Verizon Throws Millions at Mystery Data Fee Furor


Verizon Wireless says that it will refund customers millions of dollars after being hit with a scandal about a mystery data fee on monthly mobile bills.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based operator says that it will credit or refund around 15 million customers charges in the $2 to $6 range, although some will receive more monies. The operator could pay out up to $50 million in refunds. (See Verizon Wireless to Issue 15M Refunds .)

The operator says that it has surveyed customer accounts and found that millions of customers without data plans were actually billed for data sessions on their phones that they did not initiate.

"The majority of the data sessions involved minor data exchanges caused by software built into their phones; others involved accessing the Web, which should not have incurred charges," says Mary Coyne, deputy general counsel for Verizon Wireless. "We have addressed these issues to avoid unintended data charges in the future."

Nonetheless, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that it will look into what happened with the billing issue. The regulatory agency says it started looking into the matter 10 months ago and is happy to see that Verizon will refund customers. (See FCC Probes Verizon Wireless Mystery Fee .) "But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner," Michele Ellison, FCC enforcement bureau chief, said in a statement.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

sgspearman 12/5/2012 | 4:22:04 PM
re: Verizon Throws Millions at Mystery Data Fee Furor

Ghost in the machine is a bit charitable.   It's been pretty clear to me for a while that several carriers (not just Verizon) intentionally had phones designed to where you would accidentally activate data services - and where it was difficult or impossible to disable that.

billsblots 12/5/2012 | 4:21:51 PM
re: Verizon Throws Millions at Mystery Data Fee Furor

That's right.  Sometimes when you pull your VZW phone out of your pocket it's already whirling and connecting or connected to the Interwebs.  None of my family's 3 phones have a data plan, by design, but we have $2-$7 data charges every month.

My daughter tried to find a replacement phone last night but virtually all of them now require a data plan.  Hijacking the consumer.....

People in the VZW stores are mostly uninformed as to whether the phones they're selling now will be 4G capable for her in SoCal when that goes online, no one knows what the monthly service charge is going to be.  Some have even told her there will be no increase for 4G service, others don't know.

VZW may have the most comprehensive geographic coverage but their company leaves much to be desired still.

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