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Verizon To Pay $25M For Years of 'Mystery Fees'

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the honestly-we-had-no-idea dept.

Communications 215

Ponca City writes "The Washington Post reports that the FCC has reached a record $25 million settlement with Verizon Wireless over the company's wrongly charging subscribers 'mystery' Internet fees over the past several years — the largest settlement in FCC history. With the action, Verizon Wireless's total costs associated with false data fees reached $77.8 million, one of the largest payouts for false business practices in the communications services industry. 'People shouldn't find mystery fees when they open their phone bills — and they certainly shouldn't have to pay for services they didn't want and didn't use,' says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. 'In these rough economic times, every $1.99 counts.' Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent. 'We accept responsibility for those errors, and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charges on their bills.'"

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215 comments

An insult of a fine (5, Informative)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057526)

It should also be noted that Verizon, as part of the settlement, is also refunding $52.8 million to their customers. But let's look at this more closely, shall we?

Verizon Wireless has 93.2 million subscribers. Let's assume (VERY conservatively) that only 5% of their customers were hit with bogus fees. Let's also assume that everyone who was overcharged was overcharged the bogus fee of $1.99 per month. The period in which the bogus fees were charged was about 3 years.

So we have: 4.66 million (or 5% of the customers) * (1.99 * 36) = 333,842,400 dollars. And that's the REALLY conservative estimate.
If every one of Verizon's consumers were overcharged $1.99 for 3 years, then that would come out to be 6,676,848,000 dollars.

So, for 3 years, they plundered their customers with bogus fees and now they're walking away paying back less than 1/3rd of the REALLY LOW END estimate of their misbegotten gains. No wonder companies act so egregiously bad! Why would they have to do things according to the law if they'll make more by breaking the law than they'll ever have to pay back in fees?

I like how they characterized it as just some clerical mistake. I wish I made clerical mistakes that can net me $300 million dollars.

Re:An insult of a fine (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057566)

Verizon Wireless has 93.2 million subscribers. Let's assume (VERY conservatively) that only 5% of their customers were hit with bogus fees.

Well, not to defend Verizon, but 5% sounds about right to me. Between my family share plan (5 lines) and my corporate plan at work (46 lines) I've only seen this issue happen on two lines (2 / 51 = 3.9%).

It seems to be related to the inability of Verizon's billing system to properly determine the source of data. As an example, their backup assistant application is supposed to be completely free but I've seen it generate data charges before. Their billing system is supposed to discount very quick data sessions but I've seen phones hit with this fee when someone accidentally hit the "mobile web" button and exited out of it right away.

To Verizon's credit they never once argued with me when I called to request a refund of this fee. I did so every single time I saw it charged and received a refund every single time. In spite of those refunds I still got the credit from for this fee. Go figure.

Re:An insult of a fine (1, Insightful)

numbski (515011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058130)

The old rule of "never assign malice where ineptitude/stupidity/incompetence will suffice" seems to apply here. It could be malice. Could be intentional - but *really*. What engineer writes their software to intentionally miscalculate? These people pay mobile phone bills too.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058270)

I consider it malicious to be so profit driven that you willfully neglect the care required to avoid such foulups in the first place.

Tech fuckups happen, but it's still evil (tm) to just turn a blind eye and whistle innocently until someone complains about it.

Re:An insult of a fine (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058450)

There is no such thing as negligence on this scale. To see excess money coming in without explanation is not something that would go unnoticed for any amount of time. What's more, there were countless complaints from customers about it. Complaints that were ignored or refused in most cases. It took the FCC to get them to reverse on this. Not only should they have known on their own, but they were informed from thousands and thousands of victims and still did nothing about it.

If you really think this was just carelessness you are a complete fool.

Re:An insult of a fine (1, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058584)

What engineer writes their software to intentionally miscalculate?

I take it you never watched Office Space? [imdb.com] ;)

Re:An insult of a fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34059092)

This wasn't funny, it was completely predictable and unoriginal.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Interesting)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058598)

I think it's completely intentional. I remember seeing some business articles a few years back recommending companies to increase revenue though random fees attached to invoices, and seeing these lists of small fees added on to all my bills, feeling really helpless.

Re:An insult of a fine (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058816)

and seeing these lists of small fees added on to all my bills, feeling really helpless.

A business attaching fees to your invoices is all it takes to make you feel "really helpless"? You know you could walk away from Verizon Wireless anytime you want, right? Wireless service is hardly a matter of life and death....

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058612)

I have an modern update for that old canard. "Never assign malice where *greed* will suffice".

