‘Free Phone' From Verizon Almost Cost Virginia Couple Hundreds

In an earlier video version of this story, a shot of a Verizon storefront owned by The Wireless Center was inadvertently used. That store is not the store referenced in this story. NBC4 regrets the error.

A cellphone deal turned into a dud when a free phone almost cost a Virginia couple hundreds of dollars.

A broken smartphone sent Air Force veteran Doug Hawkins to a Verizon.

“I went to the Verizon Haymarket office and one of their people looked at it and didn’t seem to think he could fix it,” Hawkins said.

Instead, the salesman offered a free phone.

“I said, ‘What are you going to do with the old phone?’ and he said, ‘I’ll send that back,’” Hawkins said.

But when Hawkins and his wife received their Verizon bill the next month, they learned the “free phone” wasn’t exactly free. They saw a $218 equipment charge.

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“I called and asked them, and they told me it was because I hadn't turned in the old phone, and I said, ‘Well, I left the old phone at the store,’” Hawkins said.

But the store had no record of it, Hawkins said.

Suddenly, his new and not free cellphone started receiving text alerts telling him to pay his bill or have his phone shut off.

“I finally went back to their store and I asked about it again, and they said, ‘Was it a blue one?’” he said. “I said, ‘Yes.’ They pulled out the drawer and handed it to me.”

Hawkins sent the phone back to Verizon himself, as instructed to do, but weeks later, it returned.

“With a note saying, well, you didn't send it within the first 14 days of purchase, so it's yours,” he said.

And so was another bill, racking up late fees, which is when Hawkins contacted NBC4 Responds.

“Having seen you on NBC news and realized that you had solved something that was very complicated over time, and I thought, 'She's the person that knows what to do with this,’" said Hawkins wife, Pam.

NBC4 Responds contacted Verizon, and within days the Hawkins got a call on what is now truly a free phone. All the charges were removed, and the Hawkins got a $204 credit.

In a statement sent to NBC4 Responds, Verizon said: “Verizon strives to provide the best customer experience for all our customers at every touch point. In this case, we did not deliver on that promise. We sincerely apologize and have worked with the customer to resolve the issue.”

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