Verizon Wireless Denies It's Charging People Phantom $1.99 Fee, Despite Tons Of Complaints

from the this-won't-end-well dept

For a little while now, Broadband Reports has been doing a good job highlighting how Verizon Wireless has been charging a phantom $1.99 fee for “accessing the internet” even when users claim they did no such thing. Despite a growing amount of press coverage, Verizon Wireless had been silent on the issue. However, once David Pogue at the NY Times reported on it, finally the FCC got involved and asked Verizon Wireless to explain. The company apparently delayed for a while and then sent a reply (pdf). While much of the press coverage focused on a separate question (about why Verizon Wireless had doubled its early termination fees), what may be more interesting is the company’s non-response to the phantom $1.99. It basically said it doesn’t do what lots and lots of people are saying it does. David Pogue noticed how odd this is and why Verizon Wireless is not being upfront:

How about the 400 people who chimed in to say, “Me too!” in the comments of my original post? Are they all idiots? How about me? I found several of those $1.99 charges on my own bills. How about the Verizon whistleblower who has begged his managers to change this greedy scheme, and been told to shut up? Is he mistaken?

Even more amusing is that Pogue contacted the Verizon Wireless PR person who had initially scolded him for not getting a comment from the company for his original story:

“I’m going to let the letter to the F.C.C. speak for us,” he said. “I’m not able to comment further.”

“But you’re saying that you don’t charge that $1.99 fee!” I told him. “Yet it’s happened to hundreds of my readers, and it’s happened to me. So what are we missing?”

“I’m going to let the letter to the F.C.C. speak for us.”

“But it just says Verizon isn’t doing it!”

“I’m going to let the letter to the F.C.C. speak for us.”

Comforting, right? It amazes me that companies actually think this sort of approach makes sense, when it’s almost guaranteed that the details will eventually come out. Update: FCC isn’t buying Verizon Wireless’ response.

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Companies: verizon wireless

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Comments on “Verizon Wireless Denies It's Charging People Phantom $1.99 Fee, Despite Tons Of Complaints”

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SomeWhiteGuy (profile) says:

Re: Er, are they kinda insane?

I was thinking the same DH. They complained because there was no comment on the first article… then didn’t give a decent comment when asked. Big corp. doesn’t like to be written about without a chance to rebuttal… but once the details are out in the open… they have nothing to say. Too bad. Verizon has a lot going for them with AT&T’s issues here in the South. I was thinking of switching to them at the end of next year, but that has gone out the window since seeing these kinds of stories pop up.

zellamayzao says:

How bout that......

Just went online and checked my verizon bill and sure enough there was a 1.99$ charge for data. Now my wife and I have a HTC Eris each and have to pay 30$ per phone for the unlimited data plan already. Why do we get charged and extra 1.99$ on top of the 60$ we already pay for internet use?

Id speak with my wallet but they got me by the balls. Just re-upped our contract so early termination fee will put us in the poor house and AT&T is horrible in my area so Im stuck between a rock and a hard place.

zellamayzao says:

Re: Re: How bout that......

Yeah Ill probably do that before the bill is due.

I happen to have a friend that works at our local verizon store. I noticed online when you view your bill you can click on the “voice” link and it shows how much talk time you have used and how much you have left but the “data” charge isnt linked to anything so you have no idea how much data you have used and why you’re being charged. Great scheme.

earthsheriff (profile) says:

They have smart keys, that automatically access the net, EVEN some employees quit the service due to this. They all cheat, as I was hired by Sprint to charge an EXCISE tax of $4 for the frequent flyer miles. In the middle of the project, the attorney called me to change the invoice from the tax section to the misc charges, after MCI was fined $10,000,000,(ten yrs ago in 1999). AT+T charged me for roaming fees for every other call from Bullhead city AZ. It took 8 hours to get the $1,000 charges removed, as I explained I could not be in 2 cities at ONCE. WE need to have a list for each Telco and the Top ten WORST Rip offs they have all done! Good job on exposing this!

:) says:

Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Anybody would like to have 100’s of service providers?

Networks are expensive to do and take time nobody can compete with the big ones if they have to create their own networks and this lead to what the U.S. have now, a cartel, oligopoly or whatever.

The name of the game is unbundling.

The physical infra-structure is shared by every players and all of them contribute to construction of more.

That infra-structure can be managed by a separate entity, by the government or by a body of representatives of the various players.

This leads to a healthy market with hundreds of players and choices and it actually helps build the physical part faster, better and make it robust.

If only the FCC had the power to do it ๐Ÿ™‚

:) says:

Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Anybody would like to have 100’s of service providers?

Networks are expensive to do and take time nobody can compete with the big ones if they have to create their own networks and this lead to what the U.S. have now, a cartel, oligopoly or whatever.