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058796)

>>>ever assign malice where ineptitude/stupidity/incompetence will suffice

True but sometimes the incompetence is "embraced" by the management because it turns-out to be so profitable for them. Like this guy in this video. Verizon was and still is aware of the problem, but has done nothing to fix it, because it works to their advantage! Anyway: This guy owes .002 cents/KB times 35896 KB used == 71.8 cents. But Verizon is trying to charge 71.8 dollars. No wonder I hate corporations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2isSJKntbg [youtube.com]

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058298)

Back when I was 17~19, I was on my dad's family plan. We got a mystery $14.99/month VPAK that appeared on multiple phones multiple times. None of us used the multimedia features of the phone, and I even went online and parental-control-banned all multimedia features from my own phone, but the charge still kept coming back. Of course, every time we complained they revoked the charge, but we had to scan our bill every month to make sure we didn't have the bogus charges.

Finally, after the charge came back at least 6 or 7 times, my dad got fed up and told Verizon that if the charge appears there one more time, he's canceling the whole family plan, and the company that he is an executive at will switch to Sprint (the company has a couple thousand verizon phones). The charge never re-appeared.

I am completely convinced that these charges are intentional, and I bet they target people who have kids and family plans, as they're more likely to blame their kids for downloading something than complain that Verizon was giving them bogus charges.

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058420)

I, on the other hand, have witnessed problems with every line of Verizon service where I work. That is everything from Verizon Wireless to T1 to OC3 and MPLS services. Verizon billed another company for our service for almost 3 months. And for the services we have there are always unanswered and "unanswerable" items on our bills. We are presently in a dispute state meaning they can't turn our service off for non-payment which is part of their standard agreement. I would urge you do the same on your business accounts with issues. What's weirder still, in spite of the fact that no representative can explain the strange charges, they insist that we owe them. Imagine that? We owe something that no one understands? Not even Verizon? Really.

I will never willingly be a Verizon customer.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058614)

Not that it is justified, but AT&T is about the same with their business accounts. It took us most of a year to get them to realize they owed us over $6,000, and 6 months after that to get them to apply the credits to our bill. Needless to say, once the credits were used up, we changed our 12 phone lines and 3mbit worth of data lines over, to Time Warner, and get better service, similar or better uptime, for about $30,000 less per year.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057586)

Good analysis. So, for Verizon, this was a profitable venture. And profitable for whoever the fine is paid to as well, right?

Doesn't this all feel more like an incentive to continue this behavior if the full amount of the money wasn't refunded in addition to the fine?

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Insightful)

sxeraverx (962068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057912)

So, for Verizon, this was a profitable venture. And profitable for whoever the fine is paid to as well, right?

Doesn't this all feel more like an incentive to continue this behavior if the full amount of the money wasn't refunded in addition to the fine?

Even if this instance weren't profitable, it'd still be incentive to continue doing other things like this. If you get caught, just pay it back, no harm no foul. And if you don't get caught, well, then you made out in the end.

Isn't this is exactly the kind of behavior that the possibility of punitive damages in a court settlement is supposed to prevent? If so, I realize punitive damages should probably only be awarded in the case of negligence, but it seems like if this has been going on for three years, it's hard to claim it's an accident and not be considered negligent in fixing it. But for some reason, the FCC decided they wouldn't pursue those damages.

IANAL, and I don't have much experience with the law, but I'm curious whether or not this still leaves Verizon open for a class action lawsuit. If this is has been going on for three years, with charges customers would have had to dispute each month, it seems like Verizon should reimburse their customers for the time they spent disputing the charges, and pay hefty punitive damages to discourage Verizon and others from doing the same thing in the future.

Assuming an average income of $32,000, and a probably conservative estimate of 15 minutes to detect, report, and rectify the the charges, each month, over 36 months, that's

$16/hour * .25hours/month * 36 months + $2/month * 36 months = $216 per person affected.

If 5% of the people were affected, that comes out to just over $1 billion in compensatory damages. On a conservative estimate.

Re:An insult of a fine (3, Informative)

numbski (515011) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058146)

Isn't this is exactly the kind of behavior that the possibility of punitive damages in a court settlement is supposed to prevent?

