shameful/misleading prepaid advertising
jandrew3
Newbie

First off, I am not unhappy about the prepaid plan that I wound up with, only that it is NOT what Verizon wireless marketed to us (i.e. online).

History for context:

Two years ago now, we bought a cheap prepaid phone (and a minutes card) at Walmart for my children to use in the event of an emergency while at camp.  That worked fine for that event.  We didn't read the fine print on the minutes card, though, that says the balance is only good for 3 months.  Shame on us...  Meanwhile the phone kept telling us right along (i.e. well after 3 months were up) that our remaining balance was still healthy (i.e. presumably useable).  We now know that the phone was basically lying to us, giving us a false sense on security on at least two subsequent dates. We only found out that the phone was lying (i.e. unusable) when we tried calling them on this phone from the grocery store and a stranger answered.  That's when dug up the original paperwork to see what happened.  We chalk that up to a lesson learned.  Shame on us for not reading the fine print.

Current complaint:

So, last night we looked up how to re-activate their phone.  It wasn't hard to find online -- and here we are.  That's when we looked through the current prepaid plan listings and found the "Pay as you Go" section, which seemed to be what we want.

http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/prepay/processPrePayRequest.do?&type=ppdaily

It has a nice snazzy table showing us the 3 or so options.  We like the first one:

"With our $1.99 Unlimited Talk Daily option, just pay $1.99 for each day you talk on your phone. Talk all you want on the days you choose and pay only 2¢ per text."

and:

"Just pay for what you use. No monthly payments. No hidden fees. If you talk and text just a little, this plan is perfect for you."

This sounded great!  Except that our previous experience taught us be skeptical, and to read more carefully.  So we skimmed all of the "More information" text, and missed the line in one innocuous paragraph that reads:

"Your account balance will expire at 12:01 a.m. on the day stated at the time of replenishment. To carry your balance forward, simply refill your account before your expiration date. If balance expires, unused portion will be forfeited."

Notice how ambiguous that line reads.  What expiration date?  We did notice however:

"You will forfeit the money in your account if you activated service without a Refill Card and did not make a call within 60 days. You must initialize the account."

But we interpreted the latter (i.e. w/o comprehending the former) to mean that you just have use it once in the first 60 days to formally activate the service on the phone.  Sounded great.  Use it once in order to formally activate the phone, and then we only have to pay for using for each day that it's used.  NOPE.

After we signed up for this plan, then the website clearly informs us that the CONTRACT expires in 60 days, AND that the minimum amount that can add to the plan at any time is $15.  Technically speaking, it's not a monthly payment -- but a 60 day payment.  Doing the math, that essentially means that we have ~$7.50/month (due at least every other month) payment to make.  In other words, a 60 day contract. SHAME ON YOU, VERIZON!

To be perfectly fair, we looked a the same type of plan on AT&T and found the same exact MISLEADING advertising scheme.

HOW CAN YOU GET AWAY WITH THIS???

Again, I'm not unhappy with having a ~$7.50/mo. emergency phone plan for my kids.  It's better than all but Tracfone right now.  But I want you to be honest and straightforward about what you're selling me.

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mrpearsoy
Contributor - Level 3

For the price of a number 6 at Wendys for an emergency plan, and you are complaining. O-k.

Next, it is not a contract. You are not signing anything. Your account expires. Why should an account be held open forever and maintained for you? At your so-called 7.50/month? If its truely for emergencies, dont keep funds in there, and reactivate when needed. Unless your kids really love their telephone number, then keeping the account open is worth it. Verizon, ATT, etc, is not getting away with anything. If anything, YOU are getting away with complaining about PREPAY on this forum.

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jandrew3
Newbie

You obviously didn't read what I wrote, mrpearsoy.  I'm not complaining about the deal I ended up with, only for being mislead before buying it, and for the phone not reporting our true situation.

