"If you do your homework, Vonage works great and saves money."4.5 starson by ireadrules
Pros: Price, features
Cons: No outbound caller ID
Summary: I've been reading these horrible reviews for Vonage with interest. I'm using Vonage and couldn't be happier. For anyone thinking of using it, the service can save you a ton of money. With some care, the pitfalls described in these reviews can be avoided for the most part.
First, though, I want to make it clear I have nothing to do with Vonage. I am a high school counselor who wants to save money. My Bell South account with Complete Choice and unlimited long distance cost me $67 + change a month. Vonage with close to the same features (a couple of new ones, missing a couple of others) and unlimited long distance in US and also several countries in Europe is $27 + change a month. The $40 savings a month is being put to much better use. I was waiting for Vonage to have a working E911 that went directly to my local 911 center. That happens now.
Below, please find the common complaints in these reviews and my experience.
Issue 1 - Poor customer service: This is the most consistent complaint. My first thought when I read the reviews was that my Bell South Customer service hasn't been all that great. I've often had long waits. When I moved to Talk America a few years ago, I could not cancel my Bell South service online, a common complaint about Vonage. I had to call and wait and wait and wait. I went back to Bell South because Talk America customer service was worse. So, even if customer service at Vonage is bad, for an annual savings of $480 a year, who cares? But, the fact is I've dealt with Vonage customer service three times and it's been great. A couple of years ago, I began getting wonderful customer service from all companies. I bought a recording device from Radio Shack for $25 that hooks into the phone line and a cassette player. It sits on my home office desk. When I call customer service, after the pleasantries, I say, "John, it's no reflection on you, but I'm recording this conversation. I want to have a record of this and, I tell you, my memory is so bad I need to be able to review what's you've told me." My tone of voice reflects a friendly, helpful attitude. Since I started doing this, I've discovered the most helpful customer service people for every company I've dealt with. It's been miraculous. I've only had to use the recording a couple of times, and at that I just read a transcript on the phone and asked if they wanted me to send the actual recording. In each case, I was taken care of.
That being said, I have not had to wait for long for a Vonage agent to answer. I do try to call at the least busy times, like 5:00 a.m. Eastern. My first call was a few minutes after activating the phone. I realized immediately that I misunderstood the plan I chose, and needed to switch to the unlimited plan. The first response was that I would have to pay a $10 fee to switch. I simply pointed out that I had activated the phone ten minutes before and shouldn't have to pay anything. He agreed to credit my account. I then said I wanted the first month free. That came with the unlimited plan, not the one I originally chose. He didn't want to do that, so I made my recording statement. He said, "I need to transfer you to the credit department." I held for about thirty seconds and somebody from stateside answered and agreed that I should get the first month free. I watched as he credited my account, after refreshing my browser. The second time I called was when my fax machine would not work on the line. I called, got an immediate answer again, made my recording statement, and within a minute the fellow had tweaked the line and my fax machine has worked fine since. The last time I called was with a question about porting my number and the answer was quick and satisfactory.
Issue 2 - Porting the Number: My number was fully ported 13 days after my LOA was submitted. After reading the horror stories about porting, I noticed that the carrier was often suspicious in the delays. I called Bell South and asked for all features to be removed from my account, including long distance. I only kept call forwarding and sent calls to my temporary Vonage number. That made my monthly charge from Bell South to be $25. Adding Vonage's monthly charge (waived, but replaced by an installation charge) of about $27. So, my total monthly outlay was still $15 less than Bell South even with both lines active until the number would be ported and I could cancel Bell South. Fine with me. I later called Bell South and they said the porting was pending. I asked what that meant. The Bell South rep was vague, so I said my recording thing (sometimes I forget in the beginning of the call), and she immediately said, "I need to send you to the porting department." I received a full explanation from that person and was assured that no features would hold up the porting. As I said, my phone line was ported a week earlier than the minimum of twenty days Vonage estimated at the time I signed up for the service. I'd suggest you do you're homework and take the appropriate steps.
Issue 3 -Equipment and Rebates: It seems nutty to me to order equipment from Vonage. If something goes wrong, I'd have no one to go visit. I bought the Linksys router with Vonage adapter installed from Circuit City with a rebate making the router free. First, my router was about three years old, so I thought it'd be good to get a new one. Second, there is no customer service on the planet better than Linksys. Third, if the rebate was a problem, I could go to Circuit City. In the past, they've honored messed up rebates from third parties by issuing me store credits, which is fine by me. The router has worked fine, except I had a problem with getting my computers to network. Linksys customer service worked with me, and it turned out to be my fault. The new router had a different range of local IP addresses than the old one and I needed to reconfigure Zone Alarm. The router and the phone service have worked wonderfully. I did have a problem submitting the rebate. One listed item to include, in addition to the UPC and serial number bar, was a proof of purchase symbol from the box. There isn't one. I verified that with Circuit City store manager, and then called the Linksys, Circuit City and Vonage rebate centers. The Vonage rep said not to worry about it and to send the rebate on. After learning I was recording the interchange, the Vonage rep volunteered to establish a case for me in case I had a problem. I have the case number and a recording of the interchange.
Issue 4 - Fees: There have been consistent complaints in these reviews that Vonage is "cheating" the customer because of fees. I don't get it. Before signing up, I ...duh... read the terms of service. The money back guarantee period of thirty days and the cancellation fee for a year is item number two in the TOS. The activation fee is mentioned as well. Didn't you read the TOS before signing up? For future reference, it's really dumb not to do that. Additionally, on the signup page, there is a link that says, "Calculate Vonage charges." I entered my zip code and clicked on that. The fees were all listed and I was billed exactly as they were listed. Don't blame Vonage because you failed to do your due diligence before signing up.
Issue 5- Outages: First, I've had outages with Bell South. When that happens, I call the repair office. Every time, without fail, they run a test and tell me the problem is my "inside wiring," Every single time I've explained that's impossible because my inside wiring is connected through a single outlet from the outside and I'd disconnected it, plugged a phone directly to the outside wiring, and still had the problem. The Bell South repair rep and I have fought over that until they've finally sent someone out. In every instance, they found the problem to be outside, which it had to be. My point is that outages aren't unique to VOIP. However, the odds of outages in some circumstances with VOIP will be higher. A few years ago, I would never have attempted VOIP because my Charter service was unreliable. However, Charter has upgraded its service significantly and outages are rare. But, there is another problem. I have helped many, many people resolve Internet problems. The wiring messes I've seen in homes have been phenomenal. With standard phone service, almost all houses are already wired. With Internet service, most people have had to do it themselves. That is going to cause problems. Suggestion: before signing up for VOIP, make sure your Internet wiring inside your house has solid integrity, few splitters, etc. In our case, the cable line is split outside the house by the cable company. Inside, within a foot of the wall, one cable goes to the TV distribution system, the other to the cable modem, then the Linksys Vonage router, then to the Internet distribution system.
Issue 6 - Quality of Service: My quality has been excellent. On rare occasions I hear a very slight echo. No one on the other end has had a problem that they've mentioned. Outbound caller ID only includes a number. For $40 a month savings, that's fine with me. I'm sure that'll be rectified at some point. I will reiterate that my Internet wiring is pristine and my cable service has been extremely stable.
In short: With a little homework done, and care taken, my Vonage experience has been just dandy and I'm enjoying my extra money. Hope this helps.