You're forgetting the *settlement* part. Not a judgement. A judgement can carry punitive damages. A settlement is whatever the parties agree to outside of court.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057614)

[quote]I like how they characterized it as just some clerical mistake. I wish I made clerical mistakes that can net me $300 million dollars.[/quote] It'd be interesting to see how much of a dent this makes in their total income - it may be feasible that this was, in fact, simply a clerical error depsite the fact it'd be huge for the vast majorit of us. This doesn't justify it, of course, but I wouldn't rush to assume it was obviously malicious and intentful.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

babyrat (314371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057768)

Well their total wireless revenue was about $61B in 2009...that is just wireless revenue...$108B overall.

You do that math...

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058560)

like how they characterized it as just some clerical mistake. I wish I made clerical mistakes that can net me $300 million dollars.

It'd be interesting to see how much of a dent this makes in their total income - it may be feasible that this was, in fact, simply a clerical error depsite the fact it'd be huge for the vast majorit of us. This doesn't justify it, of course, but I wouldn't rush to assume it was obviously malicious and intentful.

You know, I'd love to agree with you, but tell me this: What are the odds that they would be willing to allow a clerical error that lost them a similar amount of money?

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057638)

> So, for 3 years, they plundered their customers with bogus fees and now they're walking away paying back less than 1/3rd of the REALLY LOW END estimate of their misbegotten gains.

Yes, it's almost as if they were trying to announce a settlement fee/fine due to an upcoming election.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057740)

Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent. 'We accept responsibility for those errors, and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charges on their bills.'

TRANSLATION: "We accept that we got caught billing people for stuff they didn't order, and we promise to be craftier next time in hiding these 'accidental data charges' on their bills."

Re:An insult of a fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057908)

Remember the extra fee everybody had added to their bill to pay for the privilege of being able to transfer numbers to other carriers? (hint we're still paying for it)

Well, expect a new "Regulatory Compliance: $2.99" fee.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058102)

I certainly hope it will be a warning sign to other companies. However, since they can get away with a rather small fine, and pass on the cost to the customer anyways, I'm not quite convinced it's an effective deterrent.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058568)

In the US, the fines are pretty much always a slap on the wrist. Because as soon as you start suggesting a real penalty that might actually deter some of the malfeasance, they start threatening to raise rates and institute layoffs.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058878)

>>>they start threatening to raise rates and institute layoffs.

My reply would be something like this: "Okay. That won't change the amount of the fine because you committed a crime, and I intend to see you pay at least double the damages you caused. In fact I don't care if your entire company goes bankrupt. It will be quickly replaced by newer, better companies. Look what happened to Circuit City - we're better off without CC and I bet we'd be better off without Verizon too."

Them: "....."

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 3 years ago | (#34059070)

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." - Hanlon's Razor

IMHO, it's more likely this was an honest bug since we all know how skilled Verizon is at basic math. Since it wasn't costing* them money they probably never had much incentive to make fixing it a priority. OTOH, it does show a pretty serious lack of concern for their customers as people rather than revenue-generating-database-entries.

* By "cost" it probably made them money, but they also lost customers who got angry and probably spent quite a bit on support/billing phone calls. So it's not all "profit".

Re:An insult of a fine (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057758)

What's really funny to me is that, while the premise of the movie "Office Space" was loosely based on this principle (stealing very small fractions of a transaction over large numbers of transactions), it is in reality CORPORATIONS who have actually embraced this.
While we were all laughing at what a fun, but silly prospect such a thing would be (given the ridiculous jail time that would surely accompany such a proposition for an individual) the corporate fat-cats' eyes were lighting up at the possibilities.

By allowing this sort of bullshit to continue, the government is effectually saying, "If you want to break the law and get away with it, start a corporation. The bigger it is, the more you'll be able to get away with."

Maybe we should all start incorporating ourselves? All of the benefits of being a citizen with none of the responsibilities for law-breaking.

Or.

Perhaps we could just pass laws requiring businesses to pay back TENFOLD to their customers what they've stolen when this sort of shit happens.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058292)

Thing is by controlling the media the corporations have the politicians by the balls, since they determine who gets air time during election season.

Pissing off (or failing to kiss up to) a corporation that is exposing you to your voters is political suicide.

And self incorporation doesn't work.

The same corporations that control the media also don't much care for small fry on their turf, and they regularly can and do litigate their competition into oblivion. It is a legal jungle out there, where survival of the fittest reigns.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

GumphMaster (772693) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058400)

They far more regularly use just the threat of litigation because they know full well that:
  • The first of rule of running a business is to "Stay in business". You are no good to anyone (customers for small business) if you are insolvent.
  • For the little guy just engaging legal representation will consume a profit margin for the year or more and that's before it gets to court and the delaying tactics start.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Informative)

rm999 (775449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057882)

"Let's also assume that everyone who was overcharged was overcharged the bogus fee of $1.99 per month. The period in which the bogus fees were charged was about 3 years."