The name of the game is unbundling.

The physical infra-structure is shared by every players and all of them contribute to construction of more.

That infra-structure can be managed by a separate entity, by the government or by a body of representatives of the various players.

This leads to a healthy market with hundreds of players and choices and it actually helps build the physical part faster, better and make it robust.

If only the FCC had the power to do it ๐Ÿ™‚

:) says:

Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Hmmmm…better how about people get together(communities) and start building a consortium of networks?

That way it could take 10 or 20 years but some communities would start seeing more competition as communities take over the networks and start building their own and letting companies use it.

zellamayzao says:

Re: Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Didnt a story pop up around here about a community in North Carolina do something like that…? They laid their own fibre optic network and got broadband internet cheaper and faster than the incumbents and the big guys pitched a fit because they couldnt compete and said it should be illegal because its competition and would force them to adapt to a changing business arena blah blah blah whine cry for us….

:) says:

Re: Re: Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Yes there was but that was about broadband which in the future will be the same thing as phone networks as the all IP gets implemented.

But the thing is, it was not the community it was the government of that community.

I think people should get together in town halls everywhere and build their own networks governed by a cooperative of sorts.

I’m not a fan of public owned anything.

zellamayzao says:

Re: Re: Re: Unfortunately this is a political issue.

Didnt the incumbent telco and cable providers have mass expansion of the fibre network with grants from the federal government way back in the 90’s or something similar to that? Where did the government get the money to give the industry? From the public taxes they collect from us all year. As far as I can see we (the public) own part of the fibre that runs below our feet and over our head and should have a larger say it what flows through those little glass tubes.

I could be wrong. I could just be a pissed of commenter hiding behind a clever name on some website.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Math time

“Whats does 89 million customers times 2 dollars a month equal?”

My calculator came back with a small number prefixed with an “E”, which I guess means that even my calculator thinks those illegitimate charges are Excessive….

Good boy, calculator. I promise to reward you by not putting my finger over your solar sensor and laughing maniacally as I normally do….

R. Miles (profile) says:

This isn't the only scam going on.

When we were with Verizon, our contract had expired so I decided to go elsewhere. Upon closing the account, we were greeted with the “final bill”. This bill was pretty much identical to the others, which is where the scam lies.

I called Verizon to ask why the bill was so high, if the minutes were to be based on the closing date of our account. They told us it reflected the usage of the last month.

So I quickly pulled up my original paperwork and asked simply “So, this advance payment I made when I signed up is yours to keep?”

Most, if not all, cell companies charge users one month in advance when they sign up. But when you close the account, this “final bill” is sent. I just closed my AT&T account, so we’ll see if this is an industry practice.

I expect a bill for $110, but somehow, I don’t see this happening.

I’m done with the cellular industry. Their price gouging is nothing short of disgusting and it’s a monopoly. All plans cost the same, regardless where you go, and if you want to go “pay as you go”, every damn one of them charges a $1 to “connect” for a day.

While many feel the government should keep its nose out of the way a company runs itself, this clearly screams of a necessary regulation.

I completely agree with the “end of contract” fees. Why do we pay the same amount after the EFT is complete? Why can’t we get a cell plan with a cheap phone without having a 2 year contract? $0.20 to receive spam text messages which they won’t clear? Pay-as-you-go requires a reactivation despite having tons of minutes left?

Tell me again why AT&T was broken up as a company? I see no difference in regard to a “monopoly”. In fact, it’s much, much worse than it could have ever been.

No matter. It’ll be weird to walk around without a cell, but for the last week, I haven’t missed it.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: This isn't the only scam going on.

“No matter. It’ll be weird to walk around without a cell, but for the last week, I haven’t missed it.”

I did this for three months, just as an experiment. It was WONDERFUL. I found that through email and Skype, I didn’t miss any of the connections I wanted, and the only one’s complaining were those that were trying to excise some minor level of control over me (family, girlfriend at the time, work, etc.)

Unfortunately, the job required I get a cell phone, so the “experiment” couldn’t turn into “a liberating way of life”.

Lucretious (profile) says:

Re: This isn't the only scam going on.

actually, only Verizon and AT&T charge the daily access fee. T-Mobile, Boost, Metro etc don’t. Their per-minute rates are high though.

The best deal? Net10. 10 cents per minute 24/7…no fees…nothing. Virgin Mobile is a good deal as well if you go with their $7 bucks a month plan in which you pay 10 cents er minute as well. Of course the phones are kinda basic but at least you don’t have to shell out a ton of money to these shysters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This isn't the only scam going on.

The best deal? Net10. 10 cents per minute 24/7…no fees…nothing.

