We've all seen the commercials for Vonage.
The company has created several TV ads that show people tossing old phone bills in a giant pile, and other ads that have customers speaking about giving up old phone services, so they can speak to love ones in distant places for lower costs.
The company says it's an ideal alternative to traditional phone services because it offers unlimited calling around the globe for one cost, and all you need is a strong Internet connection and a home phone.
Vonage also says it offers much lower rates than practically every other phone company that exists in the U.S. and is ideal for those who regularly call long distance.
Vonage also says it provides a flat rate for global calls, has sound quality that equals traditional landlines or mobile services, and customers canÂ keep their original phone numbers if they choose. Â
For $24.99 a month the company offers unlimited calls to U.S. and Canada, and for $19.99 a month customers can get 750 minutes of outgoing local and long distance calls. Each additional minute cost 3.9 cents, the company says.
Other packages include $11.99 a month for 300 minutes of outbound calls both local and long distance, and with two of its smaller packages--the company says it offers low rates for calling several countries, like Jamaica, Philippines and Guatemala.
On the surface ...
On the surface, it does look like Vonage is a nice alternative to traditional phone service, but according to many of our readers, the company has failed to live up to its promises of low costs and high sound quality.
Consumers posting to ConsumerAffairs have complained about everything from being over-charged to not being able to cancel their accounts when they requested it.
"I wanted to cancel Vonage because I moved and wanted to get bundled service via Verizon," said David of Arlington, Va.Â
"I called Vonage to cancel and the first customer service rep routed me to the account manager. Since I had bad experience with canceling anything from online accounts to gym memberships, I wanted to make sure that it gets canceled on the day I made the phone call."
Vonage offered David everything but theÂ sun and moon to keep his business, but after he refused and went ahead with the cancellation, he found out his account was still active.
"Two months later my account is still active and they charged me a month of service," he said.
"I called Vonage and went through three people regarding account cancellation and refund. The reason my account was open is that they said I agreed to their service comparison free service. At the end, I spoke to a person named May. She was the unfriendliest person I ever spoke on the phone with. I'll be calling back and make sure I get my refund," DavidÂ wrote.
Â Many people join Vonage because of its unlimited calling feature which is arguably the company's biggest draw -- and it makes sense, because if one can pay only $24.99 a month to call anywhere in the world with no hassles or hidden fees, it sounds like it would be worth it.
However, some customers said they were charged more than their agreed upon monthly payment, and felt extremely duped after Vonage called them and said their phoneÂ plans were being misused.
"Vonage is cheating customers and I believe committing fraud in the name of unlimited calling to US/Canada and 60 countries," said Jay of New York.
"I live in the USA and have family and friends in India. I call my parents and friends very often. My kids call their grandparents, and sometimes phone calls can last for an hour or more. This month, I got an email from Vonage stating that I am misusing my phone, and my plan will be upgraded if usage goes above 3000 minutes a month."
"Excuse me," Jay added. "I have unlimited calling plan, right? I called Vonage and the rep told me that there are certain criteria that he didn't explain and based on that, they can bump up my plan and charge me $49.99 a month, not $25.99 a month."
Not just lately
And customer dissatisfaction didn't just start recently, as my colleague Truman Lewis reported some years back that a class action suit against the New Jersey based company was filed for misleading consumers about how well its services worked, and for conducting questionable business practices.
ConsumerAffairs readers also complained about the lack of good customer service, due to rude agents, painfully long hold times and unfulfilled company promises.
We reached out to Â Vonage to get a response. Â We're still waiting for Vonage to reply.
In the 932 comments that Vonage received from our readers, it was a challenge to find any positive reviews, so customers should really think long and hard before being lured in by the unlimited call offer.
Wilvert of Killeen, Texas, who's a soldier in the armed forces and uses Vonage to communicate with his family back home, says using the company has mainly been a big headache for him.
"I'm a soldier in the United States Army," he wrote. "My only line of communication to my family is a Vonage line. I've been with them for one year and all of a sudden, they decided to change my plan without my consent and charge me for going over the minutes."
"I'm currently stationed in Korea and now I can't talk to my family as needed. I have to worry about minutes,"Â Wilvert added. "The service was okay sometimes, but lots of time when I call my wife, she wouldn't be able to hear me and vice versa, constant call drops, systems error, etc.
Since they decided to make a profit on my need to communicate with my family, I then decided to look elsewhere for other options," he said.