Wrong assumption. I am one of the people who got charged the fee, but it only happened once or twice in a three year period. You only get the fee the months you accidentally pressed the button. The issue is that pressing the button loads a webpage, which uses up ~0.5 kb. Then, Verizon rounded that up to 1 MB, and charged a couple of bucks.

Re:An insult of a fine (0, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057904)

A) It's only customers with a specific type of plan So less then all their customers. If only we had a number..oh wait we do. 15 million. people effected.

B) It's wan't always re occurring. So NOT 3 years
C) most of them were cause from apps people loaded n the phone, not verizon.

If your number where any more wrong, they would be letters.

Re:An insult of a fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34059012)

A) It's only customers with a specific type of plan. So less than all their customers. If only we had a number..oh wait we do. 15 million people affected.
B) It wasn't always occurring. So NOT 3 years.
C) Most of them were caused by apps people loaded on the phone, not Verizon.

If your numbers were any more wrong, they would be letters.

I'm really sorry. I would have moderated insightful, but it was so much effort to read your post that I thought fixing the worst of the problems would be more useful for others. Seriously, are you drunk?

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Insightful)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057966)

The really amusing bit is that corporations are legally considered people, unless it's disadvantageous to the corporation in a given situation. Want to donate to a politician? You're a PERSON! Want to run ads blasting another politician? You're a PERSON!

Want to avoid the felony grand theft penalties PEOPLE face when they steal millions of dollars? Oh, well, OK, I guess you're not a person until the judge makes his decision on the penalty you face.

To my way of thinking, if corporations want to be considered people, then that's fine. But if the corporation commits a crime, it goes to jail, by which I mean no business transactions except for payment of debt, at ALL, for the length of the jail sentence. Verizon steals millions of dollars? Guess what folks? You're shut down for the 1-20 year jail sentence. Yes, that will ruin you, but you're the one who wanted to be a person.

Re:An insult of a fine (5, Interesting)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058022)

That's the reality of corporate personhood in a nutshell.

All of the advantages (rights, freedoms, profits)
with none of the disadvantages (jail, death, taxes)

(And don't say they pay taxes. The majority of corporations in the U.S. pay no taxes AT ALL).

If corporations are bad actors in a country, they ought to be have their charter revoked with no enumeration to stockholders. If CEOs are so responsible for a company (as they insist every time the subject of CEO pay packages come up) then they go to jail when the company breaks the law.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058132)

oh and another thing any of the board members should have a federal maximum wage of say $80.00 an hour (no salaried jobs) for the entire term of the CEOs jail term.

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058588)

$80 an hour is too high. Make it the average of the median household income and the poverty line (which would be about $16.30 a hour) in a non-management job while sequestering any investments and then maybe (just maybe) board members would be a little vigilant.

Probably not. I can't think of a job that pays $16.30 an hour that a corporate board member would be qualified to do. Rubber stamping the desires of the CEO isn't a useful skill.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Informative)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058848)

(And don't say they pay taxes. The majority of corporations in the U.S. pay no taxes AT ALL).

This is false. It's just something that politicians say to get under-thinking voters riled up. And then the under-thinkers latch on to this and repeat it as if it was fact. You obviously have never owned or run a company.

Re:An insult of a fine (2, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058642)

Dude, pass that bong your sucking on over here.

Want to avoid the felony grand theft penalties PEOPLE face when they steal millions of dollars? Oh, well, OK, I guess you're not a person until the judge makes his decision on the penalty you face.

They are still a person in the same sense. The problem is how to you prove that they acted in a certain way instead of careless employees making mistakes or acting on their own (with and or without knowledge of the consequences)? It's very difficult. But rest assures, if there is proof that a CEO, Board Member, or any Manager gave orders to fleece the public, those people can and will be held criminally accountable. Being a company doesn't shield anyone from any criminal prosecution, it shields them from criminal prosecution through an act that was no fault of their own. And even to that point, carelessness can still be grounds for criminal prosecution, just ask the CEO of Tyco and World Com.

This country is founded on the basics of being fair in out judicial system and criminal prosecution. This means actually prosecuting people who committed the crime, not some stand in who you cannot prove had any role. We do not allow corruption of blood, metaphorically or literally. Thankfully, even when they cannot prove any single person at fault, but the crime or wrong was committed, there is a legal concept called"Respondeat superior" [wikipedia.org] that allows vicarious liability [wikipedia.org] to wrongs committed by people that are attributed to a corporation.

