Personal Finance

HELP! Vonage Has Taken Our Phone Number Hostage

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It’s called “local number portability.” We know it as keeping our phone number when we change phone companies. As part of the Federal Communication Commission’s rules, so long as you stay in the same geographic area, your soon-to-be old phone company has to release your phone number so that you can transfer it to your new phone company. Simple, right? Well, not when you’re dealing with Vonage.

After 5 years with Vonage, we are pulling the plug. The service has just been awful. It was a great way to save money, but if you can’t hear the person on the other end of the phone, something has got to change. We’ve spent hours on the phone with Vonage. At one point they even sent a technician to the house. The phone would work fine for a while, but eventually problems would surface again.

So about two weeks ago, we decided to switch phone service to our local cable company. If you have ever ported a telephone number before, you know not to cancel your existing service. Instead, contact the telephone carrier you want to switch to, and they will request the number from your existing carrier. We did that, and everything seemed fine.

And then it wasn't. It was a phone call from the cable company telling us Vonage won't release our number. They weren't exactly sure why, but it had something to do with it being an "internet number." Of course, number portability applies to wireless, wireline, or VoIP, so the fact that Vonage offers internet phone service shouldn't be a problem.

So I was off to call Vonage. After being transferred three times, the Vonage representative looked into the situation and "opened a ticket." I think that's what our IT department does at work, and it's never a good sign. Anyway, the Vonage rep promised that I would receive an e-mail in 24 to 48 hours with a resolution to this issue. Twenty-four to 48 hours, I repeated. Yes, 24 to 48 hours the rep assured me. Fifty hours later, no e-mail. Shocking, I know.

So I called Vonage back. E-mail, what e-mail, they asked. There's no reason to send you an e-mail because everything is fine. Your telephone number can be ported without any problems. Everything is good to go. Sigh.

I then called the cable company to give them the good news. A day later we get an urgent call from the cable company telling us that Vonage has set our telephone number to be released to the public in a few days. They urged us to call Vonage and tell them we don’t want our number released to the public. This time my wife made the call. Vonage assured us that everything was fine; our number was not set to be released to the public.

We called the cable company back, and they are going to try to port the number again. We’re keeping our fingers crossed. And then just yesterday, we finally get an e-mail from Vonage. I’ll paraphrase the content of the message:

This is all the cable company’s fault. We have nothing to do with porting numbers. It’s not our problem. In fact, we don’t even have control of your number, because we are a VoIP company. A 3rd party has control of the number. Talk to them. But if you really want to contact us, use this e-mail address: portout@vonage.com.

After receiving this extremely helpful e-mail from Vonage, I decided to fire up Google and see if others have had problems getting their telephone numbers released from Vonage. All I can say is that there have been a lot of complaints. In fairness to Vonage, as a consumer it’s difficult to know really where the problem is in the process or who is to blame. But if you are looking to change telephone service and want to keep your number, here are three things that might help.

1. How to transfer your telephone number

According to the FCC, if you want to change telephone companies and keep your number:

  1. Do not terminate your service with your existing company before initiating service with the prospective new company.
  2. Contact the new company, which will start the process of porting your number by contacting your current company. Be prepared to provide the new company with your 10-digit phone number, customer account number, five-digit zip code, and passcode, if applicable.
  3. Be aware that when terminating service with a wireless company, you may be obligated to pay any early termination fees under your existing contract. Also, when terminating service with any company, you are usually required to pay any outstanding balance owed. Review your bill or contract to determine what fees or charges apply. Once you request service from the new company, however, your old company may not refuse to port your number, even if you owe money for an outstanding balance or termination fee.
  4. You may request service from a new company at any time.

2. How to file a complaint with the FCC

According to the FCC, here is how to file a complaint:

If you have a problem porting your phone number from one service provider to another, first try to resolve it with the responsible provider. If you cannot resolve the problem directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint. You can file your complaint using an FCC online complaint form found at esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm. You can also file your complaint with the FCCs Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division 445 12th Street, SW Washington, D.C. 20554.


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