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Verizon Wireless To Issue $90 Million In Refunds

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the have-some-cash dept.

Businesses 184

tekgoblin writes "Verizon Wireless had somehow been charging customers extra money on their bills for data that they actually hadn't been using. Approximately 15 million customers were affected by the billing error. According to BGR the FCC had been pressuring Verizon to respond to the hundreds of complaints that had been piling up. So Verizon's answer was to refund all of the overcharged money as soon as possible."

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184 comments

And? (2, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783170)

At least their answer was to issue refunds.

Re:And? (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783454)

$90 million was no "accident." This is all standard operating procedure. In some circles, this is huge theft. If done to the government, it would result in criminal charges. Being quick to refund was nothing more than cover their asse[t]s. The telecoms are all resisting FCC inquiries and we know why... we KNEW why -- because they are all massively ripping off the public.

Re:And? (1, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783576)

If done to the government, it would result in criminal charges.

Of course, if done BY the government, it would not.

Re:And? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783798)

If done to the government, it would result in criminal charges.

Of course, if done BY the government, it would not.

Of course, if done by your mother, she just be pimpin', nigga. Your mother's a slut.

Re:And? (3, Interesting)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783706)

It's also hardly limited to Verizon. I've been with Sprint for several years and had a few occasions where they put strange charges on my bill. Of course, I called and complained and they took them off, saying they were "billing errors." I don't know what I'd prefer, that they're so shady they're purposely tacking bullshit charges onto people's bills, or they are so incompetent they don't know how to keep such mistakes from happening.

I can only guess how many people get those charges who never bat an eye and just pay them.

Re:And? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783812)

It would be nice to think they were only incompetent, but you don't hear stories of people frequently receiving credit errors, or portions of their bill inexplicably removed. Either this happens a lot and people keep it quiet, or the system is set up in such a way that, if there are errors, they always go in the company's favour, or that said errors never flag internally for investigation and removal, so the customer has to do all the legwork.

Re:And? (4, Interesting)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783874)

The same thing happens with banks, for that matter, or any instance where you're charged for something. What are the odds you'll be accidentally credited instead of, say, debited twice for the same thing? And if multiple erroneous debits wind up overdrawing your account, how good are the odds that the offending party will reimburse the overdraft charges?

These errors always seem to be at the expense of the consumer and it's a struggle just to get back to zero, much less be compensated for your time and trouble.

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33784364)

I can answer the latter question. My bank incorrectly entered a debit to my account while I was on vacation. This caused several of my automatic bill pays not to fire and I came home to quite the money mess. They credited back the error, the overdraft fees, all of the late fees from the missed payments, and paid me for the trouble.

I _love_ my bank, First Horizon.

(This is not an astroturf.)

Re:And? (3, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784606)

The same thing happens with banks, for that matter, or any instance where you're charged for something. What are the odds you'll be accidentally credited instead of, say, debited twice for the same thing? And if multiple erroneous debits wind up overdrawing your account, how good are the odds that the offending party will reimburse the overdraft charges?

These errors always seem to be at the expense of the consumer and it's a struggle just to get back to zero, much less be compensated for your time and trouble.

Yeah, you're right about that (and it's statistically improbable at best.)

Still, I did have one positive experience along those lines once. Gotta be about twenty five years ago, but at the time I was pretty broke and was waiting for some money to come in, so I could open another checking account and get away from a bank that had seriously screwed me over (in fact, that's why I was pretty broke.) Suddenly, a substantial amount of money appeared in my account: obviously a banking error, but I immediately withdrew some of it, used it to open an account at another bank, then immediately withdrew those funds and put them back in my original account. A couple of days later, the original bank fixed its mistake, but that was all the time I needed.

But you're right, that's pretty goddamn rare.

Re:And? (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783926)

You say it would be nice to think it's incompetent, but it sure sounds like you'd rather think they're out to get you.

I have no problem at all believing that a billing system, which has many dynamic provisions for adding charges but probably only one or two pretty simple methods for adding credits, would tend to error in the company's favor.

An error in the company's favor is defintiely more likely to be noticed. If I don't use data but I see a 1MB data charge on my bill, I know something's screwed up. If I use data but the reported usage on my bill is 1MB lower than it should be, will I even know? Even if I've been keeping track and I think I know what you'll bill, I might just assume I was wrong about how you round usage.

And I bet if you think about it you'll have to agree that an error, once noticed, is more likely to be reported if it's in the customer's interest to report it.

But sure, in spite of all that, let's look at the fact that the stories never talk about a rash of under-charges as proof of a conspiracy.

Re:And? (2, Insightful)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783956)

There's a company down the street that does billing for (I think) Sprint. Some of their developers have interviewed here. Apparently it's a pretty rough shop to work in. I dunno if it's bad legacy code or not but they have constant problems and they're always getting after hours calls. It's a big deal if a billing cycle has problems. Part of the problem is that the bills are so unnecessarily complicated. And lots of stuff *does* get flagged before it goes out. That's what happens when the company creates so many different kinds of fees and credits it could make your head spin. Anyways, at least from this end (developer) it doesn't appear to be a big corporate conspiracy to overcharge you.

