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Verizon To Pay $25M For Years of 'Mystery Fees' 215

Posted by timothy
from the honestly-we-had-no-idea dept.
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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Verizon To Pay $25M For Years of 'Mystery Fees'

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  • An insult of a fine (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sonny Yatsen (603655) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:44PM (#34057526) Journal

    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.

    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:51PM (#34057566) Journal

      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.

      • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:00PM (#34057668) Homepage Journal

        Except that TFA, which is Verizon Wireless to pay $25M for spurious fees [washingtonpost.com], says that Verizon agreed to provide refunds to 15 million, not the 4.66 million the parent erroneously estimates. I find it very curious that Verizon is not disclosing the actual total amount of the refunds. Smells like a coverup.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by numbski (515011)

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shentino (1139071)

          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.

          • by Myopic (18616)

            Exactly. It could be considered a "mistake" until the first person complained about it, which was absolutely positively on the first day of the first billing cycle. Every single day after that, it was intentional fraud, and I can imagine no compelling counterargument.

        • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:08PM (#34058450) Homepage

          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.

          • by jimicus (737525)

            Absolutely right.

            An "accidental data charge" as they put it wouldn't necessarily need massive amounts of forensic accounting - you could just ask the customer service call centre what people were complaining about and see about putting the biggest individual sources of complaint right. Which they should be doing anyway from a customer service perspective and because it reduces the call volume (and hence the number of man-hours you have to pay for) at the call centre.

            This is negligence bordering on the crim

          • by u38cg (607297)
            How many billing and complaints management systems for tens of millions of customers have you written, implemented, and managed? Sometimes the obvious is not at all obvious.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Pharmboy (216950)

          What engineer writes their software to intentionally miscalculate?

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

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by h00manist (800926)
          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556) *

            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: (Score:3, Insightful)

              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....

              Yup, and pay a $400 early termination fee. Man, that'll really teach Verizon a lesson!

              • Do you not have any form of Unfair contract terms acts in the US, or anything at all consumer protection wise? What about fraud statutes?

            • by Calydor (739835)
              Does the term 'vendor lock-in' mean anything to you? How about contracts you can't get out of for six or twelve months? Walking away isn't as easy as you make it out to be.
        • by Jaysyn (203771)

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

        • >>>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.yo [youtube.com]

        • If user=someone_important
          then amount=correct
          else amount=possibly_incorrect

          Boss: "You'd better find a way to make us more money, or you won't get a bonus!"
          Programmer: "Got it...you see, what I did was..."
          Boss: "That's nice. My printer isn't working, could you look at it for me?"

        • by SharpFang (651121)

          Any engineer whose boss tells them to do so. Not really "miscalculate", just like "simplify it"

          If you can't reliably decide when the discount applies and when not to apply it, apply it only to the smallest possible 100% sure subset. If your app can't work correctly due to overwhelming complexity of correct solution, choose mistakes/simplifications in a way that brings most revenue.

          Somehow I almost never see news "Company X lost $$$mln in erroneously assigned discounts to customers", "Company X made a $$$mln

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:42PM (#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.

        • by RMH101 (636144)
          In the UK, Sky TV supply satellite service to millions of homes. You sign up on a 12 month contract, get given a set top box and the contract states it has to be connected to the phone line at all times, otherwise they'll bill you. In theory the box supplies them with user watching profiles etc. I know a LOT of people who have these boxes, connected to the phone, and get hit with a 14.99 UKP / month "fee" for it being disconnected. When you phone customer services (on a non-free number, on hold for up t
          • by powerlord (28156)

            It probably tries to dial out on occasion to upload information.

            If you're phone line is in use a lot, or off the hook (or some other reason that the box doesn't get a dial-tone), then the box can't "phone home" as frequently as the central office is expecting.

            I bet, if the box doesn't phone home frequently enough, the system automatically generates an alert, which triggers the charge, even if the box is connected.

            This is all speculation, but seems about right.

      • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:04PM (#34058420) Homepage

        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.

        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          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.

      • by paganizer (566360)

        I've also got family share, with 5 lines; I just logged in to Verizon, and all my lines except 1, the one I have "unlimited data" on, have data charges. and those 4 other lines have data blocked.
        1 of those lines is my mom's emergency phone, which has never had a text sent or received on it, at least not in the last 13 months; she doesn't do that sort of thing.
        She also is being billed for 3 "premium" SMS messages this month...

        Not counting the premium SMS thing, every month I get data charges on those blocked

    • [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.
      • by babyrat (314371)

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

        You do that math...

      • by grcumb (781340) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @08:31PM (#34058560) Homepage Journal

        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?

