dslreports logo
site
spacer

spacer
 
   
spc
story category
FCC Not Buying Verizon's Denial Of Phantom $1.99 Fee
New Commissioner Clyburn says Verizon denial 'troubling...'
by Karl Bode 06:59PM Wednesday Dec 23 2009
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":
quote:
Click for full size
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...

view:
topics flat nest 
gorehound

join:2009-06-19
Portland, ME

data charge

i noticed i was getting this charge and complained about it.
now i do not see it on my bill.
before i was aware of it i must of been charged for it around 7 months or so.
NeoandGeo

join:2003-05-10
Harrison, TN

Re: data charge

Same here. I got it a total of 4 times in a year period, and I called in and complained several times. And 4 months ago I got a $3.98 credit, and haven't seen it crop back up.

Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

1 edit

Jail time plus massive fines

If I came up with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would certainly go to jail. Same should go for those at Verizon who knew this was going on (if what the whistle-blower says is true) and the company should pay billions in punitive damages for such theft since VZ did little if anything to 'fix' it.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

I agree. But it will be hard to prove. They need to get some programmer to admit in court he did it and who ordered him to do it. The hard part would be to convince a judge to issue a subpoena for their billing code to start the ball rolling down hill.

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

1 edit

2 recommendations

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

I still tend to think this is a problem that cropped up naturally that they took advantage of, rather than a problem they created from whole cloth...If that's true, a State AG or class action lawyer could push the case from a "failure to act" perspective....which would be documented by any customers they found who continued to have problems after it first came to light (last summer, in Cleveland papers)....

Monstruo

@optonline.net

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Funny how this happen naturally, how come credit never happenes as a mistake or natural system glidge, not buying it someone is delivertly doing it.
Max Greene

join:2000-12-22
Bayonne, NJ
Reviews:
·Boost Mobile
said by Z80A:

If I came up with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would certainly go to jail. Same should go for those at Verizon who knew this was going on (if what the whistle-blower says is true) and the company should pay billions in punitive damages for such theft since VZ did little if anything to 'fix' it.
It seems you have to steal millions to get away with it. Aim higher and youll probably get a govt subsidy.

en102
Canadian, eh?

join:2001-01-26
Valencia, CA

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Aim higher, and you'll be working on Wall Street, getting a multi-million dollar bonus, paid for by similar pennies on the dollar.

n2jtx

join:2001-01-13
Glen Head, NY
said by Z80A:

If I came up with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would certainly go to jail.
That's your problem right there. Steal a hundred dollars or a hundred thousand dollars you go to jail. Steal a hundred million dollars and the government wants to negotiate and you are in the drivers seat. Aim high!
--
I support the right to keep and arm bears.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

said by n2jtx:

said by Z80A:

If I came up with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would certainly go to jail.
That's your problem right there. Steal a hundred dollars or a hundred thousand dollars you go to jail. Steal a hundred million dollars and the government wants to negotiate and you are in the drivers seat. Aim high!
I don't know. Why not ask Bernie Madoff. He can be reached at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina.
--
My BLOG .. .. Internet News .. .. My Web Page


Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Yeah and it took how long to catch him and how many times was evidence provided to the SEC and DOJ and nothing done?
marinemaster

join:2004-04-12
Suwanee, GA
Nobody will go to jail unfortunately, this is capitalism...they got it all angles covered and figured out....communism is green with envy it could not do this...it tried for 80 years but it failed....

Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Oh, the socialists are the best thieves out there and steal more from productive society than everyone else put together.
Max Greene

join:2000-12-22
Bayonne, NJ
Reviews:
·Boost Mobile

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

said by Z80A:

Oh, the socialists are the best thieves out there and steal more from productive society than everyone else put together.
The capitalists fleeced us good if I remember correctly.

Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

You don't.
Max Greene

join:2000-12-22
Bayonne, NJ
Reviews:
·Boost Mobile

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

said by Z80A:

You don't.
My memory is just fine.

»www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/busin···.html?em

Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

1 edit

1 recommendation

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Obviously it isn't. You didn't go back far enough...it all began with a federal government leaning on banks to lend to minorities who ultimately couldn't pay the loans back. The NYT predicted exactly the disaster which was the follow.

»www.nytimes.com/1999/09/30/busin···wanted=1

asdfghjklzx5
Premium
join:2004-05-03
kudos:1

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

said by Z80A:

Obviously it isn't. You didn't go back far enough...it all began with a federal government leaning on banks to lend to minorities who ultimately couldn't pay the loans back.
Spare the world your revisionist (and very racist) version of history. The mortgage bubble by caused by the deregulation crafted by Phil Graham in the late 1990's.

The vast majority of sub prime loans that created the mortgage bubble had nothing to do with the CRA.
--
"Ubuntu protects you from malware in the same way that a Geo protects you from carjackers." -Anonymous

Z80A
Premium
join:2009-11-23

3 edits

Re: Jail time plus massive fines

Talk about revisionist history. The Gramm act was passed in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote (90-8, 362-57) and signed into law by then President Clinton.

