Looks like Verizon's got some splainin to do...


Oct 11, 1999
FCC Not Buying Verizon's Denial Of Phantom $1.99 Fee
New Commissioner Clyburn says Verizon denial 'troubling...'
06:59PM Wednesday Dec 23 2009 by Karl Bode
tags: fcc · business · wireless
Back in May, the Obama Administration appointed Mignon Clyburn to one of the FCC's empty Commissioner seats. With more than a decade of newspaper experience under her belt, but a father (Representative James Clyburn D-SC) who has been known to snuggle up to AT&T in DC, it wasn't particularly clear how she'd act in her new position. Now, we at least know how she'll react to, for lack of a more elegant term, bullshit. As we've been closely tracking, Verizon this week responded to an FCC inquiry into Verizon pricing oddities -- by denying the existence of a phantom $1.99 fee that's been cropping up on Verizon Wireless customer bills.

The problem is, the strange fee has been documented for months by several customers, a number of newspapers, and even a Verizon whistle blower, who claimed Verizon knew about the junk fee but has done little to stop it because it generates millions in additional annual revenue. So Verizon's letter to the FCC denying all of this is raising a lot of eyebrows, as is Verizon's claim that a new $350 ETF for smartphones was to aid the poor (no, we're not kidding). In a response (pdf) posted this afternoon to the FCC website, Clyburn says Verizon's answers were "unsatisfying" and "in some cases, troubling":
I am also alarmed by the fact that many consumers have been charged phantom fees for inadvertently pressing a key on their phones thereby launching Verizon Wireless's mobile Internet service. The company asserted in its response to the Bureau that it "does not charge users when the browser is launched" but recent press reports and consumer complaints strongly suggest otherwise. These issues cannot be ignored.
Except, as we've covered, Verizon is doing a pretty good job ignoring them. Verizon is likely denying the width and breadth of the problem because admitting error opens the door to class action lawsuits and settlements with state Attorneys General. Judging from responses to reports and in our own forums to the fee, it very well could impact tens of thousands of Verizon Wireless customers -- if not more. With almost 90 million wireless customers, we'll let you do the profit math for a scenario where even only a quarter of all customers are seeing the fee. In conversations with Broadband Reports this afternoon, Verizon continued to deny that anything was wrong.

"Facts are facts," Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffery tells us. "Verizon does not charge when the browser is launched, and opens to the Mobile Web homepage." Of course this is semantics -- Verizon isn't supposed to charge this fee for users who don't use data -- but they are. Not only are they charging the fee to consumers whose phones have data blocked, it's charged to consumers whose phones are off. We asked Verizon if they could provide precise data on how many customers have called in complaining about the erroneous fee, and they said they'd get back to us after the holidays. Stay tuned...

The sad state of affairs with US telecos continues...

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