To my way of thinking, if corporations want to be considered people, then that's fine. But if the corporation commits a crime, it goes to jail, by which I mean no business transactions except for payment of debt, at ALL, for the length of the jail sentence. Verizon steals millions of dollars? Guess what folks? You're shut down for the 1-20 year jail sentence. Yes, that will ruin you, but you're the one who wanted to be a person.

Obviously, you haven't thought this through much. If a company is forced to not operate, it still owes it's shareholders/owners it's value. They can simply take that and start another company with new management doing the same line of business. That's why a fine is much more valuable to prosecuting a corporation. If you wanted to impose the same general liability of "no business for 1-20 years", then fine them an amount equaling the revenue minus expenses for that time period and enforce monitoring that generates a proper attitude towards serving the public. Then if they liquidate, which even convicted felons are allowed to do if the fruit is not borne of the crime they are convicted of, the fine has top priority in payout. In other words, they cannot simply open back up under a different name because the value goes to pay the fine before being returned to shareholders or debtors. The government gets theirs first.

But in this, you are still neglecting that corporations are not sentient beings and they cannot make decisions or operate on their own. There are people running the corporation (which is the basic component structure of why corporations are necessary) and it's those who did the deed that is criminal. Justice can be served just as well by prosecuting the people directly responsible for the crime and adding vicarious liability to the corporation for failing to stop it. In this case, once the problem was legally brought to Verizon's attention, they claimed it was a mistake (prove them different with facts and not innuendos and quick conclusions) and they were willing to make full restitution. And yes, that's the entire point behind actions like this, to make the public whole again. If Verizon refused to do so, they would have been prosecuted, most likely fined, and had to give refunds anyways.

Re:An insult of a fine (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 3 years ago | (#34059030)

But rest assures, if there is proof that a CEO, Board Member, or any Manager gave orders to fleece the public, those people can and will be held criminally accountable.

And all the customers will get ponies!

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058840)

Want to donate to a politician?

Corporations can't donate money to politicians or political campaigns. That was and remains the law of the land.

RTFA!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058044)

Wait I can't RTFA there ain't one.

So when will they be locking up some Verizon executives for felony fraud?

Re:RTFA!!! (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058846)

So when will they be locking up some Verizon executives for felony fraud?

Maybe when the people making those accusations can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt as is required in criminal prosecutions under our judicial system?

Re:An insult of a fine (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058654)

Also, the FCC gets $25mil out of the deal so it's a win/win situation. Verizon can then levy a "Bogus fee settlement fee" on all their customers to pay off the settlement. And if they accidentally collected more than the $25mil with their new fee, all the better!

I'd RTFA (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057608)

But, apparently, there is no FA to R. Way to go. tim-mahy!

Re:I'd RTFA (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057640)

Maybe that's all the relevant info from the article and they spared us the rest.

Re:I'd RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058008)

If this was any other site the note about missing link would be before the 'first post' posts. On /. nobody even notices apart from this one guy that must be new here.

Re:I'd RTFA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058576)

My hobby (xkcd style):
Mentally tagging events, texts, thoughts etc the way /. would.

Didn't even notice the lack of an FA (I guess that's an indication I'm ready to get an account and stop posting as AC), so... andnothingofvaluewaslost

Inadvertent my ars (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057626)

My brother-in-law was on Verizon for years. Each of his phones had a button which connected to the Verizon store where you would go to buy games or ring tones or whatever. My T-Mobile phones always had t-zones buttons; same thing, no big deal. Except for on Verizon, if you didn't subscribe to a data plan, every time you pushed that button, whether intentional or not, your phone initiated a data connection to Verizon and you were hit with the $1.99 fee. I know this because every month he would call Verizon and dispute the charge and they would give him the run around for a while before apologizing and crediting his account for the charges. Because he was under contract, this continued for 2 years. I think Verizon should pay him for the many hours of his life he spent arguing on the phone with their customer service reps trying to get these charges reversed.

On an related note, he is now on T-Mobile (free mobile to mobile calling, woot!)

Re:Inadvertent my ars (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058072)

Same thing happened to me. I eventually asked them to just disable the data service for my plan because I'd decided to never use it the way they kept screwing me over. I still kept getting the charge even though I'd called and had the service 'disabled' on the account... several times.

Screw Verizon. I'm with Sprint now and never intend to use Verizon again.