Er,no. Net10 “expires” your prepaid time if you don’t keep buying more, even if you don’t use it. In effect, a monthly service charge. And it’s pretty high. I can get a year of prepaid “service” even from AT&T for $100. The same from Net10 is $200.

zellamayzao says:

Re: This isn't the only scam going on.

Good for you. You spoke with your wallet and told them all where to stuff it.

Ive had the same cell number since 2004 so its kind of part of who I am so to speak. Since Ive moved out on my own Ive never bothered to get a “home phone” or land line because everyone I know just uses my cell. When I got married and bought my own house we still didnt bother to get a home phone. She has her number and I have mine and it works for us.

Not saying we couldnt do the same as you and tell them to stuff it….(though verizon would still get our money for a land line) It would be a heck of an adjustment for us but it would be do-able. We did it with cable months ago and havent looked back. Downgraded to internet only and with 3 terabytes of storage and apple tv its not hard for us to find something to watch and store it for later use.

Times are changing and customers are more aware of how we are getting screwed and we arent happy. Yeah most people will over look this charge and just say “Oh if its what they say we owe then we better pay it” But more and more are asking questions and hopefully getting things changed for the better.

AC says:


It’s a wonder how telco’s and wireless providers can claim that there is competition in the marketplace. AT&T want’s to back peddle on its “unlimited” data plan for the iPhone, Verizon is basically stealing $1.99 from people, what does that leave T-Mobile? I don’t know much about T-Mobile, but one funny thing I have seen is that my boss can’t get alerts sent to his T-Mobile phone with the words “Credit Card” in them.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Thanks

“I’m getting ready to change from Sprint, (I have to stand in one tiny place in my house to talk) I just need a good Phone with good coverage. It seems that I have to choose from AT&T and Verizon. Fire or frying pan? This might have swung it to AT&T.”

Depends on where you live apparently. In the Maryland/DC area, they’re about equal (with the notable exception of Verizon having cells in the Metro, which might be a dealmaker.)

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They perhaps are a bunch of crooks. I get an interstate subscriber line fee on my land-line bill, and I don’t even have long distance with them. I’ve tried to dispute it, but no joy. I’ve been crammed several times but at least those charges were removed when I complained. I don’t have a lot of choice, if I want land line and DSL so we will continue the dance for now

Steve (profile) says:

As a Verizon customer...

I have been with Verizon for over 6 years (LG VX-10, LG VX 8000, LG Chocolate and now Motorola Droid) and after this news broke, I went through 2 years of past bills (prior to getting the Droid, since that has a data plan) and I didn’t see this charge a single time.

I don’t know if I just never hit that button (I know which one it was) or if the issue is more complicated than thought. Someone commented “You are charged for data if you send a picture.” and I never sent a picture on any of my phones.

To be honest, when I first read that article and say all the comments, I chalked it up to AT&T FUD to try and fight the Droid launch. I’m still not entirely sure what to think about this issue. Maybe I got lucky?

Druid Man (profile) says:

remember Cingular

here is my letter to the California Public Utilities Commission:

1. ATT Account #00******
2. Cingular bridge account # for txfr from ATT *****
3. Current Cingular # *******

Last year I lost my AA&T phone Account #00 . I went to the phone store to get another. As Cingular had just purchased AT&T I signed up with them account # A. I pay my bills from BofA online service. I was making the monthly payments when I started to get late notices. Cingular had started to pay the funds into my “old” AT&T account #. So I called them. They said I should be paying the funds into my “current” account #. I had been from 8/9/05. When they created the # 3 account number I have no idea. I suspect I’m not the only person switched from AT&T to them complaining about billing. I wonder if there thousands of people who pay into a “closed” account. Cingular maintains that they need to keep account open to accept past balances due. If I close an account with a company I expect them to reject money sent to them. Or inform my bank that account is closed. If thousands of accounts like mine are being treated this way then Cingular may be holding in “credit ” accounts millions of dollars. I believe this is a shadow accounting practice by Cingular as a way to keep funds in their bank.

I had them transfer the 316.84 into my current account and mail me a check for the excess credit amount. All through the call with the first service person she said my money was not in a Cingular bank, that it was in MY credit account. Finally she admitted that my check for the excess amount was going to come from a Cingular bank.

four days after clicking send I got a call from the office of the President of Cingular saying they wanted to address my issues.
Don’t whine about it online, go to your state public utilities commissioner website and lay it out for him. 400 of you doing that will get some serious notice.

Karl Bode (user link) says:

Re: Me Too

“I had the same on my daughters phone. They told me it was Mobile Web access. The first MB (zero up to 1) is $1.99. I put on a data block.”

So did a lot of other people. The problem was, the message you get telling you access is blocked takes up 0.06 kilobytes of data, triggering the $1.99 fee. A vicious loop.