    • > 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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."

      • by dimeglio (456244)

        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.

        • by hedwards (940851)
          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.
          • >>>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: "....."

            • by TheLink (130905)
              You don't have to bankrupt companies, nor is that a good way to achieve desired change, in my opinion.

              All you need to do is say: "If stuff like this happens again, the people responsible are jailed for years". "Sorry, limited liability is only for 'civil' stuff, persistently taking money that isn't yours and been told you should stop taking comes under 'criminal'".

              If you're a billionaire and your company gets bankrupted or closed down by the Gov/regulators it's not as bad as you sitting in prison for a numb
      • by Jon_S (15368)

        Inadvertent?

        There were stories out there where there were external buttons on certain phones that when pressed sent the phone directly to the web. So when you shoved your phone in your pocket the wrong way (as Steve Jobs would put it), sometimes you started accruing data charges. Inadvertent? Yes. Decision to make an extenal button (that is easily pressed by mistake) start the per-kilobyte billing? Your call on that. I know what I think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rm999 (775449)

      "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.

    • by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:41PM (#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.

      • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:49PM (#34058022) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • 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.

          • by SETIGuy (33768)

            $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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Reaperducer (871695)

          (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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423)

        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 assure

        • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday October 28, 2010 @10:11PM (#34059030) Homepage Journal

          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!

          • by SharpFang (651121) on Friday October 29, 2010 @07:31AM (#34061258) Homepage Journal

            Unfortunately, proofs of said activity will be released only by order of the very people who committed the crime. The corporation can make it as easy or as difficult (impossible) for the investigator to gather proofs on selected employees. Papers get displaced, entries get deleted, witnesses know nothing, people who might know a thing are transferred to a unit in Paraguay, and the conclusion of the investigation is "general incompetence caused the mistake, and I wonder how such a mess of a company can act at all".

            Nope, you must be really, really willing to lose your job, chance to be employed by others in the industry and risk lawsuits on bogus charges from your employer, if you, as an employee want to let investigators know -who- personally is responsible.

            Unless, of course, that person was out of favor, and is the designated scapegoat.

        • by IICV (652597) on Friday October 29, 2010 @02:34AM (#34060196)

          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.

          Good lord, do you really think that the only way for the public to be fleeced is for a C level executive to give written orders to do it?

          Here's a scenario: John the CTO goes down to the billing engineers and tells them, verbally, "we want to see a 5% increase in profits from spurious charges. Make it happen."

          This isn't written down anywhere. The meeting happened, but it was just a generic meeting with the team - nothing special, nothing permanent. Other business was covered too. How do you prove he said that?

          Here's an even more common scenario: Joe the CEO tell John the CTO, "We're making money hand over fist. I want to make even more. Make it happen." So John the CTO runs his billing engineers ragged, and randomly weird charges and weird discounts start cropping up in people's phone bills. He throws fits about the weird discounts, they get fixed, but the weird charges - well, nobody really cares about them in the billing department, that's accounting's job.

          I mean, how do you think horribly defective products like the Ford Pinto make it to the market? Most of the time, it's not because the people engineering them suck - it's because management, up above them, is driving the engineers too hard.

          This is why I, personally, think we should really start increasing the amount of personal liability that managers high up in corporations are exposed to. Right now there is basically no penalty to saying "ship it now nerdboys, who cares if it might explode?" besides perhaps tarnishing the company's reputation (and who cares about that? Reputation is a currency traded on the order of decades, and you won't be around any more by that point). If there were actual, personal penalties for your company shipping a defective product (or fraudulently billing people, or accidentally sourcing from a Chinese factory that uses lead paint), then managers would make damn sure that what they're doing is right.

          I mean, that's the normal argument for why CEOs make so much money, right? That they have far more riding on their shoulders? Why don't we make that argument true in fact, instead of just true in theory?

          • by Luckyo (1726890)

            I mean, that's the normal argument for why CEOs make so much money, right? That they have far more riding on their shoulders? Why don't we make that argument true in fact, instead of just true in theory?

            That reason is given as obfuscation to avoid unpleasant revolution-like movement when the masses figure out that the only reason most CEOs get the job is because they have the proper social contacts with those who are hiring.

            Practical management skills are of really, REALLY low importance on the hiring requirement for top management. Pedigree, studying in the right university, having the right people you know and going to the right golf club on the other hand is very high. Essentially they are the new arist

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chowderbags (847952)

          But in this, you are still neglecting that corporations are not sentient beings and they cannot make decisions or operate on their own.

          Which is why corporate personhood is bullshit to begin with.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by shadowfaxcrx (1736978)

          This is the same utter BS that the Republicans have been trying to convince us of for over 3 decades.

