Cleveland mother faces steep cellphone charges over lost phone

Hit with $419 equipment charge, phone not insured

CLEVELAND - Kathryn Rudd wanted to get her son the cellphone plan he's always wanted, but when he lost the phone and attempted to cancel the plan early, she was left with hundreds in unexpected fees.

Rudd purchased a two-year plan from Verizon in Oct. 2013, the phone's discounted price was $199.

Unfortunately, Rudd's son lost the phone in the snow in Jan. 2014 and the phone didn't have insurance coverage.

"He was going over to a friends house, he had it in his pocket, and when he got out of the car, it fell out of his pocket," explained Rudd. Then my son wanted me to switch plans, so I paid Verizon a $406 early termination fee."

Rudd thought she was in the clear, in fact Verizon sent her a courtesy bill in February that verified a zero balance on the account.

However on June 11 Rudd was sent an unexpected bill in the mail. The bill was from a collections agency for an additional $419 for the lost phone. The bill was sent by Flexicom, an independent Verizon dealer and equipment supplier. 

"I was very stunned, because I had never had any contact from Flexicom prior to this point," said Rudd. "It's been six months, I was under the impression that I had a zero balance."

"I said 'why haven't I received any type of notification, or any type of bill for this amount,' since it happened in January. They said 'this is your notice right now.'"

Rudd told NewsChannel5 she was never told about an additional equipment early cancelation charge by any of the Verizon representatives she dealt with.

"I've left several emails, phone calls and I sent a certified letter," explained Rudd. "But to this date, I still can't get any response from them to say what it is I owe, and why I owe it."

NewsChannel5 contacted both Verizon and Flexicom headquarters.

It turns out Rudd had no idea she was actually signing an agreement with both companies when she set up her son's cell plan at Verizon's West Park Square Brooklyn location last October.

Verizon's corporate office responded quickly and conducted a full investigation.

Verizon determined it's independent reseller didn't adequately explain the secondary contract or the additional early termination fee, before Rudd canceled her son's cell contract.

Verizon quickly dropped the $419 equipment fee and pledged to review sales protocol at all it's independent resellers.

Consumers need to carefully review all contract terms and conditions before signing-up for a cell plan. It's important consumers understand all cell phone replacement costs and early termination fees.

Consumers must take the time to understand if they are signing a secondary contract, or if they are dealing with a independent agent. In some case signing a secondary agreement will include additional fees, especially when it comes to early cancelation.

In many cases, cell phone replacement insurance is a good idea when buying equipment for your children.

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