Fuck Vonage

This page is about our dealings with Vonage. In Novemeber of 2004, we ordered Vonage service for our new house, and almost immediately it was clear we didn't want to be their customer. So we tried to cancel. It has taken 5 months and countless hours on the phone trying to get our money back. Our story is hardly unique. Please read more, or just research another VOIP provider. This page, of which I am not affiliated, provides a good real world roundup of some popular providers and technologies. But stay away from Vonage, life is too short to be put through that hassle.

Contents:
1. Initial Post
2. Executive Response Team
3. Criminal CEO?
4. Not Alone
5. VOIP Alternatives
6. Why Are You Doing This?
7. Reader Comments

Initial Post
You may remember my previous dealings with Vonage 5 months ago. Well, a few days after I posted my article, we received a call from Vonage saying the charges were going to be taken off the credit card. We thought the issue was done. Not even close.

My wife somehow noticed that the charges were never taken off. She initially called the card company to dispute, but it had been too long, we only get 2 months. Our only option according to Amex is to call Vonage. So we did. After much time on the phone on hold, I finally got through to an Indian man named Viren, who claimed he was in New Jersey. He found the charges, said they were going to be credited back to the card within 24 hours. Miracle of miracle, I called, got through and the situation is handled. That was last Wednesday.

Well, it’s Monday, and the charges haven't been credited back. When I call their customer line today, 1-vonage-help (they should be sued by the FTC for calling it that), after going through the phone menu maze, I get a busy signal. Not "on-hold" music, a beep beep beep busy signal. A you-must-hang-up-and-try-again busy signal. And so I tried again. And again. How ironic, this is a phone company, yet they can't do a simple thing like put me on hold. It takes a little while to navigate the menu before getting that busy signal, so I gave up.

We found the phone number to the CEO of Vonage, which is Jeffrey A. Citron at 732-528-2600. I called and asked to speak with Mr. Citron, then got the voice mail of someone in Mr. Citron's office. So I called back and asked the operator to be connected to an actual person, not voice mail. Viola, transferred again to someone else's voice mail. Then I called and said that I was transferred to voice mail, and could I just talk to an actual person even if I have to hold, and the operator hung up on me. I called again, I asked for the operators name, and was hung up on again. I called again, finally got the operators name, Renee (maybe a different operator from before), who transferred me to the "VP of Customer Care's" voice mail. I left a long voice mail, explaining the situation and that I'm seething mad and need this resolved today.

And yet, they still answer their sales line after one ring.

[long string of expletives deleted]

If I can't get this resolved today, I'm going to file a lawsuit in small claims court. I'll blog the whole thing and it will be a PR nightmare for them. I'll probably increase my readership along the way, and I'll let as many people as possible know what they've done. I'll have some great fun with this. Vonage, I'm going to make you pay.

Update: Execute Response Team
My wife started calling all the names and numbers on this page and finally was able to get Dean Harris, the Vonage Chief Marketing Officer, on the phone. I told him to look at damienkatz.net too see the whole story. He was very polite, even though I was very angry. Dean Harris then assured me get was walking down to customer service to to see what is happening and I will be contacted by someone. I told him I wanted this resolved today or else I sue and turn it into a PR stunt amd give them tons of bad publicity.

An hour later, I receive a call from Melissa on the Vonage Executive Response Team. She explains that I was indeed refunded the money last week, it was credited to my account, but that the representitive didn't actually credit it back to my card. In otherwords, I had a $98.97 credit on my Vonage account. I asked why he hadn't done that, she said she wasn't sure, that he may have not known there was another step necessary or that maybe he wasn't approved to credit money back to credit cards. I asked, "So you guys screwed up again?". She said no, it wasn't a screw up, it was credited back to my account, just not back to my credit card. This is is ridiculous, as the guy last week assured me he was putting it back on my card and even gave me a special "transaction number" for it. So after much badgering, I finally got her to admit that Vonage had screwed up again, but it took three tries asking her point blank, "Did you guys screw up again?".

