My phone doesn’t work — do I still have to pay my bill?

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By Christopher Elliott

Joanna Morehead’s wireless phone bill has been referred to a collections department. Just one problem: She was never able to really use her phone, which she canceled shortly after receiving it. Does she still have to pay?


I’m having a major issue with Verizon Wireless. They’re charging me for a month when I ended up having to return the phone because the call quality was so poor. I paid their restocking fee, and yet they still sent me a bill for an entire month’s worth of service.

I have a major issue with being charged for service that was completely horrible — call quality, dropped calls, etc, could barely hear my callers. Yet they still believe these service charges of $106 are valid.

Now they have sent my account to collections and I can’t seem to make any progress with anyone in customer service. They keep transferring me to “financial services” and then back to collections, saying the charges are valid.

What I am hoping Verizon will do is at least credit me for most if not all of the service charges, as I already paid their restocking fee. If you can help me in any way I’d appreciate it! — Joanna Morehead, San Francisco


Under Verizon’s customer agreement, the contract between you and your wireless carrier, you have two weeks from the time of accepting the agreement to get out. If you cancel after that, you’ll have to pay an early termination fee.

It appears you ended your service within 14 days. But you still had to pay an activation fee and for service through the date of your cancellation. (You have to cancel within three days in order to get a refund of your activation fee.)

So according to the contract you signed, the $106 appears to be valid.

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But here’s the thing: If Verizon gave you a phone that never worked right, shouldn’t you be able to return it for a no-questions-asked refund?

Another wireless carrier tried to do the same thing to me a few years ago, and it’s extremely frustrating. This was before the first iPhone was released, and the state-of-the-art technology wasn’t exactly user-friendly. Also, network coverage in my area was spotty, at best.

Verizon refused a refund

After my service was activated, I made the first of several calls to technical support to get a variety of problems resolved. Finally, I canceled my service within the 14-day window, and I expected a refund, minus maybe a restocking fee. But the carrier didn’t care that I’d called it almost immediately after the phone had been activated to try to resolve the problem. It only counted the actual day of the cancellation, and billed me accordingly.

While it was technically right in doing this, it was a terrible customer service move. After all, the phone never worked. All efforts to fix it were unsuccessful.

In a situation like that, the company should have apologized and taken its phone back. Instead, it billed me and a representative told me I was lucky I didn’t go over the two weeks in my contract.

Thanks for nothing.

What I’m saying is that Verizon is both right and wrong. And your case deserves a second look.

You could have appealed through Verizon’s online contact page, but as I’ve noted in the past, its “help” section isn’t the most helpful. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

Another suggestion: take your problem to one of the executives listed on the Verizon website. That might persuade the company to do the right thing. Email addresses at Verizon are formatted either or firstname.middleinitial.lastname@verizonwireless.

As it turns out, none of that was necessary. My advocacy team and I contacted Verizon and it offered to cut your bill by 50 percent, which you found acceptable. Good luck with your next carrier.

Should Joanna Morehead have to pay for a phone that never worked?

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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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