7 On Your Side: Do you pay for a stolen cellphone?

7 On Your Side takes a look at whether customers need to pay their cellphone bill after their phone is stolen.
October 8, 2013 6:05:21 PM PDT
Here's a question: if your cellphone is stolen, do you still have to pay the bill? One Bay Area woman didn't like the answer she received from her provider.

If you're under contract with your cellphone provider, you are obligated to pay under the terms of the contract. However, a Healdsburg woman was not under contract, yet her carrier still found a way to charge her.

Bonnie Mich was having a nice afternoon with her niece. Unfortunately, that's when someone snatched her phone right out of her purse.

"I had too much in it. It was sitting by the side table by where we were having tea and it just vanished," she said.

Mich called Verizon to report the phone stolen on June 23, two days after the phone was stolen. She said her contract had expired and was being serviced on a month-to-month basis, but Verizon told her she would have to continue paying her bill.

"I said, 'I don't have a phone. I'm not under contract. I have no service from you. That is ridiculous,'" Mich said.

But the bills continue to come. She was charged $10.21 for a bill covering the period beginning June 29 -- six days after she reported her phone stolen. Verizon charged her a fee to suspend her service. Then the following month, they charged her $17.51 for taking her phone out of suspension so she could transfer her number to another carrier.

"I was angry. I was angry. I didn't think it made sense," said Mich.

We showed the bill to Mark Toney, executive director of the Utility Reform Network, or TURN.

"There's absolutely no justification for that. That's a total rip off," Toney said. He believes consumers need to take their complaints to state regulators. "Say, 'This is a rip off, I'm owed my money back and I want you to help me get it and stop them from doing this.'"

Mich turned to 7 On Your Side for help and we contacted Verizon. The company immediately called her.

"When you have someone from corporate call me, they said they would refund the money. I have not seen it," she said.

Verizon told us by email, "We did not meet our own standards and reiterate our apology to our customer." We asked them to confirm that a refund would be coming, Verizon would only say, "For customer confidentiality purposes I cannot share details other than to say that we are working to resolve this to our customer's satisfaction."

"I thank you for getting in touch with Verizon corporate. I may get the money back. It's not a lot, but I would appreciate that," Mich said.

We'll keep track of this and let you know if Mich receives her money.


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