the sales person gave a false statement when I signed up for two years and then later being told that it was all because of a ‘glitch’ in the system. How can I under this circumstance, get out of my contract without being penalized!?

Bottom line: The main reason I got the phone was to call Saipan for free and the sales person says it was part of the plan. Now, due to finding the ‘loophole’ verizon corrects it, states in not in the contract and it’s no longer for free…I thought verbal agreement were as good as a written one but now I don’t know.

I’m just a college student trying to call home everynow and then and being deprived of that is just making me so angry…please help and thanks for reading!!

PS. My girlfriend remembers seeing a commercial by verizon stating that guam and saipan is for free but there is no way to prove that

First, there’s nothing stupid about choosing Verizon as your cell phone company. One of the most brilliant people I know made the same choice! :wink:

Alas, I think you’re probably screwed, however. The verbal assurances of a salesperson really don’t count for much. As the old saying goes, a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. If you don’t have anything in writing that says that Guam and Saipan are included in the “free” calling area, you’re doomed. (In fact, I’d be pretty surprised if any cell carrier offered service that included Guam and Saipan as part of the “included” calling area.)

Of course, you now face a choice. You can terminate the contract and pay the penalty (probably $175, IIRC), or you can continue to pay the monthly flat rate, and still have a cell phone. If you don’t really want a cell phone at all, of course, it’s cheaper to bite the bullet and pay the $175, rather than paying, say, $40 a month for two years. If you signed up for one of the more expensive plans (i.e., more minutes for more money), you might be able to switch to one of the cheaper plans, as long as you’re willing to start the two-year clock over again. Can’t hurt to ask.

Lesson learned: make sure you get everything in writing before signing on the dotted line. In the case of Verizon, you had 15 days after signing to make sure everything was as promised - you could have canceled the whole deal at any time during those first two weeks, time you should have used to read the agreement carefully.

I would echo what Early Out has said. Check to see if there is another plan that would suit you better (with Verizon or others). If no one offers you exactly what you want, you may want to stay the course until the two years is up. If you do find an adequate plan, you should try to get out of the old one with Verizon by explaining what the sales person has told you. At the very least Verizon should credit your first month of affected calls after the billing change (unless they sent you a notice in your bill before the billing change). (The “loophole” terminology sounds made-up. As you make your way up the supervisor chain, you may find a more realistic reason for the billing change.) If you can’t reach a satisfactory conclusion with Verizon you should register a complaint with them. A week or two later, you may want to register a complaint with the state and/or the FCC. The cell phone companies are taking a greater interest in these complaints these days, so it might help to complain. The states are also getting more aggressive in trying to codify cellular consumer’s rights. This provides yet another reason for Verizon to try to remedy the problem.

It is unlikely that the sales person could have promised you a particular rate beyond what it stated in the published materials. The local calling area map and the rate sheet should be seen as authoritative. The carriers do change rates and, less often, local calling areas, though. Since this is a billing question, this problem would not have surfaced in the first 15 days and it sounds like it did not crop for a year. That should carry some weight with the people that you are complaining to.

If you signed up for a two year contract ending in August 2004, you would have signed up in August 2002. You said your first high bill was in October 2003. Had you made any calls to those areas that were free in the first 14 months of your contract? Do you still have the bills to show those calls with no charge?

If you do, you may be able to use those to get out of the contract without paying the fee, but I doubt you will continue to get free calls. It would be very helpful to have those bills when you file a complaint.

Absolutely what MC$E said, find those bills – they will help your claim.

The thing is, if you are being stitched up, then it won’t just be you, there will be many others who remember being sold on this free-calls feature. A verbal contract is every bit as binding as a written one (just harder to enforce), Verizon would be taking a very bold step to call everyone in your position a liar.

Write to Verizon providing copies of previous bills demonstrating that you were receiving free calls, tell them this was promised to you by their sales-rep (and was the reason you subscribed) and that you insist that they honour it.

Get them to deny to you in writing that any such contract existed before even thinking of giving up.


Verison’s cntract almost certainly includes a clause that says they can change the deal at will.

So even if they really were offering free calls to Saipan, that doesn’t mean they have to continue offering them now.

The same applies to your credit cards and almost all other consumer “contracts”. You agreed to do whatever they want for as long as the contract runs, and you agreed that they can change the deal however they want, whenever they want. Kinda stretches the definition of the term “deal” doesn’t it?

So when they change the deal, you can either take it, or leave it. And leaving it often includes a penalty.

It oughta be illegal to charge a cancellation penalty when the company unilaterally changes the deal, but it isn’t, at least not at the Federal US level AFAIK.

LSLGuy is right on target. Most of these agreements don’t really fit into the definition of a “contract” the way I learned it. The way they’re written, you agree to do a bunch of things on penalty of financial death, and the company agrees to do whatever it feels like doing.

I think what allows these practices to continue is the fact that the amounts of money involved are too small, relative to the cost of suing the bastards. It doesn’t make sense to spend thousands dragging Verizon into court, in order to collect a couple of hundred. They know this, and use it to their advantage.