Re:Inadvertent my ars (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058582)

Ouch, even AT&T isn't that bad. I think the most I've ever gotten charged for that sort of fat fingered mistakes was a few cents for the bandwidth. Don't get me wrong it was an outrageously large sum of money for the mistake, but far cheaper than 2.99.

Re:Inadvertent my ars (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058852)

Screw Verizon. I'm with Sprint now and never intend to use Verizon again

You realize that Sprint roams on Verizon's network and you are "using" them every time you step out of Sprint's limited footprint, right?

Re:Inadvertent my ars (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058914)

>>>I think Verizon should pay him for the many hours of his life he spent arguing on the phone with their customer service reps trying to get these charges reversed.

Well if your brother really feels they owe him something, say $50, then he could just steal a Verizon phone worth that value. Like how Robin Hood used to do (steal from the rich to return the money they had stolen from the poor).

So tell me again how Verizon is better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057660)

For all those people who claim Verizon is better, it's time to wake up. All phone carriers are out to screw you. It's in their DNA. Thank goodness for number potability, so that we (the customers) can take our numbers and move it. To keep the carriers honest, everyone should change carriers every year or two. Maybe that will get them to "care" about customers.

Re:So tell me again how Verizon is better? (2, Interesting)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057744)

For all those people who claim Verizon is better, it's time to wake up. All phone carriers are out to screw you. It's in their DNA. Thank goodness for number potability, so that we (the customers) can take our numbers and move it. To keep the carriers honest, everyone should change carriers every year or two. Maybe that will get them to "care" about customers.

So you play musical chair annually. How does that solve the problem? Without real competition all you're doing is paying these carriers to screw you. Don't matter which one, because they all act the same.

Re:So tell me again how Verizon is better? (1)

f00zbll (526151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057858)

the reality is, there is no real competition. the best we can hope for is better customer service and slightly less dishonest billing.

Re:So tell me again how Verizon is better? (1)

ewieling (90662) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058336)

In my experience, in the areas where I live and travel, Verizon's billing and customer service are just as horrible as the other carriers. The difference is that Verizon seems to invest quite a bit of money in their network. I currently use a MVNO that uses Verizon's network (most use Sprint's network).

PROFIT! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057670)

so let me get this straight

$2 per bill * 1 million bills per month = $2,000,000 per month * "years" = $72+ million

72 million - 25 million = PROFIT!

I wish I had a license to steal from people.

Re:PROFIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057776)

TFA [washingtonpost.com] (not lined in /. story!) spells that out a bit more clearly;

Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay $25 million to the U.S. government and at least $52.8 million in refunds to customers who inadvertently racked up data charges on their phones over the last three years

$25m + 52.8m = $77.8m

That said, they're probably still making a profit, and I'd be surprised if they didn't at least try to give those refunds in the form of discounts on bills (so that they don't have to pay you if you've jumped ship or you're about to).

Canada is worst (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057672)

Telcos force businesses to get the commercial packages otherwise you can get sued. Why should someone with his own company working at home have to pay the same fees as corporations with dozens and hundreds of employes?

If anyone can give me hints or any information, the damn CRTC is of absolutely no help in this matter.

Re:Canada is worst (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058590)

Typically you don't. You pay per line. And it does typically cost more money because they typically provide more service. Try getting a Service Level Agreement out of a carrier for home use.

Let me guess (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057714)

25 million people each get a dollar?

Re:Let me guess (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057836)

No. A coupon for free text messages.

Re:Let me guess (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058600)

I've always found that to be moronic. When TD Ameritrade lost my contact information the settlement let them pay people with free trades. Needless to say I'd already left because of their ineptitude, leaving the settlement which was insultingly cheap in the first place completely worthless.

Oblig. (2, Informative)

ittybad (896498) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057750)

http://www.verizonmath.com/ [verizonmath.com]
Quote: George Vaccaro wanted to point out to Verizon that they were saying ".002 cents" and meaning to say ".002 dollars" but he found that every single person at Verizon did not understand the difference

Audio and (I believe) transcript available. It is painful.

Grumble. telcos. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34057754)

Now they need to do something about the bastards at Windstream with their "non-basic service" surcharge for "basic telephone service". Oh, and destroy AT&T while they're at it. F the evil empire.

Back-handed Apology (2, Interesting)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057762)

It sounds like Verizon is giving a back-handed apology. I think Verizon customers would like an honest to god apology and an admission of wrong doing. The public doesn't honestly believe that these errors were invadvertent so why does Verizon pretend as if they do. I fully believe these "errors" in billing were purposeful attempts to gain revenue through deception. The punishment handed down is really only a slap in the face of a billion+ revenue stream.