Yep, we all know how racist the radical conservatives at The New York Times are. Shame on them for predicting the future a decade in advance revising history.

karlmarx

join:2006-09-18
Chicago, IL

Hopefully this signals a change

But I won't hold my breath. What hope does one huge government organization have against the fat cat executives of the megacorps? Not much. Expect to see more illegal contributions to the politicians to sweep this under the table. America is no longer a country for the people, it's a country for the corporations. And that's sad. Suck it up america, admit that it doesn't matter whether you vote for Kodos or Kang, they are both sides of the same coin. Sure, vote for a third party, and throw your vote away. The days of freedom and equality have gone the way of the dodo. You exist to serve your corporate masters. The roman empire looked a lot like the US today, before it fell.
--
Remember 1 in 4 people are retarded. 25% of Americans are Republican. Coincidence? I don't think so.
malikeye

join:2002-09-02
Raleigh, NC

Re: Hopefully this signals a change

"The roman empire looked a lot like the US today, before it fell."

You're not the first person I've heard make this observation.

Rob
In Deo speramus.
Premium
join:2001-08-25
Kendall, FL
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Comcast
said by karlmarx:

The roman empire looked a lot like the US today, before it fell.
Not even close.

pnh102
Reptiles Are Cuddly And Pretty
Premium
join:2002-05-02
Mount Airy, MD

Re: Hopefully this signals a change

said by Rob:

said by karlmarx:

The roman empire looked a lot like the US today, before it fell.
Not even close.
You don't see the parallels?

By the time the Western Roman Empire began its decline (around 400AD to 476AD), that government was so overburderned by spending obligations that it could not fund the military to the levels needed to sustain the territorial integrity of the Empire. Whole provinces had to be abandoned as a result. Without a strong military, the Empire was able to be easily overrun by foreigners and invaders.

While the USA hasn't gotten to the level of having to give up whole states yet, anyone who looks at the current federal budget can't logically come to any other conclusion other than that it is a comical absurdity in the sheer level of spending madness that continues unabated, and in complete ignorance to the lack of money available to pay for anything. Then there's that problem with securing the borders ...
--
"Net Neutrality" zealots - the people you can thank for your capped Internet service.

jsz0
Premium
join:2008-01-23
Jewett City, CT
Obama's FCC has been much more consumer friendly than the previous regime so far. We haven't seen much action yet but lots of inquires. We'll have to see what comes of them in the future but for now Genachowski has been there less than 6 months and has already rattled some cages. Pretty good start I'd say. Point is, there is a large idealogical difference in how the FCC is run under Democrats and Republicans so your vote most definitely does matter when it comes to FCC policy.

Matt3
All noise, no signal.
Premium
join:2003-07-20
Jamestown, NC
kudos:12

Good Start

I'm glad to see Clyburn not buying this hook, line, and sinker. Now let's see if Verizon really cares and when they don't, if the FCC follows up with any action whatsoever.
--
trafficcloak.com - pptp/sstp vpn services

Rob
In Deo speramus.
Premium
join:2001-08-25
Kendall, FL
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Comcast

Mignon Clyburn - The jury is still out

I'm still not impressed with Mignon Clyburn.

This is not the first time that a politician, or a commissioner, has shown that their interest is in consumer protection, only for them to do a 180 at the last minute.
--
CheckSite.us | YourIP.us | Reverseip.us

Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

1 edit

Re: Mignon Clyburn - The jury is still out

I would agree. I've seen WAY too many "tough" pdf press releases by FCC commissioners followed up by total inaction to give her a cookie just yet. Let's see if this gets conveniently forgotten during the new year...Commissioner Copps made a career out of terse press releases attacking anti-consumer behavior, only to vote for policies supporting that same anti-consumer behavior...and he got promoted.
jmmilner

join:2001-11-20
Yorkville, IL
said by Rob:

I'm still not impressed with Mignon Clyburn.

This is not the first time that a politician, or a commissioner, has shown that their interest is in consumer protection, only for them to do a 180 at the last minute.
A campaign contribution or two to her father should be all that Verizon needs to do to fix this one. Of course, if we fast forward a few years it may well turn out that Ms. Clyburn will be a spokesperson or lobbyist for VZ herself.
Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink

1 edit

In the old days it was called organized crime!

Verizon may have to get use to different government objectives. Hopefully the corporate parasites will be forced to get over the Bush administration's laissez-faire attitude toward regulation and stopping abuses by big business. Hopefully the Obama Administration will take immediate and decisive action against corporations that abuse customers through fraud and deception. Corporate America needs a good kick in the ass to change their attitude.

Edit: I understand that Verizon will soon open Delicatessens that will specialize in marketing Bologna.
Rojo

join:2009-04-14
New York, NY
kudos:1

Re: In the old days it was called organized crime!

said by Mr Matt:

Hopefully the Obama Administration will take immediate and decisive action against . . . fraud and deception..

A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!
Thanks, I needed that!