Re:And? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784520)

It's also hardly limited to Verizon. I've been with Sprint for several years and had a few occasions where they put strange charges on my bill. Of course, I called and complained and they took them off, saying they were "billing errors." I don't know what I'd prefer, that they're so shady they're purposely tacking bullshit charges onto people's bills, or they are so incompetent they don't know how to keep such mistakes from happening.

I can only guess how many people get those charges who never bat an eye and just pay them.

Yes, I had much the same experience with Sprint. It's why I went to T-Mobile: believe me, I asked around and tried to get an idea of if I would experience the same problems. Everyone I spoke to at the time was very positive about T-Mobile's billing practices.

With Sprint, I would get charged .25c per text message even though my account had unlimited texting. Then the bastards would spam me, and charge me for the privilege (the same .25c per message.) Then, on top of that, I would get Internet charges on an account that didn't have a data plan, and twenty or thirty bucks a month would show up for watching TV shows on a phone that didn't support video playback. As you said, when I called they would immediately take them off, but that's just ridiculous. Comcast would pull similar crap. I eventually had enough of both of them.

At the moment, I have U-Verse for my Internet and phone service (dropped the TV because, well, we really don't watch it enough to justify the expense, although the service was excellent) and T-Mobile for my cell phone (with data plan.) Both have given me great service for the money, and not a single billing error. Not one. So it's certainly possible to run an honest billing system and some companies do. Well, you have to figure AT&T has plenty of experience with that, and as far as T-Mobile ... well, they're just Deutsche Telekom's US division. I'm not at all surprised that the Germans know how to do proper accounting.

Matter of fact, the only time I've had to call AT&T U-Verse support was when we started getting all kinds of noise and dropouts on the incoming VDSL signal. Turned out it wasn't AT&T's fault ... it was coming in on the power line. The only time I've called T-Mobile's customer service was when I upgraded my plan.

Now, just to be fair, Sprint's cell service never gave me any cause for complaint: it was their stupidass billing that lost me as a customer. Comcast, on the other hand, ran all the usual "traffic management" interference on me, dropped my second IP address but continued to charge me for it, refused to accept that it wasn't working even though their own technician said it wasn't, had a ridiculously slow backchannel (16 mbit/sec down, about 34k up) and generally just irritated the fuck out of me. Then one day this young Japanese individual knocked on my door, politely asking if I was interested in AT&T's U-Verse service. I practically yanked the guy into the house, signed up on the spot.

Sprint and Comcast both keep sending me junk mail with the usual "we want you back!" crap. No thanks, you had your chance.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Re:And? (5, Insightful)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783752)

'$90 million was no "accident."'

Maybe it wasn't, but I find this "matter-of-fact" statement amusing. What, the fact that it's a large number makes the idea of an error impossible? A systematic error in their billing system - the kind of thing I have no problem believing would slip past a corporate QA department - could easily rack up $90M across the book of business before being noticed.

IT makes it possible to do everything - including screw up - a lot faster than you would imagine.

'This is all standard operating procedure'

Citation needed. If you've ever actually worked in a corporation, then you know that the management will do all manner of unethical thing, but only to the extent they can delude themselves into believing it's really ok. I've yet to meet an executive so far gone that he believes you can overcharge your customers and then repay the principal when you get caught. They like to be a lot more subtle than that.

'The telecoms are all resisting FCC inquiries'

All companies resist all manner of oversight. Oversight costs money even when you're following the rules. This doesn't mean that there should be no oversight, but it does mean that a company cannot be presumed guilty for trying to avoid oversight.

Re:And? (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784078)

A systematic error in their billing system - the kind of thing I have no problem believing would slip past a corporate QA department - could easily rack up $90M across the book of business before being noticed.

So why would it take an FCC inquiry (and a large number of consumer complaints, endless websites/news stories about Verizon's bad data-charging habits, "Verizon Math" [verizonmath.com] , and even firing employees who offer service blocks to customers [slashdot.org] )?

In most cases, okay, I can totally grok the 'never attribute to malice' line. But Verizon? Sorry... they're the type where this sort of thing is designed, not accidental. Also, that $90m is likely only a portion of the money they've taken in over the years.

Re:And? (2, Informative)

ncy (1164535) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784418)

as a customer of Verizon, i can say that i've received third-party charges multiple times on things i never used or even heard of, in the amount of i believe between $30-$50. good thing looked at the bill in detail. and what's more annoying is that Verizon support said they can't do anything about it in terms of refunding; had to call the third-party company listed on the bill, who only after getting threatened to be reported said "i'll talk to my supervisor" and refunded the full amount, sometimes with extreme rudeness. i imagine they must be getting a lot of these calls. shady business practice if you ask me. the last time this happened, it was some music service, and the Verizon guy said it might be the "kids" using some wireless service, which is stupid because we don't use have Verizon wireless, only landline and cable. at least they offered to put a "block" on third-party charges this time ... we'll see how that goes

It doesn't take much delusion... (2, Insightful)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784598)

'I've yet to meet an executive so far gone that he believes you can overcharge your customers and then repay the principal when you get caught. They like to be a lot more subtle than that.

