ALAMEDA, Calif. - When you cancel your cellphone service, you don't expect to keep paying for a phone. But it can happen -- and it did happen to an East Bay woman.
"It was infuriating,'' said Kathy Bell-Mathy of Alameda.
It began when Bell-Mathy got tired of paying the high costs for data on her Verizon phone.
"You go over your limit and they charge you lots of dollars,'' Bell-Mathy said. She was paying $80 to $90 per month and found a cheaper deal with T-Mobile.
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"Fifty dollars a month, unlimited data, unlimited text,'' she said. "I'm going for it."
She went in person to a Verizon store and canceled her month-to-month phone contract. "I said I'm switching from you to T-Mobile and they just kind of looked at me like, oh.'' she recalls.
Verizon did cancel her phone, but Bell-Mathy was still locked into a two-year agreement for a Verizon tablet. She asked the staff at the store what to do with it. Did they want it back?
"And they said, 'Oh just go ahead and keep it until your contract expires,'" Bell-Mathy recalls.
She figured she'd still be paying the same $10 per month she always paid for the tablet.
It wasn't until months later she noticed Verizon was taking six times that amount from her bank account every month.
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"I thought, my God, I could have bought five tablets,'' she recalls.
She contacted Verizon right away -- why was it charging her so much?
Turns out Verizon had gone ahead and set up a new phone plan to link to her tablet, for an additional $50 per month. It had taken automatic payments for five months.
"I said, "I don't understand how a tablet has cost me $250. That's ridiculous,'' she said. "I don't even use the tablet. I told them you can have it back, I don't want it. "
She says she never agreed to pay for another phone plan. She didn't even have phone service.
Verizon said the tablet required a link to a plan with data.
However, Bell-Mathy says after hours on the phone, getting switched to numerous agents, Verizon agreed to refund the $250 it had taken for that extra data plan if she would pay an $80 early termination fee for the tablet.
"I said fine, that's fine with me. Just disconnect my account, and stop taking money out of my account!"
Bell-Mathy did pay that early termination fee and Verizon disconnected her account. However, she never got that refund.
Bell-Mathy called Verizon to find out why. She was stunned at the response.
"They told me your account has definitely been disconnected and we don't process refunds for anyone that has a disconnected account.' " she recalled.
"I couldn't believe it! They could go take money out of my account but now I'm disconnected so I can't get the refund they promised?"
Bell-Mathy demanded to speak with a supervisor. "And they said 'The supervisor's going to tell you the same thing - but you can wait on hold.'"
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Kathy contacted 7 On Your Side and our team contacted Verizon. A spokesperson said there was a misunderstanding and agreed to refund that money, saying:
"Our goal is to provide the best possible experience for Verizon customers at every touch point. In this case, we did not deliver on that promise. We're grateful for the opportunity to resolve Ms. Bell-Mathy's issue."
Verizon tells us a contract for a device with data - like her tablet -- must be linked to a data plan. Which is why Verizon set up that phone line with data. Bell-Mathy says she should have asked more questions before agreeing to keep the tablet. So if you're locked into a contract, even for just part of your service, you can actually be in a position to have to pay for data you just canceled.
Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
Written and produced by Renee Koury