I used to sell wireless. And our company’s policy was that anything offered by a salesperson had to be honored. It made us very careful to double check our promises. Because while the policy benefited the customers, the sales staff got burned on it a lot (lost commissions for false promises, etc). Some customers knew that our policy said they were always right and abused it, for sure. But it was a good policy to have, for the most part.

Then again, my company was a nice, regional, hometown kind of provider. Verizon is a big greedy beast. Too bad they can’t stick by their representatives.

Early Out:
I don’t know about you, but actually I would consider doing small claims to get my $500 back. A lost day at work is worth less to me than $500, and Verizon loses either way if they have to retain an attorney in order to defend the $500 claim. Even if they have an arbitration clause, and I’d imagine they do, they need to show up in court to assert the arbitration clause.

I won’t join Verizon just because there’s about 1-0 pages of fine print on their site.

First, you CAN’T sue them. The contract says both parties only agree to arbitration. (among other BS legalease like “Our liability is severely limited”; “We will charge you for trying to transfer your phone number to another provider”; and “after using your phone with the verizon service it may not be able to be reprogrammed for another carrier”)

BUT IIRC there is an “undue hardship” clause that if they make changes to your TOS that are not acceptable you have X days to cancel their service without penalty. Also as previously stated they must notify you Y days before changing billing practices.

It might be worth it, but remember that Verizon doesn’t have to retain anyone. They’ve got plenty of attorneys on staff, all of whom are on salary, so that’s pretty much a sunk cost. Even if they use outside counsel, they’re not starting to go through the yellow pages when someone decides to take them to court; they have an established relationship with a law firm. Even if they do have to pay that firm some specific costs for your case, it’s a drop in the ocean. And it doesn’t help you at all.

Taking a large corporation to small claims court is often a losing proposition (unlike taking someone like your local screw-up mechanic there, after he’s loused up your car for the third time!). They’ve got their attorneys, but you can’t afford to hire one. You get in front of the judge, and their attorneys whip out the agreement you signed, point to the clause that screws you, and the judge says, “That appears to be very clear. Case dismissed.”

Small claims courts don’t always live up to their billing as the affordable forum for the little guy. It ain’t Judge Judy.

If the other ideas don’t work, see whether the state of Hawaii has a means of filing a complaint. (For example, the Massachusetts attorney general’s office has something like that.) If they do, then tell Verizon you’re going to file a complainty with the state and with the Better Business Bureau. So at least you’ll have some revenge!

Can you go back to the salesguy who sold you the service and ask if he can help out?


Thanks for all your replies…I was thinking about going to the FCC but did not realize that states were also available in filing a complaint or anything like the better business bureau.

I do have the billing statement with the free service to saipan and guam, also the $500 bill I got was now erased since they cleared up this ‘loophole’ (their words, not mine) so at least I got some justice in this problem.

Reading this posts I learned a lot of terms like “undue hardship” clause, which I could probably use in the letter I decided to write to verizon. I will state that I will contact the FCC and any other file complaint bureau if I don’t get out of my contract due to this unfortunate incident.

I thank you all so much for I was lost and did not know what to do…now I have direction and hopefully, all goes well. Thanks again!!


You don’t have to start the clock over again. The two-year contract is a promise to stay with Verizon for two years, not to keep any specific plan for two years; you can switch to other plans.

To get certain promotions (like discounts on new phones or special limited-time plans), however, you do have to extend your contract.

Reoch IANYL, but speaking conservatively you have little recourse. Firstly, the parol evidence rule pretty much bars oral (or other extraneous) evidence relating to the contract, where the contract is intended to be the final expression of the relationship between the parties. However, you do have some hope in that your previous bills do show a pattern, or rather, a new pattern of doing businiess, i.e. getting free calls to Guam and Saipan (did I get that right? where is it?). However, this may or may not be an issue for small claims especially if Verizon chooses diversity of jurisdiction to move to federal court (other forum shopping options which is available to them (don’t worry about this)).

Then again, I may be writing prematurely as in my experience, large corporations like Verizon don’t show up to small claims court. The other advice you got here is pretty good.

Anyway, it is a misnomer to think that oral contracts are not good contracts. They are, they’re just harder to prove, but they do win, see Kim Basinger’s suit she lost with the producers of Boxing Helena (she lost $8M).

Does your university (since you say you’re a student) have an Office of Student Legal Services? If so, go and ask them for advice. Your fees are paying for their services; take advantage of them. They should be able to do some legwork for you.

<quote>You don’t have to start the clock over again. The two-year contract is a promise to stay with Verizon for two years, not to keep any specific plan for two years; you can switch to other plans.</quote>

I would double check that. I used to have Verizon, just cancelled a couple of weeks ago (and paid the $150 cancellation fee). I got burned by Verizon really bad for supposedly free calls. I switched plans a couple of months ago and it was explained to me by the rep and her supervisor that changing a plan causes the contract to start over. I have more rants about Verizon by I will hold back. By far the worst and most dishonest company I have ever dealt with.

On one of my Verizon Woreless bills it states:

Seems like they changes the terms and you should be able to void the contract.