Bright House Has a Gift For Disgruntled Customers

Customers in Tampa Bay, Fla., might have been aggravated during their efforts to switch their phone service from Verizon Communications Inc. to Bright House Networks, but now they’re being paid for their inconvenience.

The cable provider has sent $100 Visa gift cards to about 1,500 digital phone customers to reward them for their patience. The thank you gifts — funded with cash from a settlement with Verizon — arrived in customer’s mailboxes in October.

“The response to our phone product has been phenomenal. There’s been no problem convincing people to convert,” spokeswoman Kena Lewis said.

But there have been problems after the sale. Bright House Networks had to complain to state officials in an effort to get Verizon to sell its phone and digital-subscriber line products separately. When Bright House launched its product in 2004, the cable operator estimated that 24% of new phone customers acquired in June and August that year rescinded their phone order from the cable company when Verizon informed them they’d have to drop their digital-subscriber-line Internet connections, too.

Verizon agreed to transfer numbers over to Bright House in 2005 without tying the transaction to other products, but then billing problems arose. Some digital phone customers continued to receive long-distance bills from Verizon

“In some instances, the bills represented significant dollars,” Lewis said. Bright House Networks decided to pay the bills on behalf of its phone customers and then pursued a settlement with the telco.

Verizon’s Florida spokesman was unavailable last week, but told local reporters that a software glitch was to blame for the double billing. Computers acknowledged that customers had left Verizon for Bright House Networks, but the software later recorded the customer as returning to Verizon. The errors weren’t intentional, the spokesman stressed.

The telephone company made a confidential settlement with its competitor, but the facts came out once Bright House began mailing the gift cards and the local business press took notice of the rewards program.

Lewis said the cards have all distributed, but Bright House saved some of the settlement money to revive the program if future misbilling complaints arise.