Naples Navy Exchange halts hidden service deposit
June 30, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — When Daisy Parrish went to pay her final phone bill last week, she received a wake-up call she wasn’t quite prepared for. In addition to the $200 deposit she paid when she applied for telephone service through the Navy Exchange/Telecom Tax Exempt Program, she was told Thursday she had to pay another deposit of $250.
No mention of the deposit — which could take up to six months to be returned — was written into the contract she signed when she applied for service last year.
"They told me this was in anticipation of my last bill. My actual phone usage with Telecom-Italia has been less than 50 cents a month," said Parrish, who works for Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station, Naples.
The Quality of Life Services office manages the tax-exempt program in Naples, which began 18 months ago. At the time, officials said they thought the initial $200 deposit would be enough to cover all expenses of a customer’s final bill. A sharply declining dollar and heavier phone usage prior to moving accounted for the initial deposit falling short of what customers actually owed, officials said. And since it takes from three to six months for the phone company to close an account, the NEX added the exit deposit to ensure payment was made, but didn’t change the contract.
"They need to reprogram the system so it gives a better accuracy of what the customer uses," Parrish said. "I paid the second deposit just so I could have the phone turned off before the end of the month. When I reviewed the contract later, there was nothing in it about a second deposit, so I want my money refunded today."
The NEX did refund the deposit for Parish.
They also said as of Friday, they would stop asking for the additional deposit, as they were re-writing the contract. The new contract should be in effect in the next few weeks, officials said.
"I’m in the process of collecting the information to get a truer average expense for final bills," said an NEX manager who said he was authorized to change the policy but could not serve as spokesman for the Navy Exchange. "We’ll change the initial deposit to more accurately reflect close-out expenses. So the initial deposit will be higher, but it will be stated in the contract."