Help, I’ve reached a dead end with my Verizon iPhone

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By Christopher Elliott

No matter what Jim Howell tries, he can’t seem to get his Verizon iPhone to work. Should the wireless carrier let him out of his contract?

Question

I’m at a dead end and feel I have been tossed aside by the corporate giant that is Verizon in hopes that I will just become mute and complacent. I will not!

I have been a Verizon customer for approximately 10 years. For the past two years, I have had an iPhone that uses their 3g network for data. My relationship with Verizon was fine up until this point.

The area in which I live is highly seasonal and the population grows by 3.5 million in the summer months. Verizon’s 3g network can not handle this and I do not get data coverage from Friday nights until Monday morning all summer long. This issue is even prevalent in the off season when there are a lot of people around (malls at the holiday, etc.). However, I test my phone next to someone with another carrier and their phones work fine, no matter where.

I have been complaining about the issue to Verizon and have been escalated to the executive office after filing a complaint with the FCC. My work life is dependent on my phone and I simply want out of my contract since their service is not up to par with the competition in this area.

In my complaints, I have been through troubleshooting and engineer field troubleshooting. Verizon consistently tells me that their service is working fine and that I am doing something wrong. It is always either the topography’s fault, my residence’s fault or the weather’s fault.

The amount of time I’ve wasted trying to get them to admit there is an issue has left me literally shaking with frustration. Can you help? — Jim Howell, Sandusky, Ohio

Answer

Obviously, Verizon should have kept its promises. If it couldn’t, it should have let you out of your contract.

Unfortunately, the problem didn’t show up until long after you started your cellular service with Verizon (you have 14 days to get out of the contract without penalties). But Verizon’s one-sided contract, which seems to bind you, but not it, to a year of indentured wireless service, does in fact go two ways. If it can’t continue to provide the service it promises, it must let you out of the agreement.

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In reviewing the contract, you might think otherwise. “Wireless devices use radio transmissions, so unfortunately you can’t get Service if your device isn’t in range of a transmission signal,” it warns. “And please be aware that even within your Coverage Area, many things can affect the availability and quality of your Service, including network capacity, your device, terrain, buildings, foliage and weather.”

But the contract assumes that eventually you will be able to establish a meaningful connection — a connection that appears to have eluded you with your Verizon iPhone.

Cutting the cord

It’s reasonable to expect a customer to go through the troubleshooting process, where you test the equipment and the connection to make sure everything is working correctly. But it sounds as if you did that, and still came up short.

You appealed to someone at the executive office (all email addresses at Verizon are [email protected]) but representatives refused to offer a meaningful written response. They asked that you call them, which puts you at a disadvantage. A paper trail is an important thing when you’re trying to resolve a customer service problem. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Before my advocacy team and I got involved in your case, I suggested sending one more email to Verizon’s executive office. This time, you copied me on the email. A representative responded immediately, asking you to call the company yet again.

You did, and Verizon released you from your contract.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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