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mrpearsoy
Contributor - Level 3

I read it several times, and each time i read it I thought it sounded (I will edit my own post)

I cant believe you actually took the time to write all of that for a measly happy meal price each month. I dont see where it was misleading.

tikibar1
Community Leader
Community Leader

Whether they were complaining or just providing info. as a "buyer beware" kind of thing, I thought that taking the time to write what they did was informative for those who may have limited knowledge of the prepay plans ... maybe folks will learn a few things by reading the post.  If nothing else, folks should be sure to read the fine print and not "assume".

jandrew3
Newbie

Mrpearsoy,

Just to be more clear.  The advertising misleads us into thinking that this is truly a "pay as you go" plan (i.e. ~$2/day of actual use) with no expiration period (i.e. because we missed one vague line in the fine print that completely disagrees with the primary advert).  The phone confirms this misperception by continuing to report (i.e. on the phone screen) that we have a balance to use (i.e. presumably meaning that we have functional phone), when in fact the balance that it is reporting has expired, rendering the phone useless to our kids.  The advertising should have clearly told us that it is essentially a $15 every other month, use your balance or loose it, contract with a 60 day balance expiration.  And the phone didn't tell us when the plan had expired.  Maybe a software update will change this, I don't know.  But otherwise, this forces us to have an online account so that we know when the plan has or is about to expire(d).

The truth is, I want the phone to tell me when our balance has expired (or is about to expire, instead of having the check for the balance online or marking the date on some sort of calendar), and I want Verizon to advertise their plan truthfully.  The reason I took the time to write this is because all of the misleading advertising meant that we thought our kids had a reliable phone to use, when in fact they didn't.  This causes us unnecessary grief, which is far more important than your happy meal analogy.

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Ringah
Contributor - Level 1

First make sure text messaging isn't blocked on the phone, the balance on the phone can only be updated if text messaging is allowed.

Secondly, your not going to like seeing this but you need to.

Just keep in mind every prepaid plan with every company I've looked at operates the same way with this structure. 

For the record though I don't understand the false advertising claim.

When do payments I've made to
my Prepaid account expire? Do minutes carry over?

Once applied to your account, payments made to your
account expire as follows:

  • $15-$29.99 payments expire in 30 days
  • $30-$74.99 payments expire in 90 days
  • $75-$99.99 payments expire in 180 days
  • $100 or more payments expire in 365 days

If you make a payment to your account before your
expiration date, any unused balance will carry over and expire on your new
expiration date.

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jandrew3
Newbie

Thanks Ringah,

But why aren't these explanations clearly linked to or in their advert (see my link above)?  The advert I linked to, which is what I was served when I queried the vw site for a prepaid plan for our phone, implies no such terms. I wish it had.  And I wish that the phone was honest about our true balance.

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jandrew3
Newbie

On second thought, your proferred policy doesn't jive with anything vz has shown me so far.  Thus I don't know where you got that from, but it must apply to something else.

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mrpearsoy
Contributor - Level 3

Duh, uh, ughum, prepay, ughum, yeah my ten dollars unh, yeah stay for

e-ter-Ni-Ty

Sent from my iPhone

On Aug 30, 2012, at 9:39 PM, jimfitzgerald <community@verizonwireless.com>

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jandrew3
Newbie

>Post deleted. Keep your comments about other users of this site to yourself<

Message was edited by: Verizon Moderator

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Minniehaha
Specialist - Level 2

Re: shameful/misleading prepaid advertising (in response to jandrew3) Currently Being Moderated I'm a long time prepaid person, and if you read all of the info in the booklet that came with the phone, it does tell you that if you use something other than a prepaid cell card, such as a debit, credit or auto pay you will have to make one call every 60 days to keep the phone activated. This is the reason I buy prepaid verizon cards I never have to make a call as long as I keep the cell activated. I will agree its written in fine print and read it twice to make sure I was reading it right. The key is to read every word and then re-read it. There is nothing hidden just not as clear as it should be. Also you can have Alerts put on the phone that will remind you that a payment is due in 3 days and then another one will tell you the day before that payment is due. Some of the phone have a banner that can be placed on the front screen and it has the account balance listed and the date that a payent is due.