Other people complain the fee arrives even when the phone is off, the phone battery is dead, or the phone lacks the basic software required to even go online.

An insider was recently quoted in the Times as saying that Verizon’s aware of the fee, they just aren’t working very hard to fix it because it generates millions in additional revenue annually.

It’s been ongoing for more than a year, impacts thousands of customers, and Verizon’s playing dumb because they don’t want the class action lawyers or state Attorneys General pursuing it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I had the same problem someone else here mentioned about Verizon being unwilling to do anything about unsolicited text messages at .20 cents each.

In my case, I bought a new phone from Verizon, and that phone had text-messaging capability, and my new contract inlcuded 400 text messages a month. I’ve had the same phone number with Verizon since 1998. On the first day after I activated my phone I began to receive on average, 10 text messages a day, all spam or ‘wrong numbers.’ Not one of the messages was meant for me, and at that time, nobody I knew was even sending text messages, so there was no way they could have been my messages.

I called up and asked the Verizon rep to reverse the 30 text messages that showed up on the first 3 days after I started using the new phone. She said she couldn’t do that, and when I asked her ‘Well, what happens if I get more than 400 of these junk text messages in a month, would I have to pay for them at .20 cents each?’ She said yes, and I told her to block all text messages, since this was a feature I had never used and never planned on using. At first, she swore this wasn’t possible, but I told her to find a way. She did find a way to block all text messages, after keeping me on hold for almost an hour.

I’ve never had this problem with T-Mobile, and I’ve been with them for at least 6 years. During that entire time, text messaging feature was turned on but I didn’t start receiving messages until I let friends and family know they could reach me this way. Not a single text spam or misdirected text message has ever showed up in my T-Mobile account.

Now the Verizon phone and account has been cut to a basic $20 a month service plan, since I’m not using the phone and I’m out of my contract, I’ll probably end up just shutting down my account completely.

Stephen says:

since we're ranting

i have a verizon prepaid so old that i get quadruple minutes on weekends and only pay $.35 per minute during the week with no daily charge for that first call; boy, do they want to “upgrade” me to one of their bullshit taxicab plans. but here’s the thing: they’ve disabled my ability to send pictures from my camera phone, and when i asked a verizon customer service rep why i had to pay up front, not just for the calls i made she said, “Oh! That would be wonderful!” Even their own people know these plans are garbage. Please let Obama turn to the telcos next, take over the wires, and let anyone set up shop.

Steve R. (profile) says:

The Wonders of No Regulation

I have been told by those who claim that regulation is not necessary that the free-market will efficiently solve the issue of bad corporate conduct. After all – they assert that – companies in a competitive environment will not want to alienate their client base. Therefore they will work hard to make their customers happy. So I have been told.

byteme says:

Re: The Wonders of No Regulation

Yeah, I always have to laugh and/or cringe when these big corporations defend against regulation by saying how “robust” the competition is. Yeah, right! Robust is meaningless…even ridiculous in this context. The wireless/wired/cable/etc industry players work together to keep the status quo of obscene profits.

As far as an individual company, like Verizon, being afraid of alienating their client base…

When a company has 86 million customers, do you really think they care at all about an individual’s complaint? Or even that of a handful of people?

matt says:


I am a new Verizon customer. I checked my first three bills — there is no phantom $1.99 fee, in fact the only seemingly “BS” charge is a 94 cent “administrative fee.”

Also, in response to a prior comment, VZW billed me retroactively for service on the first bill. I did not “prepay”. So a “final bill” reflecting last month usage is appropriate.

Anonymous Coward says:

One, you can always check amount of data usage on verizon with #data (#3282)

Two, you are never charged for Picture Messaging as long as the picture in question was taken by a phone and sent directly to another phone. You are only charged for data from a picture message (or video) if that picture or video is linked from the web in that message. If you link a picture or video from a website (like photbucket or youtube) in a sms message to a handset, they will get charged data to view it. The $1.99/mb rate applies unless they have a data plan.

yinaz (profile) says:


okay so i’m one of those who don’t look over their bills carefully and just pay the full amount.

There were a total of four people in one account and I didn’t think much of it when they were charged with a data plan, maybe they’ve been downloading games. This has been going on for years. Until that day when I had to cancel one of the lines, I asked if she’s been downloading games throughout the year and she said ‘no’. Every month I had to pay over 4 dollars of data charges for nothing! And then I learned about verizon refunding data charges to its customers.

Then I realized this shit is applied on my line as well! and I pay the $30.00 text package so WTF WTF WTF. I’m so angry with them. I’ve been a customer (a blind one) for 6 years. I’m definitely switching out by the end of this year.

WAYNE says:



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