It doesn't take much for executives (and people in general) to delude themselves into thinking they're doing the right thing. Executives have an ethical responsibility to do whatever is in the best interest of the stockholders. Therefore, if it means more money for stockholders for them to screw over customers with a slight possibility of getting a hand slap at some point in the future, then it is their moral responsibility to do so.

Re:And? (1)

jlf278 (1022347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783870)

Agreed - no accident. They have posted erroneous charges to both my wireless and fios account in the past. On the fios account they removed a charge and then 5 months later re-reversed it! I have auto-bill pay, but I still check it infrequently and noticed after i had paid it. They agreed to re-re-reverse the charge, but said they would have to break it up over 6 months? whatever.

They also seem to train their reps to say anything to make a sale. I asked if they could come install fios earlier than what was available online. After working up the chain of command they agreed...then simply didn't show up. Of course by then I would have had to wait even longer for comcast. Despite all of this, I actually like Verizon better than most of their competition and they push quality products.

Re:And? (1)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784106)

It may be that only my Palm phone does this, and that others do not, but every time I use the Internet from my phone, it asks me if I really want to do that. If there is a crime, however, it's some form of monopoly: Verizon now requires that anyone buying a "smart" phone such as a Palm Centro, Blackberry, or Droid commit to several years of their $30/mo. data services. This is on top of requiring a voice plan that costs $40/mo., so the minimum entry price is $70/mo. All the carriers seem to do the same thing.

I don't believe the argument that the high price is necessary to subsidize the cost of the phone because 1) Verizon was willing to sell the Centro with the pay-as-you-go data plan until 2009 and 2) before Palm quit making standalone PDAs, they could be had for less than $150.

Re:And? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783726)

And:

This is only the screwage we know about. Every day there is screwage by megacorps but happening on a smaller scale. Like when a Motel 6 manager refused to honor the 10% sale price that I had booked... and then when I called the national office, they forced him to honor the sale price, so he invented a story about how I was having sex with deskgirl, and then called the police to have me removed.

- Or the power outlet somebody buys where only 2 of the 4 outlets work.
- Or when you're charged shipping on an item that was supposed to be fre ship.
- Or the Chase website is down for two days, so you can't make payment, so you get charged a $30 late fee.
- Or you buy a DVD that is a pile of shit, but Walamrt refuses to take it back.
- Or you get fired off your job, because somebody SATS you were watching CNN video, but that's a bold-faced lie.
- Or you don't get paid your last week of wages.
- Or you had a nice cheap $20/month Dish plan, but suddenly they eliminate that package, and jack it up to $40 without telling you.
- and on and on and on.

The more stories we have like these, the more we make the People aware that they can not trust megacorps, and therefore corporate power should be limited to a bare minimum (where no power would be the ideal).

Re:And? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783782)

Have you considered moving to Europe?

Re:And? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784206)

The European Union is no better than the American union of states.
They just trade one kind of oppression (corporate) for another kind of oppression (bureaucrat).

Re:And? (2, Insightful)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784322)

It's interesting that your Motel 6 story is about a local franchisee screwing you over, and the national office (the Megacorps!!!) solving the problem for you.

"Accidents" and "Refunds" (5, Insightful)

skyride (1436439) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783172)

If you RTFA, it actually says the overages were caused by "built in applications" such as web features on the phone put there by verizon, and then charged $1.99 for 1MB of data used despite it being merely a few kilobytes downloaded.

Also, the majority of customers will be receiving Credits instead of an actual refund. So essentially they will never get this money back.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (5, Informative)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783186)

I did RTFA, Verizon said:

"We will mail former customers refund checks. In most cases, these credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or refunds." which means actual refunds for larger amounts, and for the $2-$6 range (most customers) it will be a credit on their next bill. Looks like they are trying to do the right thing. For once.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (5, Insightful)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783232)

Looks like they are trying to do the right thing. For once.

Right...after the FCC told them to do something about it. This is totally conjecture, but I doubt Verizon would have been so willing to issue refunds without pressure.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783346)

But but but the FCC is a government agency! They can't possibly do anything right! The free market should have sorted everything out!

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (4, Insightful)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783374)

So on the blue corner we have Verizon, a mega-corp. out to make a buck. By definition, everything they do is evil. On the red corner we have the FCC, a government agency and as such incompetent and wrong-doing by default.
Looks like we have a tie.

I mean people, we have a company that charged incorrectly (I'll even admit, based on what is written on this thread - indecently). People complained, the FCC checked on this and Verizon responded by refunding people. I'd say that for once the system worked - someone X did bad, someone else (Y) corrected him and then X did the right thing and gave the money back. I say cheers!

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783604)

they charged correctly. before the iphone and the app store Verizon had it's Get it Now where you can watch TV via your cell phone via 3G as well as buy games from an app store. the button to launch it was very easy to press and resulted in a dollar or so of data charges a month for people who never subscribed for $15 a month.

happened to my wife who had VZW phones until her iPhone 3G

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784374)

"Correctly", yes, but the "accident" isn't really an accident when the phone is set up in such a way as to almost force you to make the mistake frequently.

I've had this same issue with AT&T. My father-in-law chose a phone that has a hard-coded shortcut button in an easy place to accidentally push it, and the button sends you to something requiring data and the button cannot be remapped or disabled (without the careful application of tools, of course, but most people don't want to have to microsolder a button out of their brand-new phone!). We looked around for another "dumb" phone without this button, and they basically don't exist in the AT&T store.

