When I moved a little over a year ago, I chose Lingo for my phone service because I have family in Canada and calls to Canada are included in the monthly service.

The phone service Lingo provided was very poor – ranging from the people I was calling not being able to hear me to dialing a number only to get a message that the number was no longer working. That was weird, considering it happened with numbers for people who had just called me and I was calling them back. I would dial 3-4 times and would finally be able to get through.

I did call tech support to try to get better service. I know I called at least twice, but after a while it was harder to call tech support than deal with the poor service, so I stopped.

I decided to switch to Comcast, because Comcast said Canada was now included and it would lower my bill for internet services. That seemed like a no-brainer.

I remembered when I switched phone service for my former employer away from Lingo that Lingo requires customers to cancel the service themselves as they do not accept other service providers requests for cancellation – so I tried calling yesterday. That turned out to be an exercise in futility. As soon as I pressed “6” to cancel my service, I was immediately switched to hold music. That music played for almost 10 minutes before the system announced the extension I had dialed didn’t answer. I was then switched to a menu system from which I could choose from several options, none of which would help me in my situation, but was not able to get to an operator or leave a message. I tried calling back several times and always got just the music.

I tried again today and was elated to be able to speak with someone right away. I stated my desire to cancel my service. I was told the cancellation would be effective immediately, that I didn’t have to return the equipment since I had had service for more than a year, and was asked if I was aware of the cancellation fee. I said I was and that Comcast was paying for that. (Lingo’s terms state that a disconnect fee of $24.95 is charged if a customer cancels service after the 30-day money back guarantee period or before the 24-month contract is up.)

Note there's only one "cancellation" fee is mentioned. (Click for larger view.)

I was told I would receive a confirmation email within 15 minutes. I was not given a cancellation confirmation number as stated in Lingo’s terms.

I was very surprised when the email arrived because it stated I would be charged a cancellation fee of $99.95. I called Lingo. This resulted in another round of hold music and being shunted around the system.

I called the FCC to file a complaint. I spoke to a very nice and helpful person who directed me to a form I could file online. I decided to try calling Lingo one more time before I filed a complaint against them and was pleasantly surprised to speak with a human.

III. Service, Rates, Term, and Fees: C Disconnect Fees

After giving my customer number and verifying the name on the account, I was told the account was canceled. What did I want? I wanted to know why the cancellation fee was $99.95. She said that is strange, let me transfer you to billing.

The guy in billing “researched” what I was told and then explained to me the extra charge. So, here’s the deal. If a customer cancels service after the 30-day money back guarantee period, but before the conclusion of the 24-month service contract, a Rebate Recovery Fee of $75.00 is charged. This is to cover the cost of the equipment, which they will NOT accept return of after the 30-day period. So, you’re locked into a 2 year contract or you pay $75 + $25 to get out of it. This is outlined in the Terms and Conditions, however the person I talked to to cancel service failed to state that. She just asked if I was aware of the disconnect fee. Note that the Disconnect Fee and Rebate Recovery Fee are separate items in the terms.

I won’t be filing an FCC complaint because, technically, Lingo isn’t hiding anything. They’re just dealing in deceptive business practices.

The only mention of the Recovery Rebate Fee, and it's not listed with the other fees. (Click to view larger.)

The Rebate Recovery Fee is clearly stated in the Terms & Conditions, although it is hard to find and the cost of the fee is only stated in one place while the term “rebate” and the cost of the Disconnect Fee are mentioned numerous times. Also, the confirmation email shows that Lingo deems the Rebate Recovery Fee and the Disconnect Fee as one cancellation fee. I think the price is arbitrary because Lingo sets the price of the fee and I seriously doubt that the modem actually costs $75. A Vonage modem from Amazon (D-Link VTA-VR Broadband Telephone Adapter with Vonage) costs $59.99.

Note that cancellation of service is ONLY accepted via telephone.

This looks like a scam. In reality, it’s Lingo’s under-handed way of retaining customers. If my phone service had been stable and clear, if the people I called weren’t constantly asking what was wrong with my phone, and if their customer service had been helpful and easier to deal with, Lingo would still have me as a customer. That’s a much better way to retain customers. As it is, I’m an unemployed, single-parent student. I don’t have the cash lying around to pay for their equipment, which I would be happy to return. But, I’ll find a way to scrape together the $75 to pay their Rebate Recovery Fee and be happy never to be a customer of their’s again.

So if you’re looking for VOIP phone service, do yourself a favor and don’t choose Lingo. The phone service is lousy at best and customer service is difficult to get a hold of and deal with. And, do your friends a favor and pass the word about Lingo.