Re:Back-handed Apology (2, Funny)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058608)

This is America, when's the last time you received an apology? Chances are if that the answer is at all recent your either a wife or living in some other land.

Error? really? (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057872)

>>> Verizon Wireless said ... 'We accept responsibility for those errors...'

Its funny how you never see any billing 'errors' where the company is the one loosing out.

Re:Error? really? (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058342)

Sure you do. My friend in Memphis, TN got a friendly letter from the Memphis Light Gas & Water utility. They kindly told him that they had inadvertently under-read his meter for three months, and that they apologize profusely.

...They then billed him an additional $300 of their lost-revenues.

Re:Error? really? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058616)

My former employer was like that. They expected the employees to report all payroll errors to them, but they only reported and fixed ones that we reported or that cost them money. Hence why I no longer work for them.

Re:Error? really? (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058870)

So what should have happened in your mind? They should have eaten the mistake? Something tells me that you wouldn't expect your friend to eat the mistake if the error had been AGAINST him instead of FOR him, so why should the utility be treated any differently?

Mobile ripoff industry! (2, Interesting)

spammeister (586331) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057940)

Once again, this makes me so glad that I'm "off the grid" and just do a pay-as-I-go a couple months a year when I need a cell phone. Canada is a bit better than the US for outragous fees. Although I'm sure 99% of Roger's customers are unsastified.

Re:Mobile ripoff industry! (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058120)

Our family went back to a single land-line about six months ago.

Since then, I can think of exactly three instances where I wished I had a cellphone...and got by just fine without one anyways.

Compared to our previous Verizon service (which sucked ass, to say the least), we save about $600 a year.

It is also a liberating experience to be able to just tell people "Just leave a message..." when I give them my phone number. NOT having a cellphone relieves one of a certain amount of obligation that most people are not even aware they are subject to...until they are not.

Re:Mobile ripoff industry! (1)

Reaperducer (871695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058886)

Although I'm sure 99% of Roger's customers are unsastified.

Then Roger should get better hookers.

Statistical significance test (3, Insightful)

Livius (318358) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058058)

You know these things happen 'accidentally' because 50% of the time the error is in the customer's favour.....

Re:Statistical significance test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058248)

You know these things happen 'accidentally' because 50% of the time the error is in the customer's favour.....

said who ?

Re:Statistical significance test (3, Funny)

jcl-xen0n (1926472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058274)

You know these things happen 'accidentally' because 50% of the time the error is in the customer's favour.....

Haha, good point - I've personally lost count of the number of times my TelCo has given me bonus money for no good reason :}

Human nature test (2, Insightful)

Zuriel (1760072) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058544)

Have you ever complained about being undercharged for anything? If 50% of mistakes were in the customer's favour, I'd still expect 99% of complaints to be about overcharging.

This is total BS (1)

supercell (1148577) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058156)

"Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent" Bullshit! They should be prosecuted for fraud. If they used automatically withdrew money from peoples accounts, it should be wire fraud. If you I pulled this shit, we would be in prison.

3 Good Reasons Why You Don’t Need A Cell Pho (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058214)

Do I even need a cell phone at all?

              I mean, I’m paying $50 a month for a phone I rarely, if ever use. And even if I switch to a “Pay As You Go” plan, I’m still going to have to buy a new phone (mine is dead; I’m paying $50 a month for a dead phone) So, why bother? Why not just get one of those cheap “emergency phones” that give you 5 or 10 minutes of talk time and leave it at that? The idea, when I had it, seemed so radical, and so fringe, that I had to mull it over a few days to get used to it. I mean, who doesn’t have a cell phone? Would I spontaneously combust if I cancelled my plan without getting another?

        This is why I’m offering up 3 reasons why canceling your cell phone plan might be a good idea.

Now, I fully realize that many people, especially parents with children, consider their cell phone to be a crucial part of their life. And admittedly if I had children, I would not even think of giving up my phone.

For the rest of you who aren’t as attached to your cell phones, here we go:

3 Reasons You Should Cancel Your Cell Phone Plan

1. You Can Save A Lot Of Money

I know this is the most obvious reason, but I couldn’t leave it out.

I fork over $50 every month to Verizon. If I cancel my cell phone entirely, that will save me $600 every year. How much would you save without a cell phone bill? How much would you save without all the extra “fees” of going over your minutes, texting, watching TV, and everything else? The number might be staggering

2. Quality of Life

If you use your cell phone so you can be available once you leave work, then this means you’re working more every day and probably not getting paid for it. Remember this novel idea, years ago, when you worked while you were at work, and then didn’t work when you left?