Their obvious hope was that, after a few calls to have the data charge reversed, you'd just accept the $1 or $2 a month of accidental charges because it's more hassle to call them every month and get it reversed. The phone has no way to disable data usage internally (AT&T disabled that option in the setup menu), the button cannot be remapped or disabled (AT&T disabled that option in the setup menu as well), and AT&T doesn't exactly go out of their way to let you know you can block data (or SMS) on your account to prevent accidental usage.

Even if you did elect to block data, what if you wanted to be able to access data occasionally? My father-in-law was quite happy to pay $1 or so when he really did want to check weather or traffic on his phone, but ended up blocking data because he was tapping the AT&T "Shop Ringtones" button almost every time he opened his phone (it was located precisely in the logical spot to grip the phone to flip it open, so, yes, he was "holding it wrong"), and was paying an average of several dollars a month in charges until I told him about data blocking. He's not terribly happy, and AT&T is actually making less money off him than they could, but that was the best solution we could find at the time.

So it basically means that, if you don't intend to use data (even on a "dumb" phone), you have to specifically ask to have data blocked on every handset purchase (which means you need to know the service is available), and when you change handsets you have to ask all over again. It's not hard to do, but it's not something you should have to ask for yourself.

Unlocked phones have the major advantage of not having carrier premapped buttons. Just one of the reasons why I think they are worth the extra money. :)

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (3, Funny)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783378)

Dont worry its just pretend time now... Just pretend that either the FCC wasn't involved, or that it was the FCCs idea to do it in the first place.
Then accuse the FCC of persecuting small businesses.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (3, Insightful)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783416)

Since when is the wireless world a free market?

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33784566)

Since it had a choice for the consumer, unlike cable.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783466)

Maybe we should give them both a cookie and say "Good boy!", and hope they continue behaving like this.

Hey it works for dogs :).

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783802)

Maybe we should give them both a cookie and say "Good boy!", and hope they continue behaving like this.

How about we put a shock collar on both of them? One that goes to 11.

Following up on a conjecture (2, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783734)

This is totally conjecture, but I doubt Verizon would have been so willing to issue refunds without pressure.

Hmmmm.... while I'm not sure a proof of this conjecture can be produced via rigorous mathematical analysis, any mathematician with Verizon service probably disagrees.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (4, Informative)

skyride (1436439) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783338)

You read it wrong:

"In most cases, these credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or refunds."

So no, there will be a lot of people owed more than $6 dollars and receiving credits. Regardless, in the vast majority of cases, its still $2 they should never have been charged.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (4, Interesting)

ZedNaught (533388) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783566)

Verizon never does the right thing. While they are refunding the money for the accidental data usage, they are also imposing a mandatory $9.99 minimum data plan on every wireless customer with a browser capability on their cell phone to prevent this from being a problem in the future. So they give back $90 million and collect $9.99 per line going forward.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (2, Interesting)

zeropointburn (975618) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783924)

It seemed like everything they did after taking over Alltel was designed to drive people away. They gave us a few months on the original much more generous plans before booting everyone to overpriced Verizon plans. Viaero has been awesome since I switched, with the same or better plans and coverage as Alltel. It was much much cheaper with Viaero to get unlimited access for both lines compared to any other carrier.

  I'm not a shill (and not AC), just a satisfied customer. I'm sure they are probably just as greedy as any other telco, but so far they have treated me very well.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (5, Informative)

C0L0PH0N (613595) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784080)

This is absolutely correct. Verizon has a very small number of phones, called Feature Phones. You can find the models on their website, here [verizonwireless.com] . If you purchase a Feature Phone (and that is all I purchase, as I don't want the data capability), then they won't charge you the extra 19.99/month for the data plan. If you purchase any non-Feature Phone, as most of them are, then you will automatically be charged 19.99/month. You cannot get out of it. So if you are not into texting or browsing the web on your phone, and just want to use it for voice mail and calls, as I do, then you MUST get a Feature Phone. Further, unless you ask, the Verizon policy requires their representatives to sell you a non-Feature Phone set. They are forbidden to advise you, "unless asked", about the existence of Feature Phones. This is Verizon veering very close to being evil, certainly completely interested in their customer's money and not at all in their customer's best interests.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784622)

Verizon never does the right thing.

Right is relative. I doubt you'll hear their stockholders complaining.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783784)

Actually, I had to call up to dispute a data charge on my wife's phone. Despite actually going onto the web site earlier this year and completely BLOCKING all data/web access to the phone, last month there was a data charge. The VZ tech tried to argue with me saying that even if I didn't have a plan, data could still be charged. I then told her I set up a BLOCK on all data. Looking deeper into my account, she saw the block that had been put in place, and she was completely flummoxed how I would get charged a $1.99 data fee, despite the phone being INCAPABLE of sending/receiving data.

Re:"Accidents" and "Refunds" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33784146)

Because the phone has to connect to the internet to find out the data is blocked, so you get charged $1.99. Beautiful system. At least one of the four phones on my plan has at least a $1.99 charge every month, although none of us has ever connected to the internet. Push the wrong button, launch the browser for five seconds, and it's billed. I never disputed any of them because I don't have the hour to spend on the phone arguing with them.

