Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger
How would you feel if you asked your cell phone company for an itemized bill and their response was to tell you that you needed a subpoena? A Pennsylvania woman, Bernice Keebler, can tell you exactly how she felt because that is the response Verizon gave her when she asked for an itemized bill. Bernice Keebler, without the benefit of counsel, decided to take the matter to the courts.
Keebler chose to contest Verizon’s assertion that a subpoena was required and challenge their tariff charge of a $40 one time charge and $.02 per call charge for itemized bills. Pennsylvania Administrative Law Judge Mary D. Long agreed in part and disagreed in part.
It is a basic matter of fair business practice that a consumer should be able to contact a utility about a charge on a bill and learn what the charge is for and learn that the charge was correctly applied. The only verification that Verizon’s witness could offer that a charge like Mrs. Keebler’s $4.19 measured use charge was accurate and billed correctly was her faith in the accuracy of Verizon’s computer system. The only way that Verizon would offer any information about a past charge in response to a consumer inquiry was to require that customer to hire a lawyer and subpoena their own usage information. By no reasonable standard could this be considered reasonable customer service.
In addition, Judge Long proposed a $1000 fine against Verizon, but the final decision on the fine rests with the Public Utilities Commission. Judge Long did however find against Keebler’s claim about the fees, citing that Keebler had not met the burden of proof to show that those charges were outrageous.