She said the charge will now be back on the card in 2 to 3 business days. I asked her how can I trust this will happen, when it was supposed to happen 3 times already? She said since I have her direct number, I can call her directly if I need to, but she can give no other assurances other than that. I guess that will have to be enough for now.

Update 2: Criminal CEO?
As Ronnie points out in the comments, Jeffrey A. Citron the CEO of Vonage, was indicted for Securities Fraud in 2003 (http://www.sec.gov/litigation/complaints/comp17929.htm) and he and his Datek cohorts agreed to pay the SEC $70 million in fines, of which Citron's portion was $22.5 million(http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2003-5.htm). What were the charges? From the SEC page:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Sheldon Maschler, Jeffrey A. Citron, Michael McCarty, Erik Maschler, and Heartland Securities Corp. with participating in an extensive fraudulent scheme involving the Nasdaq Stock Market's Small Order Execution System (SOES) from 1993 to June 2001.
...
According to the complaint, Sheldon Maschler, Citron, McCarty, and Erik Maschler accessed the SOES system to execute millions of unlawful proprietary trades, generating tens of millions of dollars in illegal profits. These defendants hid their fraudulent use of the SOES system from regulators by allocating proprietary trades to dozens of nominee customer accounts, creating fictitious books and records, and filing false reports with the SEC.

Sounds like the guy should be sitting in prison cell, instead he's sitting in a board room. Maybe their business model really is ripping off customers $100 at a time.

The amount of money they stole, STOLE, in total, is believed to be in excess of $200 million dollars. But on the same day the SEC filed the charges, Citron and his accomplices agreed to settle for $70,000,000. That's right, they just wrote a big check to the SEC and all was forgiven. And the SEC kept that money.

Is it any wonder I've had such a hard time getting my money back. It looks like Mr. Citron has learned that as long as you have a big ad budget, you can screw people as much as you like. Maybe you'll have to give some of your stolen money back, but that's about it.

Update 3: Not Alone
There are many other tales of poor service, but I'm going to focus people not getting their money back. Actually, I'm just going to focus on the first link when I Google Vonage Problems.

http://forum.theispguide.com/isp-ftopic2775.html

njjoe Wed Mar 09, 2005: 2 months now and they still have not transfered my number.

So I am still paying for my old service and new!

I am sorry I picked VONAGE as my Voice over IP service!

I have been trying all week to get trough to technical support and all I get is busy signals!

Stay away!

davisual, Fri Mar 11, 2005: I've waited for over two months to get my number transfered from BellSouth to Vonage. Meanwhile being charged by both ... I cannot get Vonage to respond or correct the problem . They will not acknowlede faxes, phone calls or any means of communication.
GotRidofVonage, Mon Mar 14, 2005: I was in the same position: paying for 3 month for two services because Vonage was unable to transfer my phone number, could not get to a live person at their customer support. Eventually, found a cancellation department number: 1-800-860-5491. It worked fairly well for me. Almost no waiting time, they cancelled my service in two minutes. Cancellation fee was $40 (weird!), but they promised to credit this amount after I return the equipment. No way: in a month after they received my router I stilll did not get the money back. I called them back (this morning) and got my credit (not sure if it really happened, will check my credit card statement in a week).

Anyway, I am so happy my Vonage period is over.