Anonymous coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783182)

That is the major reason that my wife and I left verizon. Too late verizon. We are not coming back, ever

Good (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783190)

I don't even have a Verizon account but I feel entitled to money by proxy for the suffering they have imposed that has filtered into the shared unconscious of humanity.

That's why... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783218)

You either get the truly unlimited plan, or the phone that doesn't even speak internet.

Re:That's why... (1)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783928)

Or give the slightest bit of thought to what you're doing before you just click something. I have Sprint and while they aren't the greatest mobile phone company, they spell out quite plainly if that button you're about to push is going to cost you a couple bucks. I don't know how up-front Verizon was about these charges but I have a feeling many people just weren't paying attention.

"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783226)

They had designed their phones such that there was a shortcut button to their web portal. Users without a data plan, taken to that portal, were charged for the data at the usual ridiculous out-of-plan rates. They could have the portal blocked but this just meant they were charged for the data used in retrieving the "this portal is blocked" page instead. So there's an interesting bit of background detail going on here. Maybe $2 per customer isn't much to the customer, but it's a tidy bit of extra revenue to Verizon.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783370)

No kidding. There's a reason I'm none too happy about their attempts to get away from even the limited "unlimited" data usage plans. What they did was about par for the course for Verizon (or any of the other major carriers for that matter...) and the only reason they're doing the refunds this fast is that they don't want any more meddling from the FCC or any other Government agency than they absolutely have to. Doing this gets them off their backs with only a small loss of revenue and potentially stayed a move to force them going to sane tiered rates, etc.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (5, Interesting)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783372)

I think Sprint is worse. Because whenever I would play an MP3 from the memory card in the phone, we got charged for data. I think their music player connects to the internet for some reason. My phone had a habit of launching the music player without my knowledge sometimes, perhaps due to a button placed on the outside of the phone. One day it played the same song all day and we were charged for several hours of internet use. This is regardless of the internet connection being explicitly turned off in the settings. If I tried to use the web browser, it would say the internet connection was off and ask if I wanted to turn it on. If I played an mp3, it would say nothing and just start charging for data.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

gorzek (647352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783948)

That sounds more like a defective phone/application than something Sprint was specifically doing wrong. I've had multiple Sprint phones over the years and never had a music player that used Internet access when accessing local data. I hope you complained to Sprint about it. They've always been pretty good about crediting me when there's a billing screwup.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

phyrexianshaw.ca (1265320) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784004)

what kind of phone did you have?

it's pretty common these days for software to go out to get the CDDB information for any tracks that don't contain the full ID3 tags. though I've only seen one or two phone media players that do it without asking you?

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783626)

I have a verizon phone and have this problem as well. There's not just the portal, there's a dozen other "apps" that make use of the dataplan and they have them all hotkeyed to the front of the phone. Not only can you open them by mistake, you can also set them off just by having it in your pocket. To me it was clearly intentional on verizons part. I called them and told them I not only didn't want a data plan, I also wanted them to shut off text and data to my phone entirely, so it couldn't be used. You can still hit those buttons and the apps still come up, but now I don't get charged.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784064)

I used to hit the "Internet" button on an old pay-as-you-go phone accidentally, and I'd be charged for viewing the home page.

Fortunately, the charge was £0.20/MB, charged in 1kB increments, so the minimum charge for a data session was 1p. Also, being charged pennies made me far more likely to actually use the service, since I could read the news and check my email for less than 20p. That's 20p more than they'd make from me if the minimum charge had been £1.50.

How can $2 possibly be reasonable?

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784532)

As far as I can tell, all carriers do this. My last tracfone and my new one have the same problem, although it's harder to accidentally hit the button on my new LG phone than on the old Motorola. It's also harder to open the phone, though, so I'm not sure it's a win.

Re:"Mistaken charges" is a bit euphemistic (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784690)

They had designed their phones such that there was a shortcut button to their web portal. Users without a data plan, taken to that portal, were charged for the data at the usual ridiculous out-of-plan rates. They could have the portal blocked but this just meant they were charged for the data used in retrieving the "this portal is blocked" page instead. So there's an interesting bit of background detail going on here. Maybe $2 per customer isn't much to the customer, but it's a tidy bit of extra revenue to Verizon.

Sprint did something kinda similar to me (note that I've not been with Sprint for some time.) I had a semi-smart phone that had a built-in Web browser. It was pretty limited, and I didn't bother to buy a data plan for the thing. In any event, it turned out that every time I went to check my minutes, I was being charged about two bucks per kilobyte. My first bill had a couple hundred dollars of "data charges" on it, with no explanation of what they were for. So I called up and complained, and at first I met with some resistance until I finally got hold of a supervisor (who was from New Jersey, not Bangladesh) who explained what was going on and agreed to write off the charges.

Left a bad taste in my mouth on that one. Then I went through about a year and a half of monthly calls to Sprint to get weirdass charges removed. Finally went to T-Mobile and haven't looked back.

Cost of billing? (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783366)

These customers would normally have been billed at the standard rate of $1.99 per megabyte for any data they chose to access from their phones.