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jandrew3
Newbie

Minniehaha, Why is it that you and the others in this thread will not read what I wrote and compare it to the Verizon advert for their "Pay as you go" plan that is posted on the vz website right now?

Regarding your input, the phone we bought 2 years ago now only has a page for us to write our plan details on -- no plan information.  Only the minutes card that we bought then had any contract details, which expired almost 2 years ago.  And more to the point, the original information on the card was clearly superseded by the plan that the vz site just sold us (i.e it reads nothing like what the vz site now says).  That's why I described the process of going online to buy a new prepaid plan for the phone, and subsequently found the mess that I reported.

Please check the link that I provided (if you can't find it for yourself) to verify the misleading advertisement that is still on the vz site.

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Minniehaha
Specialist - Level 2

I Understand what your saying and the wording could better, I followed the link you sent and under "more information" I found this, yes it is not stated as clear as it should be and I learned the hard way to alwasys buy a prepaid card and not to do auto pay or use the credit or dedbit method. Important Information: All terms, conditions and obligations of the Verizon Wireless Prepaid Customer Agreement and Calling Plan, which cover all the details of your prepaid service, shall govern the terms of your service. Please read and understand this material before activating or using your phone. Verizon Wireless calling plans, rate areas, agreement provisions, business practices, procedures and policies are subject to change as specified in the Verizon Wireless Prepaid Customer Agreement. Our liability is significantly limited. Customers must replenish their account by providing Verizon Wireless with another payment. Any balance remaining at expiration will be removed from the account. Your wireless number is subject to termination after the expiration period, at which time up to a $35 account activation fee may apply to re-establish service. Existing Verizon Wireless prepaid customers will forfeit any unused bonus minutes in their account when changing to a prepaid Calling Plan. You will forfeit the money in your account if you activated service without a Refill Card and did not make a call within 60 days. You must initialize the account. If activating the account with a Refill Card, the card is not valid unless initialized (using the PIN) by the date marked on the back of the card.

NOTE THE PART THAT SAYS WITHOUT A REFILL CARD. If you use the refill card you do not need to make one call every 60 days.

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jandrew3
Newbie

Hmmm. I suppose that's one way to interpret the bit about refill cards, but I will make no such assumptions any more. I am still appalled that vw can get away with this behavior, and will be reporting both vw and at&t to bbb asap.

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jrsaint
Newbie

jandrew3 I clicked on your link and followed it and I also click on every additional link that was on the pages that your link sent me to. I understand why you might feel that it was misleading but no company puts all important information on the ads. all of the necessary information was there for you, you just had to actually take time and look for it, that is why it is in fine print. Companies know that most people do not look at the fine print so they stick things there. Is it morally right? No but it is not legally wrong! I understand your frustration but Verizon did nothing wrong but follow a well established business practice.  While this is not a hidden fee or a monthly payment which would have made their ad misleading it is a term of the prepaid plan. It is a condition that has to be meet for them to keep your number active. It really is not a monthly payment.  I think reporting them to the BBB on this is unfair but you do have the right to do that because you feel wronged and that is why the BBB is there.

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baking339
Enthusiast - Level 2

I have experience with a number of prepaid plans from various companies, but I don't know of any that are cheaper than $100 per year.  All of them allow you to roll-over your balance so the money is still there if you decide you want to start using the phone though (if you refill before it expires.)

To bad you didn't see the part about the expiration date, but it doesn't seem like you are out a lot of money.  I have a cheap verizon phone that is older than two years and I don't think there is any way to look at the balance without seeing the expiration date.  I think Verizon is pretty good about this.

If you don't want to spring for $100 a year, buy a $20 phone every summer to use for camp and recycle it when you are done.  Considering the options, it's a pretty good deal.