“Starting next week, Verizon will double the early-termination fee for smartphones. That is, if you get a BlackBerry, Android or similar phone from Verizon, and you decide to switch phones before your two-year contract is up, you’ll be socked with a $350 penalty (it used to be $175),” David Pogue reports for The New York Times.
“This fee drops slowly over time ($10 a month), but after two years, it’s still $110,” Pogue reports. “If the premise of the early-termination fee is to help Verizon recoup its original cost of the phone, shouldn’t the fee go down to zero at the end of your contract? This move doesn’t help Verizon’s reputation for steep pricing and aggressive gouging.”
“What bothers me more, though, is another bit of greedy nastiness that readers both inside and outside Verizon have noticed,” Pogue reports. “Verizon has a bigger scam going on: charging for bogus data downloads.”
Pogue recounts some information one of his readers, a Verizon customer, has noticed:
Virtually every bill I get has a couple of erroneous data charges at $1.99 each—yet we download no data.
Here’s how it works. They configure the phones to have multiple easily hit keystrokes to launch ‘Get it now’ or ‘Mobile Web’—usually a single key like an arrow key. Often we have no idea what key we hit, but up pops one of these screens. The instant you call the function, they charge you the data fee. We cancel these unintended requests as fast as we can hit the End key, but it doesn’t matter; they’ve told me that ANY data–even one kilobyte–is billed as 1MB. The damage is done.
Imagine: if my one account has 1 to 3 bogus $1.99 charges per month for data that I don’t download, how much are they making from their 87 million other customers? Not a bad scheme. All by simply writing your billing algorithm to bill a full MB when even a few bits have moved.
Pogue reports, “At about the same time, I got a note from a reader who says he actually works at Verizon, and he’s annoyed enough about the practice to blow the whistle:”
The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I’ve had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I’m sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.
Every month, the 87 million customers will accidentally hit that key a few times a month! That’s over $300 million per month in data revenue off a simple mistake!
Our marketing, billing, and technical departments are all aware of this. But they have failed to do anything about it—and why? Because if you get 87 million customers to pay $1.99, why stop this revenue?
In an update, Pogue reports, “A reader notes that his AT&T phone has exactly the same buttons and he gets charged exactly the same $2 for an accidental press.”
Read more in the full article here.
MacDailyNews Take: Yet another reason to get an Apple iPhone. No mechanical buttons programmed to scam customers over bogus data downloads. Regardless, Verizon and AT&T and any other scam artist carriers that are conducting systematic ripoffs of their customers should cease doing so immediately. This is exactly the sort of thing the FCC and, perhaps, the U.S. Senate, actually should be looking into. If they aren’t already, they should. And, another thing: Carriers found guilty of such actions should be forced to refund every penny to every customer they’ve ripped off so far.