Meant to say, "... standard obscene rate of ..." Thats oligopoly cartel price gouging at its finest.

I work in the telecom industry (not mobile phones). Over my career all the costs of landline long distance service have collapsed except for the cost of billing. Thus most of the "whatever cents per minute" cost is the cost of detailed billing, auditing, handling complaints. Finally the industry moved to "all you can eat" billing and everyone benefits.

I have no interest at all in owning a "smart phone" or whatever until per meg billing is abolished. I'm guessing out of the $2/meg they blow about $1 on customer support / complaints / legal / billing clerks time / software costs in support of the billing process itself and stash about $1 in pure profit.

If I'm going to pay money to get screwed, the scenario is not going to revolve around cell phone billing. F that whole industry and the shills and crooks that run it.

Re:Cost of billing? (2, Interesting)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783490)

Reason why I'm strongly considering switching *from* Verizon: I only make about 1/2 dozen long-distance calls per year, landline only -- I don't have a cell phone. I'm paying about $75 per month even if I make *zero* calls incoming or outgoing. That's like a grand per year. There is no way in hell that it costs them that much to maintain the line, nor to operate their biz. I'm looking at a "dumb" cell phone which has no features other than being just a phone [jitterbug.com] . No contract nor termination fees - the phone is owned outright. Flat rate per month with no roaming nor long-distance charges. X$ per month buys you X minutes, and that's it.

Re:Cost of billing? (2, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783682)

Flat rate per month with no roaming nor long-distance charges.

Your jitterbug is OK. The marketing, last time I was unable to DVR FF past it, was aimed at the gray/white haired crowd. If you could hold your nose and buy it despite its marketing, you could probably hold your nose and buy a virginmobile phone, which has different, yet equally offensive marketing. And it is something like a quarter per minute prepay, unused balance zeros after a couple months. Which is psuedo-flat rate at ultra low usage, but in practice runs single digit dollars per month. You may save money on a $X buys you X minutes plan, even with expiration.

The confuse-opoly of it is so annoying. If only there was a way around the (un)free market.

Re:Cost of billing? (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784088)

Actually, I *am* in the grey-haired crowd. So, I have no problems with that. When I get a phone, I want just that - nothing more. And, no fine print with hidden "fees". My current (landline) phone is a 1975 Bell model 500 desktop - remember when they had an actual dial on them? I keep it around because it works *great* and -it's one of the only ones that is truly hearing-aid compatible. 99.9% of the modern phones out there are not, regardless of the claims. In order to be hearing-aid compatible, a phone must have a high-impedance driver, which automatically eliminates the idea of using pizeo speakers. It doesn't matter how loud it actually is (the hearing aids take care of that) - what matters is if it creates a magnetic/RF signature for the hearing aids to pick up. And 99.9% of modern phones do not have this, since they use pizeo drivers nowdays. I sense a huge market opportunity here, since the "baby boomers" are retiring.

Re:Cost of billing? (2, Informative)

iammani (1392285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783742)

If I may say so, thats (jitterbug) a complete rip off, you will much better of with a pay as you go t-mobile prepaid plan. Its $100 buys $1000 minutes thats valid for 1 year. You can top-up when you want to and be billed exactly for the minutes you have used.

Re:Cost of billing? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784608)

Is $75 normal? (I can't see the Verizon site outside the USA.)

Round here, basic phone service is about £10-15/month (slightly less if you shop around). Once you're paying £20/month or more you've got free anytime calls to most of Europe, the USA and the more modern Commonwealth countries. However, I don't know anyone with basic phone service, since broadband tends to be about £5/month extra.

Mum has a pay-as-you-go (prepay) mobile phone, which is fine for occasional use. I think she spends £10 every three months or so. Round here you can get a basic phone for almost nothing (e.g. here [tesco.com] -- £10), or you can get one second hand from eBay for £1 + postage. Perhaps pick one that can take a headset, since there are special headsets available (here) for use with hearing aids. The main advantage of a newer, basic phone should be that the battery lasts for ages. (Obviously, bits of this will not apply to the USA.)

My dad (65) sent his first text while he was on holiday earlier this summer, and has since then accepted they might be useful (sometimes). My grandma (80?) was pestering him (no one told her she was too old to send texts). Stubbornness is not a good reason to get a voice-calls-only phone :-).

Re:Cost of billing? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783520)

Per meg billing is great. It just hast to be at a reasonable rate. Half a cent per meg is reasonable, at the moment. You pay for what you get.

Metering a connection doesn't cost anything at all. You're probably right about the rest of it, but that doesn't change with unmetered billing anyway. And unmetered services encourage companies to oversubscribe their systems and hope nobody actually uses what they've been sold.

Re:Cost of billing? (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783622)

Metering a connection doesn't cost anything at all.

Well, that would truly be a miracle. It costs a heck of a lot more to bill on a meter rather than flat per month.