FLATLINE

join:2007-02-27
Buffalo, NY

Subject

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).

This is the second time Ive read about Verizon saying this. Not that I doubt it but why is it so much trouble to include the ACTUAL quote in the story.
Expand your moderator at work
Timmn

join:2000-04-23
Tinley Park, IL

Re: Subject

OK, here you go:

"Verizon defended its early termination charges for cellphone contracts Friday, telling federal regulators that the high fees help the poor by making it more affordable for them to access the mobile internet."

VerizTE

@charter.com

Verizon Will Most Likely Weasel Their Way Out of This One...


Well I hope they don't, but history tells us they will.

From their paid lobbyists in Washington to the lowest level retail store douche bag foaming at the mouth on the defensive trying to counteract all negative press, they will do all they can to come across as angels.

I simply made a reference to this story at HowardForums and their retail employee brigade pounced on me with comments ranging from "if you don't like it just leave," to "pay for an unlimited smartphone data plan and you won't have this problem." Those idiots even defend the new ETF policy claiming Verizon has the right to rape their own customers.

Big corps like Verizon and AT&T who do shady business need to be capped the same way they cap and throttle our data plans. They shouldn't be allowed to buy more spectrum or acquire any more smaller companies. A simple dose of their own medicine should do the trick.

beck
Premium,MVM
join:2002-01-29
On The Road
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Stablehost.com

I have it too

I have called several times to get it removed and verizon won't remove it. I have data blocked. I have text blocked. I only use the phone to use voice. They keep saying I'm using data.
--
Some people are like slinkies - not really good for much.
But they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

Re: I have it too

they must have leaky pipes..
pnolte

join:1999-10-21
Chino, CA
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS

include me in on the mess

I noticed today that I was given a credit for 1.99. Now I have a data plan with unlimited text and internet. All three of the phones on my line have the same plan and we share the minutes. I do not know why I would need to be credited 1.99 unless I was charged for it someplace else.

FastiBook

join:2003-01-08
Newtown, PA

When the browser is launched....

Technically they are correct, launching a browser doesn't incur usage, the browser attempting to connect to data services incurs usage, so, no there is no $1.99 button on vzw phones, but there is a $1.99 error, people without data plans shouldn't be able to begin to be billed for this.

- A
--
LETS GO METS!

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

I just want to see Verizon hit

with a massive fine. Something that makes them step back and wonder if they should do something so criminal (in my eyes that is)

Now, I know....a huge fine means increased prices for us since they will try and find a way to make us pay for it....I really dont know what to say to that....since that thought is probably right
sonicmerlin

join:2009-05-24
Cleveland, OH
kudos:1

Re: I just want to see Verizon hit

There seems to be relatively irrational belief among many conservatives that corporate fines are simply passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. It leaves out the obvious - if companies felt they could simply raise prices, they'd do it whether there were fines or not. After all, why leave money on the table? Conversely, if they feel the consumer is already paying as much as the consumer is willing to bear, they'll be very careful about passing on any increases in their own costs, and if there are any new costs (including fines and taxes) they'll probably absorb the bulk of them. Put another way - he who is desperate pays, and he who is more desperate pays more. If the seller's supply curve is more inelastic than the buyer's demand curve, the seller will absorb more of the taxes - even taxes on the buyer. If the buyer's demand curve is more inelastic, the buyer will absorb of taxes, including corporate taxes.
moonpuppy

join:2000-08-21
Glen Burnie, MD

Re: I just want to see Verizon hit

"Corporations don't pay taxes."

Each product or service that any company sells has to make a profit for a company to survive. To that end, you have accountants who factor in all costs to make a product (materials, employees, utilities, support, etc.) Even taxes and regulatory fees are factored into this.

So, for every Verizon phone you buy, you help pay part of the tax bill.

Now, if that is the case, then how will they pay for this fine 9should they get one) for the phantom charges? Easily. That regulatory fee that everyone has on their bill? That will go up by a few pennies at least. Remember, these aren't mandatory taxes called for by the local, state and federal officials but money to help comply with those taxes. You see how the accountants figured out this out?

Why raise base prices when you can blame it on a faceless government agency fee.
nyrmetros

join:2008-02-01
Oakland Gardens, NY

1.99

I just checked the verizon bill for the past 8 months. There it was under Data charge. $1.99 No data plan on my phone either. They are getting called tomorrow.

part135

@rr.com

Cell phone charges

I have a slightly different issue with the cell companies. When I signed up with verizon I was told that if I bought one of their phones I would be locked into a 2 year contract. They said it was to recover the cost of subsidizing the phone. So, I brought my own phone and signed up with no contract. How come I am still paying the same full monthly charge for the service when they are not subsidizing my phone?
jsharper
Premium
join:2008-12-21
Gilbert, AZ

Re: Cell phone charges

...because you didn't go with tmobile. Their new non-contract plans are cheaper per month than their equivalent contract/subsidy plans. Hopefully this will trigger the other US providers to offer similar distinctions in their plan pricing soon.