Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) says telco giant Verizon Wireless is scamming U.S. travelers to Israel with its TravelPass service. The plan, which promises big savings to customers who travel abroad with a flat rate of only $10 per day, has resulted in a bait-and-switch for many New Yorkers…including the Assemblyman himself.
“When I travel abroad, I’m like everyone else—I want the best possible deals,” said Hikind. “Naturally, when I heard about Verizon’s TravelPass, I was interested. Who doesn’t want to save money and have the convenience of using their own phone?”
“Now your wireless plan travels just like you do,” reads the online Verizon Wireless ad for TravelPass. “For just $5 a day per line in Mexico and Canada and $10 a day per line in more than 100 countries you can take your domestic talk, text and data allowances with you. You’re only charged on the days you use your device abroad. It’s an economical way to stay connected while you travel.”
But Hikind and others were far from satisfied with the service. When the Assemblyman returned home after just eight days of staying in Israel, he was shocked to find a bill that was ten times more than what he expected. “My cellphone bill totaled $925,” said Hikind. “At first, I thought it was a joke—and not a very funny one.” Hikind’s bill included the TravelPass charges of $10/day, but Verizon Wireless also tacked on 141 international minutes, and nearly 40,000 Kbytes of international data for texts issued from Jordan. “I hadn’t visited Jordan,” said Hikind. “Not ever. So I knew there was some kind of mistake.”
A mistake? Verizon Wireless wouldn’t hear of it. “Calling customer service was like talking to the wall,” said Hikind. A call center specialist insisted that the Assemblyman’s bill had to be accurate. It was only after hours on the phone and escalation to a supervisor that the Assemblyman finally saw satisfaction when the telco admitted its mistake and corrected his bill. But not every Verizon Wireless customer has been that lucky.
Other New Yorkers have presented Assemblyman Hikind with horror stories about the exact same issue. Sarah Moskowitz of Brooklyn used Verizon Wireless’s TravelPass only to find herself stuck with an additional $500 in charges for calls from Jordan and Saudi Arabia—countries she had never visited. Adding insult to injury, Verizon Wireless’ customer service refused to acknowledge their company’s mistake and threatened Mrs. Moskowitz with collections. Hikind’s office had to step in to get Mrs. Moskowitz satisfaction, but it cost her six months of terrible aggravation before the Assemblyman got involved.
Refoel Silberberg of Rockland County didn’t fare as well. His bill for $999.61 was $700 more than it should have been. “I was charged for supposedly roaming in Jordan and there was no one to talk to at Verizon,” said Silberberg. With “no one to talk to,” Silberberg gave up and paid in full.
“I am calling upon Verizon Wireless CEO John G. Stratton to demand that he immediately address to this blatant rip-off of innocent New Yorkers,” said Hikind. “These people used an advertised service in good faith only to find themselves bilked out of good money and hours of wasted time trying to rectify a problem that is clearly a Verizon Wireless issue.”