You can't seriously claim there will never be a cost in capital or labor when connecting operational gear with the financial servers? Never an opportunity cost or labor cost when scheduling maintenance? Whats that, we'll make it all quadruple redundant? No problem open the wallet wide... Never a customer support call to complain about overcharges? Now that operational logs are "valuable" they won't have to be stored more carefully? Never be an outage of the logging system that "costs the telco millions, in aggregate"? Never a cost of "fraud" where someone steals service, no matter how cheap? Never a cost of anti-fraud measures? Never a cost of internal employee monitoring to make sure they do not "correct" their own bills, and then the costs of firing and replacing them? Never a cost of auditing to prove its all honest, or alternatively the cost of dishonest auditing to cover it all up? No cost of all the personnel training / education / R+D for all levels from the router jockeys to the customer service team and all the way up the management chain? What about the cost of storing all metered data for months or maybe years to handle billing corrections?

In comparison, billing by month has the unexpected cost of ... ... um ... Ah yes, prorated service upon cancellation. Of course you could "get rid" of prorated service contractually, a couple different ways, ranging from being nicely generous to being total stingy bastards. Hmm, gullibility test, I wonder if mobile phone operators would be generous or stingy... Anyway, that leaves us with the cost of monthly billing being ... uh .. yea thats it, exactly nothing. Going to be hard to either match or lower that cost with metered.

Re:Cost of billing? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784286)

How much do you suppose it costs to fight with people who go over the caps on their "unlimited" plans? Or to get sued for false advertising because of those unlimited plans? Or to monitor each and every packet to make sure nobody is torrenting or tethering?

Billing by usage for a modern information service should be a matter of turning on an option in some software you already bought, and hooking that up to your automatic report generator. A little bit of setup cost, and almost not cost from there on.

Re:Cost of billing? (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784388)

people think of me as 'gadget freak' and I have at least 6 pc's always running (mix of linux, bsd, xp, win7), I do embedded development (very much into arduino things these days) and I have my own hardware lab at home. I live in the bay area and have 30 yrs in software devel.

but I don't own a smartphone. don't really want to buy one either (or rather, don't want to pay $100/mo for the priviledge of being with the in-crowd and walking around touching a small flat panel pad thingie).

phone companies suck but mobile phone co's suck even worse. the whole system stinks. if your company is paying your way, fine. mine isn't and I'm not into all the hassles and 2yr contracts that come along with this in-crowd game.

its almost a fulltime job just knowing the various carriers, models, and having to dispose of your broken model (these aren't fixable by regular people and they are EOL'd very quickly) and relearn some new one, that's just not fun to me anymore. I can transition from one pc to another easily enough but doing that between various level of lock on phones is just crazy. (the vendors do this to us and we seem to just accept it!)

I choose not to take part in this rat race. I know that 'phone == fun' to a lot of you but it isn't that way for all of us. the carriers and the various lock-downs, fees and contracts all make a really unappealing package for those who are not already sucked into the system.

I get enough internet at home and at work. don't really need it while I'm away from my desk or system.

This is $90 million on a billing error? (5, Insightful)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783442)

Mobile providers make way too much money. They're always nickle and dimming.

Thank God they don't run the Internet

Otherwise:
  • You'd buy your computer from your ISP and it wouldn't work with any other ISP.
  • Email would be like texting, sold as a separate service.
  • There would be no DNS. You'd get IP addresses from directory services, the way you get telephone numbers, and type them in your browser.
  • Your time on the Internet would be billed per minute.
  • Your monthly bill would list every website you went to. Overseas sites would be billed at a higher rate.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783582)

You'd buy your computer from your ISP and it wouldn't work with any other ISP.

Although, to be fair, most computers would be free.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783698)

Although, to be fair, most computers would be free.

But most of the features would be disabled by the ISP "to reduce their support costs".

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783714)

Thank God they don't run the Internet

Depends on your definition of "run"?

* posted via Verizon FiOS

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783884)

Verizon Wireless is a separate company from the rest of Verizon. Just like the catalog & web operations of many retailers are separate from their brick & mortar stores.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784332)

And because Vodafone has a 50% stake in Verizon Wireless, where they have zero ownership of Verizon.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783716)

I'm sure there would be DNS. It does a grand bit more than many people realize. Additionally, I suspect that in your scenario, there would be a dramatic curbing of malware and spam, especially once users began to get super pissed off about getting bandwidth usage charges for having to download the messages. Anything that makes the spam stop is acceptable.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783732)

Aside from the computer, it sounds like AOL in the 90s.

Re:This is $90 million on a billing error? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783800)

I know. I remember back when one of the companies started offering 40 hours per month for the same price AOL was charging for 15 hours. I thought I was in heaven. Heck I had almost TWO HOURS PER DAY available to be online with my spiffy 14.4k modem. This was after growing up using BBS's with a 2400 BAUD modem. Damn I feel old and I'm not even 30 yet :(.

I really don't understand cell phone companies (5, Interesting)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783494)

As others have noted, this is because of the practice of making the internet connection the most easy to select thing on the phone... despite the fact that extremely few people without smartphones use the internet on their phones. The two phones I had before I got an unlocked Nexus One were like this - you had to be careful because it's so easy to start the web browser, and there's no way to disable it. Nowadays, people also complain about the bloatware on Android phones, and now there's no easy way to get an unlocked Android phone.

Sure, these companies can get away with whatever they want because there's not really a cell phone free market in the US. Since they're already getting away with whatever they want, though, why do they purposefully make customers angry with this kind of stuff?

