Verizon is the latest to take heat on this front, a video on YouTube making the rounds telling the tale of New Jersey resident Jarrett Seltzer, who recently lost everything he owns in a devastating fire. The video highlights how Verizon has been pushing Seltzer to pay up $2,345 for four six-year-old cable boxes and an old FiOS router (we assume they've included their ONT). As the user correctly notes, given the amount he's already paid out as a six year customer ($18,000), he's more than paid off both installation and hardware charges, but can't get Verizon to budge.
Seltzer notes that Verizon continued to bill him after learning about the fire, and his attempt to resolve this with Verizon has involved being on hold for several hours, being transferred fourteen times, while speaking to fifteen different Verizon support representatives. We've reached out to Verizon to get their side of the story and see if there's anything they can do to help, and will update this post when we hear back.
Given that insurance will usually pay out eventually, all pressing disaster victims (who usually can't pay until insurance comes through) achieves is bad press. While most of these problems usually get resolved amicably after the press gets involved, we've now seen enough of these stories to make it very clear that ISP support policies dealing with disaster victims need a little work. A dash of compassion certainly wouldn't hurt, either.
Update: Verizon offered us the following statement on the matter:
We became aware of Mr. Seltzers video over the weekend. At the moment we are going over the record of his interaction with our service center representative to understand the details of his call.
In general, Verizon provides and owns the equipment but our customers are responsible for maintaining the equipment in good condition while in their possession. In the case of equipment destroyed by fire, flood or some other accident, Verizon would expect that the homeowners insurance company would cover the loss. If the customers insurance company declined to cover, Verizon would attempt to work out a reasonable solution directly with the customer.
We are in the process of determining how the communications were handled with Mr. Seltzer to help shed light on our process as it unfolds in a real-time situation (albeit a rare one). We do know that he was told twice that the equipment likely falls under his homeowners or renters insurance and should be included in any claim he files for the fire. We are working with him now and will not seek to collect any charges for the equipment while his insurance company works through the claim.
Even though this is a part of the terms of service with all of our customers, we need to be empathetic with our customers in such difficult situations. So far, it sounds like we could have done a better job of communicating with him and been more helpful in addressing next steps. At the same time we are reviewing our internal processes to ensure we are providing appropriate consideration for customers in situations like these.