A Slamming Nightmare – Caught Between Bright House and Verizon

July 20, 2011

By Terry Smiljanich:

Ever been the victim of “slamming?” That’s when someone switches your telephone company without your permission. The FCC has rules protecting the consumer from such practices, including the inability of the slammer to charge you for its unauthorized telephone services. But one consumer recently found out that these protections aren’t enough to prevent you from suffering adverse consequences, including the temporary loss of your telephone services and endless bureaucratic nonsense.

Jan Brown, a resident of Tampa, Florida, recently received a marketing flyer from Bright House touting its bundled (telephone, internet, television) services. She was currently receiving telephone services from Verizon. She called Bright House simply to make inquiries about its offer, and a Bright House representative described its services and prices. In the process of the discussion, the representative took down the telephone number of Mrs. Brown, who said she would think about the offer and call them back.

End of the story? No. A few days later, people trying to call Brown received endless busy signals, and her telephone services were completely shut down. At first Verizon offered simple solutions such as rebooting battery backups, etc., but eventually told her that Verizon had received an order from Bright House to have all telephone numbers in the household ported directly to Bright House. Brown had never given permission for this to be done, but Verizon had simply agreed to the request by Bright House.

Bright House apologized for the problem, telling her that a sales representative had made a mistake. Unfortunately, said Bright House, according to FCC rules it could take up to 30 days for Verizon to get the service back.

So, free telephone service for the interim? Not quite. Bright House stated that since a “third party authorization” had not been completed by the Brown family, the telephone numbers could not be brought on line. But wasn’t that the point? The Browns had specifically not authorized the Bright House service and didn’t want it, so why should they “authorize” it? Sorry, said Bright House, it’s Verizon’s problem now since they had informed Verizon that the Bright House service was being cancelled. Talk to Verizon.

You can imagine the rest of the story – endless telephone conversations back and forth, waiting for uninformed supervisors to enter the picture and promise a resolution, etc. etc. In order to accomplish a “third party authorization” to get the numbers ported back to Verizon, the Browns had to go through an automated process (you know – press one if . . ., press 2 if . . .). It took several attempts, and several more telephone calls to get the whole thing straightened out.

In the process, the Browns were without telephone services for 8 days. They still have to deal with Verizon regarding a credit for the time their services were completely out, plus the fact that during this time they had to make considerable use of their cell phones to get everything straightened out, resulting in higher bills to AT&T.

Obviously something is wrong with the whole process.

  • How can a simple demand from a Bright House sales representative cause Verizon to immediately start porting all calls to the new company?
  • How can Bright House demand that a victim of its slamming “authorize” the unauthorized services while waiting for the problem to get resolved?
  • Why can’t two technologically advanced companies like Bright House and Verizon not just pick up the telephone between themselves and work out the problem in an instant?

The lesson here to all consumers is to be very careful when inquiring of a telephone company about switching services. Don’t give out your telephone number, and be sure to insist at the end of the call that you have NOT made a decision and that your telephone services will remain with your current company. It shouldn’t be necessary to state the obvious, but in light of the above story, it can be all too easy to find yourself caught between clueless supervisors and automated machines.