They act as if they don't actually make any money on selling phones and service, and their business model relies on tricking people into ridiculous charges. That's obviously not true, and it's simply insulting to the customers not only to nickel and dime them "legitimately", but also to trick them into paying ridiculous fees like this.

I *don't* think there should be more regulation, but I hope that the FCC continues to do things like this, to the point where it's no longer profitable for the cell carriers to act like such assholes. Maybe then people won't hate them so much, too.

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783592)

Try checking out the tmobile g2. as far as i know this is plain android without htc sense, motoblur, etc bloatware.

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (1)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783612)

there's no easy way to get an unlocked Android phone.

Never heard of craigslist or ebay? I unlock phones every day. It's not a hard thing.

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (1)

Wocka_Wocka (1895714) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783628)

Since they're already getting away with whatever they want, though, why do they purposefully make customers angry with this kind of stuff?

They do this for three reasons: there are no real, harmful repercussions for their actions due to the endless herd of consumers that will replace any lost customer 50 to 1; because they can; and greed.

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783738)

there's not really a cell phone free market in the US.

I *don't* think there should be more regulation,

If, as you correctly observe, the market is unfree, why wouldn't you want it to be regulated to be fairer? There seems to be no other valid justification for regulation, so why apply it?

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33784098)

If, as you correctly observe, the market is unfree, why wouldn't you want it to be regulated to be fairer? There seems to be no other valid justification for regulation, so why apply it?

Because that's admitting that one of his core governmental beliefs may in actuality not be as absolutely right as he's always believed. Once you give in and start really looking at your long-held beliefs, you realize there may possibly be other solutions. We can't have people start up with this radical idea of self-reflection now, can we?

Re:I really don't understand cell phone companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783764)

there's no way to change what your shortcut keys do? ..

i've seen blackberries make spontaneous calls (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#33783508)

my wife's VZW blackberry and my Sprint BB do this all the time. in my case i thought it was pressing on something but it would call my wife's grandmother. i might have called the number a few weeks ago and it wasn't in my address book and not in the recent calls list. yet somehow the phone would spontaneously call her.

in my wife's case she keeps calling me and all i hear is background sounds. i'll hang up but she calls again

Re:i've seen blackberries make spontaneous calls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783984)

I may very well be talking out my ass, but I suspect that you've assigned a shortcut key to speed-dial that number. And then you are accidentally pressing the shortcut key, or there's a mechanical issue that's causing that key to be pressed (like a short).

I put a password on my blackberry, to avoid accidental butt-dialing. But since I talk out my ass, maybe that's not such a huge issue....

differences in response (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783536)

Verizon is issuing credits and refunds. ATT would tell us and the govt to GTH, and be figuring out ways to leech even more $$$ out via related means. Oh yeah, and their coverage areas stink.

What a Double Standard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783546)

I'm a Verizon customer for my personal phone - an aging LG Env2 - which I carry only for text and voice emergencies. It's time to swap it out, and to swap out for the LG Env3 - essentially the same phone, I'm required to pay for a $10/month data plan. I'm actually unable to purchase the phone without this data plan. I don't care about the $10, it's the fact I *know* I never use data on this phone. I want the battery life, and the qwerty keyboard. There isn't another phone that offers anything near the Env3s stats for these that you can get without a data plan.

So - if you accidentally hit 'mobile web' you can get your $1.99 back, but if you want a phone with the mobile web button from here on out - you have to pay $10/month. Am I the only one that feels that this is just outright theft?

Re:What a Double Standard! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783810)

I'm a Verizon customer for my personal phone - an aging LG Env2 - which I carry only for text and voice emergencies.

You fool. Go with a prepaid service and spend vastly less per month without a contract.

Erroneous billing error? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783696)

Is that like being mistaken about a mistake?

Office Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33783836)

They were always off by a decimal point or something...

Not just wireless. (1)

stonecypher (118140) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784042)

My very first FiOS bill arrived at more than double the two year guaranteed price.

Weeks later, they still haven't sorted it out.

I was overcharged hundreds of dollars (3, Interesting)

bmidgley (148669) | more than 3 years ago | (#33784086)

It looks like this is unrelated, but a fun adventure for everyone.

I had a motorola flip phone I was using for tethering with verizon in 2007. I started getting bills for $600, $700, $800 for each month. I would call in and they would fix it. After about three months of this they told me they would not fix it any more. I had to get a firmware upgrade after which tethering stopped working. The device was worthless to me.

When I looked at the bill, it seems I was being charged per minute if I connected through the 1xrtt network. One rep actually told me "unlimited broadband" meant only unlimited when it was 3g and I was responsible to pay for when it connected at the slower speed. But there was no way to disable the 1xrtt fallback. It was just a convenient lie.

Then the collections department started calling me, saying "when do you think you will be paying this $1800 bill?" I asked them if they knew there were open tickets on the account to fix the broken charges. It basically came back to "but when do you think you will be paying this bill?"

I insisted on a device replacement and they got me a palm treo that worked ok but never as well as the flip phone for what I needed. They also reversed all the bad charges.

I quit verizon when the contract was done and I'm never going back.

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