Several years ago I switched from my local phone company (which was MCI at the time) to Vonage. They were brand spanking new company at the time, and were hip, honest, to-the-point, and much cheaper than what a bundle of local services cost.
As the years went by, Vonage turned into one of the “big” players of VOIP market. Unfortunately, that meant taxes, and fees, and “un-fees”. Because while they keep squaking on how much better they are than your local phone monopoly, they follow exactly the same steps, when it comes to rising prices by giving birth to more and more fees.
About half a year ago I decided to switch away from them, and now use Future Nine, which charges $5 for basic service (1c for outgoing US calls, 2000 free incoming minutes) without additional fees and such.
And Vonage keeps on sending me emails saying that they want me so badly back as a customer (sure, I was giving them money every month and not used any minutes, yay). In the best “monopoly phone company” tradition, email has a price “$9.99 a month†” with a “dagger” symbol and “(plus taxes and fees)”. At that point you can already tell that the price is a lie.
Sorry, but for purely VOIP provider it should be piece of cake to tell you the real price. Because hell, they have your address and know for sure what the grand total will be. But no, the end price will be ugly “$13.47” or something like that, and they have to hide the real price.
Okay. Well, perhaps I should read what they list as all “fees and taxes”. Couple clicks, and I got to page that explains fees.
Regulatory, Compliance and Intellectual Property (IP) fee
What the… Intellectual Property fee? So they can pay for lawyers? Fan-freaking-tastic.
“This $1.99 fee pays for regulatory-related and legal compliance expenses and taxes. This enables us to offer new and innovative products and services, for example, Vonage Mobile.”
Okay, so in one sentence they contradicted themselves. First they say it’s regulatory-related expenses (which are part of doing business, you don’t see MacDonald’s adding “health inspection fee” to your burger price), legal compliance (pretty much the same, so they don’t do illegal stuff) and taxes (their taxes, I presume, because anything that can be legally claimed as a government tax is added separately from this fee). And then they claim that it allows them to provide Vonage Mobile. What, they force lawyers in their free time to connect your calls? Marketing BS in all its glory.
Then we get to the “kinda real taxes” here. Universal Service Fee while is government mandated, doesn’t have to be passed on to end user. But big telephone companies are doing it, so why not Vonage? *Ding* You’ve got USF fee.
Emergency 911 fee (which is understandable, if landline is your primary phone) is kinda understandable, but to pad up its account, Vonage merged it with “411” fee. Because, you know, calling to find the phone of local pizza joint is certainly right there next to real 911 emergency (and because people didn’t use 411 alone, so they had to add a fee for that). *Ding* Another $1.99
County/Local 911 Fee. Wait, didn’t we just have another 911 fee a moment ago? Well this one is “local” 911 fee.
Which is kinda weird, because Vonage claims that they use “National Call Center” for routing of emergency calls. Which is then routed to a local center. Why they can’t do it directly, if they’re charging the fee anyways — a mystery.
Sales tax for TX is 6.25% on top of all that.
So there you have it. As close to big old phone monopoly as they can be. Rates a bit cheaper, but hey, they don’t have to comply with some regulations such as availability and back up.
All while smaller VOIP providers somehow manage to give you the very real final price (and if they have 911 fee they also list it right there). I guess it’s not really hard. It’s just hard to pass an opportunity to rip another buck or two from customer and still look pretty with the price of 9.99. And about 20 pages of fine print, arbitration and all.
Goodluck, Vonage. I won’t be coming back.