          I'm not going to bother dissecting your post point by point, but I will make a couple observations:

          First, Verizon isn't making the public whole. That's the whole point of Sonny's post. They're paying back less than a third of the *conservative* estimate of what they stole. That sounds like a great arrangement to me. Hell, I'd be happy to rob 30 grand from a bank, and then give them 10 grand back and have the

    • 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 figured the Enron fiasco was the eye opener here. They paid back a tiny fraction of what they pillaged. Now it's standard operating procedure, I'm not surprised that Verizon did this. I remember when the phone company was billing a federal tax that didn't exist... for years and years. Regardless this is a pretty slimy thing to do to your customers.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      And that's the REALLY conservative estimate.

      Add that to "Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent." Inadvertant? Really? If anyone believes that, I have a bridge for sale. Never assume incompetence when greedy self-interest will explain.

      If your "mistake" makes you money, I'm not going to believe it's a mistake without proof. And even after the fine, it looks like they made money on the deal.

  • No article? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by twistofsin (718250)
    Why aren't there any links to the article the summary is referring to?
  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:52PM (#34057588) Homepage Journal
    "...We promise we won't get caught next time."
  • I'd RTFA (Score:3, Funny)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:54PM (#34057608) Homepage Journal

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

  • Well, duh. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:55PM (#34057618)

    > Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent.

    Also, Bank of America is kindhearted and bankrolls Santa's elves.

    • by lanner (107308)

      This isn't a small company here. This is VERIZON. They have ass-loads of people working all day long figuring out billing trends and analyzing where their profits come from. To feign ignorance is impossible... and irrelevant. "Oops we committed fraud" should not work, but apparently does when you are a corporation. I'll have to try that some day when I appear before a judge and try to use BS like this as precedent.

  • Inadvertent my ars (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:56PM (#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!)

    • by LurkerXXX (667952)

      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.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        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.
    • >>>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).

  • by sloth jr (88200) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @05:58PM (#34057642)
    If it was accidental, why didn't they voluntarily hand those "accidental" fees back? Why'd a third party have to force them to settle? Btw, here's the link to the referenced source: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/posttech/2010/10/the_federal_communications_com_5.html [washingtonpost.com]
  • by Allnighte (1794642) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:00PM (#34057666)
    "A spokesperson for Verizon has issued a report correcting the FCC, stating their settlement with the FCC was at a rate of 0.002 cents, not 0.002 dollars [youtube.com], bringing their total liability to $0.25M."
  • 25 million people each get a dollar?

    • by blair1q (305137)

      No. A coupon for free text messages.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        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. (Score:2, Informative)

    by ittybad (896498)
    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.
  • Back-handed Apology (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:12PM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hedwards (940851)
      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.
  • >>> 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.

    • 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.

      • by hedwards (940851)
        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.
  • 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.
    • 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

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

      Then Roger should get better hookers.

  • by Livius (318358) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @06:57PM (#34058058)

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jcl-xen0n (1926472)

      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 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Zuriel (1760072)
      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.
  • AT&T is doing it now (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mr. Competence (18431) on Thursday October 28, 2010 @07:50PM (#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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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?

  • 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 a
  • Verizon Wireless reported $49.332 billion in revenue in 2008.
    The median annual household income in the US in 2006 was $50,233.
    The $25M settlement for Verizon is equivalent to Joe Average paying a $25 fine.
    (Note that I don't count the rest, as it was just the return of stolen money)

    Question #1: Is this what the average person expected to be hit with after defrauding millions of people for over 2 years?
    Question #2: Will that fee affect the income of Verizon executives in any way?
    Question #3: Where will the mo

  • starting next month Verizon will add a new " FCC Regulatory Compliance Tax* " of $1.99 to all bills.



    *<supersmall><evensmaller><color ="almost-white">This is not a real tax, just a fee we need to pay for our fines</color></evensmaller></supersmall>
  • We accept responsibility for those errors now that we have been caught and forced in court to do so

    FTFY.

  • "We accept responsibility for those errors, and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charges on their bills. We also send a big FUCK YOU to those we purposely tried to screw for money in full awareness of making bogus charges, and make a solemn promise to get these bastards who sued us for that."

  • Verizon Wireless said in a news release that its overcharges were inadvertent.

    Of course they were, I too don't notice when my bank account has millions of dollars more that it's supposed to have... 3 years in a f*cking row!

    If they truly did not know about the overcharges, the CFO and Controller both need to be fired for incompetence.

  • Now if Verizon would only get rid of the shortfall charge for not using enough long distance service.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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