I know, it’s a fascinating concept that seems almost too good to be true

All joking aside, however, maybe this is an idea we really need to explore more. I mean, what’s wrong with not being reachable 24/7? Don’t you think it would be liberating not being tied to a cell phone? Wouldn’t it be a bit fun to be, well, on your own?

3. Health

We’ve probably all heard of the cases of people who got tumors in their brain that were shaped like a cell phone. And while it’s easy to pass this off, it still begs the question: do we really know if cell phones are doing us harm?

I mean, last year the FDA was certain that the BPA chemical in plastic bottles was completely safe. Now, they’re not so sure.

Years ago, the tobacco industry swore on a stack of Bibles that cigarettes were completely harmless. Now? Yikes.

I’m certainly not advocating we go around like Chicken Little, afraid of everything, but if you’re thinking of trying a life sans cellphone, then this could be the best reason to kick the habit. Because really, we just don’t know how safe they really are.

  Edit: there's also the benefit to mental health that comes from enjoying your quiet time by yourself and the people you actually care about without being bothered by others.
Edit Part Two: And, at risk of sounding paranoid, it is REALLY easy to track people's movements and activities with a cell phone. They are also easier to tap and/or crack than landlines, so you can spy on people remotely with their own phones as an audio and video recording device.

  article reposted from: http://www.thegreenestdollar.com/2008/11/3-good-reasons-why-you-dont-need-a-cell-phone/

Where does the money go? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058232)

So what, are the customers being reimbursed? Of course not.

Back charges for time travelers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058328)

http://idle.slashdot.org/story/10/10/28/1545230/1928-Time-Traveler-Caught-On-Film

AT&T is doing it now (2, Informative)

Mr. Competence (18431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058350)

I just got a refund from AT&T because of an issue like this with my iPhone 4. I turned all data access off (e.g. if I didn't have WIFI access I would get a dialog about cell data being off) and yet I was getting hit for 0.8MB/day while it was off. According to the AT&T person, it is because the iPhone sends out data to see if the data service is available! There are even discussions about it on Apple's site.

Obligatory movie reference (1)

kaoshin (110328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058364)

SAMIR: But that's not much money, I -

PETER: That's the beauty of it. Each withdrawal is a fraction of a cent. That's too small to notice. Take a thousand withdrawals a day, space it out over a few years, that's a couple hundred thousand dollars.

MICHAEL: Just like Superman III.

AT&T should be next in line for mystery fees (1)

snowtigger (204757) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058366)

I remember AT&T slapping on $10 of "government fees and taxes" to my $60 plan, without specifying what those fees and taxes were.

I really hope they get to pay for that one day...

"we accept responsibility" (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058474)

'We accept responsibility for those errors, and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charges on their bills.'"

By 'accept responsibility' do they refer to the $24mil fine as merely the cost of doing business, or do they in fact plan to accept responsibility as in making the injured parties whole, by issuing refunds of past customers, and extending credits to current customers, cutting down their bills to pay back the illegal gains?

serves the bastards right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058578)

I got hit with this fee even after I'd turned off all data on my account. They always removed it because the account didn't have data but they still tried charging for it.

Testimonial from someone who dealt with it (2, Insightful)

Skexis (1744642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34058652)

I personally was charged about $75 in addition to my normal bill for the first two months I had Verizon. The bill simply said "internet charges" or the even more nebulous "download: music box" as a way of explaining the extra money. My phone's default settings on all of the phone's face buttons were to get me to the internet as fast as possible, and the unlock button was the thing that protruded the most from the flat part of the phone, so at first I dismissed it as the phone getting unlocked in my pocket at work. By the second month, though, I called to complain, thinking that if I was being charged all that money for a "download," as opposed to "internet usage," I should have had a program or mp3 downloaded to my phone. I said as much to the customer service agent, and she stepped away from the phone to speak with her manager. Her response, minutes later, was to offer to take half of the charges off. I replied that I would pay for the amount if, and only if, she could tell me exactly what the hell it was that I had downloaded.

A few minutes later, and she told me that all charges would be dropped. Reading this now, I'm just sorry I didn't push harder for the first month I had already paid.

it's over 1 million! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34058776)

((77,800,000 / 36) / 1.99) = 1,085,986 "inadvertent" charges

77.8mil over 36 months at $1.99 per incident

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