Mountain Messenger, Saturday, October 24, 2009
I’ve heard from many of the 500-600 telephone customers in southern Greenbrier County who were abandoned by Verizon. They related horror stories about Verizon’s callous contempt during a week-long telephone outage.
A 94-year old woman lives alone because her life-line devise connects to the telephone. If she needs help, the devise tells the telephone to call for help.
My life line batteries are good so I’m okay without the telephone; she told neighbors who checked on her. The neighbors did not have the heart to tell the elderly woman that without a functioning telephone, even good batteries made her lifeline useless.
Callers connected with Verizon meaningless mechanical voices. They got Verizon people who poke unintelligible English. Most Verizon staff were downright rude. None were helpful.
For example, one customer finally yelled “agent, agent” at the mechanical voice long enough to get a live human. The Verizon human didn’t understand the problem. “It appears your phone line is out,” the human said. “There is a problem with your line. I will dispatch a technician. The first available technician will be there eleven days from now.”
Verizon does not have enough repair people in the whole state of West Virginia to repair one telephone pole. They would have to bring in people from Texas. A Verizon truck that finally parked on Maplewood Avenue was labeled “Durham, North Carolina.”
Sometimes Verizon suggested that customers route their phone calls to cell phones. One customer did, and it cost her $50 in additional cell phone minutes
Some callers discovered that Verizon does have a West Virginia Customer Care Center. That telephone number is 304-351-4000. The Verizon people there were, one caller said, plain—well, in a family newspaper, let’s use the word rude.
Tricia Cunningham is the best source I heard about for helping customers not pay Verizon for telephone service they did not receive. Call her at 800-483-7988 between 9 am and 5 pm. Ask for Option # 3. Or write Verizon Customer Relations, Attn. Tricia Cunningham, PO Box 1804, Marion, Ohio 43302.
What did government do about these horror stories from Verizon customers? Verizon is, after all, a publicly regulated company.
West Virginia government was no help. The West Virginia Attorney General sent citizens to the Public Service Commission.
The Public Service Commission was lacking either the will or the authority, or both, to force Verizon to treat customers with respect. The PSC Commission staff could only send complaints to Verizon. PSC regulations gave Verizon thirty days to respond.
Why, many of us asked, wouldn’t the PSC require Verizon to automatically issue credits to everybody whose telephone went dead? We can’t do that, the PSC staffers told us. The legislature does not allow the PSC to protect citizens against defrauding utilities.
The West Virginia Public Service Commission will serve the West Virginia public only when the Commissioners increase from three to at least five.
And the Public Service Commissioners must be accountable to us, the public, instead of to the Governor and the utilities. We must elect Public Service Commissioners.
We have had enough of these horror stories. Let’s turn our righteous anger into determination to make our government work for us. Let’s support those Delegates who are trying to reform the Public Service Commission. See last week’s Plain Facts & Common Sense commentary for their names.