stoib, Mon Mar 21, 2005: We have not been able to make or recieve calls (about 1 of 20 will get through, but drop out.) for over a month now with Vonage. we have done all the troubleshooting and the router and cable modem work fine. I called numerous times from work since I can't call from home and have not been able to resolve anything with Vonage. We decided to switch back to SBC on Feb. 23, 2005 and still have not been able to because Vonage will not release the line. We called Vonage with a cell phone and were on hold so long (> 45 mins) that the battery went dead. Not tomention the minutes used. Vonage has been totally indifferent and rude concerning this issue. On top of it all, they continue to bill us!
And my personal favorite:
Bren, Tue Mar 22, 2005: If I could offer advice to the world, it would be run away screaming from Vonage! 'Cause if you don't, you will be screaming in frustration! They don't say on their website that you can't get TiVo series one to work with Vonage. I could not, so I decided to cancel. I have sent cancellation emails every day for almost 2 weeks. Yesterday I called, FINALLY got thru to someone named Fred, who just kept repeating "hello...hello...oh man, hello?". He couldn't hear a single word I was saying! In frustration I was screaming into the phone, "Can't hear me? You must be using your own sucky phone service!". I had to hang up, dial again, waited another 45 minutes, got a guy named Vincent who told me that "The termination lines are experiencing heavy call volume (there's a surprise, huh? lol) and their calls are being rolled over to reuglar customer service lines." He told me they would call me back...yeah, right! I am still not cancelled. The customer service is the worst I have EVER dealt with! I am going to have to go thru my bank to cancel the debits to my account because I can't get cancelled. What is worse, I cancelled on the 14th day from when I ordered, so I should be refunded my whole amount, but I do NOT believe I will ever see this money again. Please people, don't be sucked in by the thought of cheaper phone service like I was!

Update 4: Alternative VOIP Carriers
I've not dealt with any other VOIP carrier, so I can't vouch anyone else. But so far I've gotten a good recommendation for Voicepulse (thanks Thomas). I you have VOIP carrier you'd recommend, please tell me about it in the comments.

Also, Philip Greenspun wrote about his real world experiences with different VOIP providers.

Why Are You Doing This?
I'm a software engineer. I've had a successful career and I'm respected for my work. I have never done anything like this. I have never sued, never picketed, never protested, never even threatened a lawsuit before. Until I dealt with Vonage.

It's not about the $100. It's just not. It's about a company that rips people off, that gives them the worst, most incompetent service, and then makes it impossible to get your money back. The first time they said they'd give me my money and didn't, 5 months ago, I believed it was incompetence. The second time they said they'd give me my money and didn't, I believed it was incompetence. The third time they said they'd give me my money and didn't, I believed it was incompetence.

When I found out the CEO, who's net worth is over $200 million, got that fortune by making fraudulent and illegal trades, and then filed phoney documents to the SEC to hide it (according to SEC court documents), I began to realize that my troubles are more than simple incompetence. These people are deliberately trying to make it as hard as possible to get my money. The more I looked, the more I saw it happening to other people. When they said, "We've refunded you money back to your card", they did nothing of the sort. They hoped we would just forget about it, just like most customers will. We almost did, except my wife is quite on top of things.

I don't like be taken advantage of, especially not by lowlife scum like Jeffery Citron. He owns jets, mansions, takes a helicopter to work. He has some of your money already, and he's living it up. So I'll do whatever small thing I can, and help other people avoid getting ripped off, feeling cheated, feeling frustrated and abused. It sucks. But Mr. Citron cares not, he only wants to take your money. Once he's got it, he's going to hang on to it.

That's why I'm angry. Because he rips off decent people. I'm not alone, very few people actually get their money back, most don't even know they got ripped off. I want to help stop that.

So I'm showing how much effort I must go though to get back my money from this company. I'm showing how angry they made me and my wife. I never even had actual service from them. I never had equipment, never placed a call. I'm here to make whatever dent I can in their giant corporate armor, and show people what happens if you become their victim customer.

You might think I'm crazy. But the next time a big company really puts it to you, and your time is getting wasted, and you're being billed for things you haven't gotten, and the person who's supposed to help you just "accidently" hangs up for the third time, then at that point you will understand. And if you found out the slime running the company already has stolen hundreds of millions and is living high on your labor, then you too might finally say enough is enough. You too might want to hit back with what you can.

Read even more about why this is important.

If shady, dishonest corporations make you angry, please link to this article with Vonage as a word in the link. I'd love to see "Fuck Vonage" right on the first Google page when people search on Vonage.

Posted April 4, 2005 2:44 PM