Verizon Responds to Data Overcharging Accusations

verizon-wireless-logoYesterday the New York Times’ David Pogue called Verizon Wireless to the carpet for what he sees as another example of the company’s price gouging, this time centered around millions of users’ accidental data usage. Both Verizon customers and an employee reported that 1MB data charges (which cost $1.99) appear on bills even if the phone user hadn’t intended to download data.

“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. [...] 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.”

The Verizon employee says that everyone at the company is aware of this problem but won’t do anything about it because it generates hundreds of millions in revenue. Even customers who have data blocked are still hit with the fee when they accidentally hit these phone keys. They’re charged for receiving the message that data has been blocked.

We asked a Verizon Wireless representative to respond to these accusations. Here’s the response:

Our phones have had many different user interfaces, buttons, keypad/boards and designs over the years. We’re constantly working to update and improve the phones with a goal of making them easier for customers to use. We also try to help customers understand the various options — Internet, apps, etc. — available to them on these phones. We know it’s important we get this issue right, regardless of how many customers it impacts (which appears to be very few), and we’ll always work with customers to credit any incorrect charges they may find on their bills.

It’s good to know that Verizon will refund customers in this instance, but if these charges appear every month for some users, how much time will they spend getting them removed?

Have you noticed $1.99 accidental data charges on your Verizon Wireless bill? If yes, and if you’ve called the billing department to have them removed, what was your experience? How often do these charges appear on your bill?

Pogue reports that at least one AT&T customer has also noticed $2 data charges appearing on the monthly bill. Anyone with Sprint or T-Mobile seeing the same?

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  1. Dan Says:

    I had this happen to me last summer I was using a Moto Razr (I’ve since upgraded). When I called the rep couldn’t find any record of data usage on my account and refunded the charge – it was about a five minute call.

    I was with VZW for eight years and over the course of that time I had probably five or six erroneous charges on my account. Annoying, but I never had a problem getting their customer service to remove the charge. Still, I’d rather not have to comp through my bill every month (and I’m sure most people don’t).

  2. @hahnfeld Says:

    Just went through the same crap with Sprint on my daughters account.

    “Casual Data Usage” for a tacked-on $14 for 1/2 a MB or so.

    All this, on an account which explicitly has no Internet/Data. Only voice + unlimited messaging.

    Their excuses were pathetic and I had to push very hard to get them taken away. Nobody could explain what the actual application use was.

  3. Meghan J. McDonough Says:

    @hahnfeld –
    I had the same problem with Sprint with my husband’s voice and unlimited messaging plan. He could use the Internet without any warning that he was getting charged for it or that it wasn’t part of his plan.

    I used the chat service on their site and explicitly said, “Please disable and block all Internet access on this phone.” That did the trick.

    I would think that Verizon would have a similar option?

  4. andrew smith Says:

    This is nothing. Where I live the only viable broadband is verizon wireless — with a 5GB data cap. I finally managed to get everything under 5gb a month for my household, I went over one month, even though the meter they give you (phone number to call & web based meter & usage meter in software) said I was not over. They told me I could not rely on that, that essentially there was no way to measure usage for me. So I try to stay under 4GB a month. Then one month they billed me for data from 2 months previously — about 20MB that had gone over the 5gb limit, even though the next month was only 4gb usage — Thats $30–for a billing period I had already paid for–but they said it was residual and that when they send the bill they do not always know how much data I have used and they can always bill me later once their records catch up– no specific time frame for this.

    Frustrating, but it’s what I have to deal with. A 30GB cap would be nicer, so I could actually watch some HULU and use the broadband like broadband should be used.

  5. A Says:

    I am a verizon customer for over 10 years now. I been having this problems to for a very long time and they never give me any credit for it. they claim they don’t get details of why the charges had being apply, they claim is there computer system that do all this with out any details of why. also one thing i find out is the fact that verizon will tell you things like the IM is free of charge for unlimited texting, but if you don’t have unlimited data you still get a charge for “data exchange fee” in you IM chat text. some of there employees don’t even know this.

  6. Glenn Says:

    I been a Verizon customer for many years and for the most part the services is very good. However, I was charger for mega bits after I accidently trigger the internet feature on my new phone when I attempted to hit snooze for I use my cell’s alarm clock to wake up. I end up blocking the internet and they only refunded half. I called today after hearing the news requested the difference but they refused. I was told by Kim in Salt Lake and confirmed by her Supervisor, Tyson, that they would not have charged me if I signed up for the data plan!!! I asked for clarification for I was shocked and Tyson stated that is their policy. I feel this is extremely unethical and makes me question how Version markets their services. In my opinion, my business is not important to them for I am not interested in have the internet everywhere I go.

  7. Renelda Says:

    I have lost over two years of my Golden Years fighting Verizon and had the Attorney General’s Office involved and even alerted FCC. I want to make the “h e double hockey sticks” that I have gone through and not quite over yet public. I have contacted the media in Pittsburgh and don’t even get a reply. I have spoken to hundreds of people who have had or are having problems with Verizon line and DSL services. I have documentation to prove everything that has happened and one of the worse is my billing and what they have done on the statements and I have told those I contacted that even God, Himself, if presented with my statements would not be able to understand them. Verizon owes me, BIG TIME!! They froze my telephone # when I transferred to Broadband and a few years ago when I attempted to transfer, and in order to keep my same phone #, I was told Verizon would have to come to my house and do something. Well, Verizon came into my basement and cut wires and for over a year and a half, every phone call that I made or came to me, was nearly completely cut off after the first minute or so. These are only a couple issues I have had with Verizon, adding all kinds of things to my bills that I never ordered.

  8. gin Says:

    I too have problems w/ this Verizon broadband. When I signed up a couple of months ago, I told the woman I was going to be using my new laptop as my TV. She said as long as I didn’t do gaming, which I do not, my 5 gigs would be fine. I called to find out where my bill was the other day, and they said I had $4oo in overages for two months. This was over an hour on the phone ….. she said I should go to the store ….. that was over an hour in the store …… and now they tell me I have until the 7th to straighten this out and I need to call customer service again. ARRRGGGHHHH. Well my internet got cut off today and I had to pay $255.00 to get it back on. I have a cap of the almost two hundred dollar charges for the next month, and then I could be charged $1000 ….. yes one thousand. So I went to rent a movie and the guys there had never heard of such an overage. I can pay $160 to disconnect and get out of my contract. should I do this?

  9. Henri Says:

    I have sprint and haven’t had this happen to me. My phone came with a basic hard drive but in order to get extra space for data I have to pay for a data card. Once you buy the memory/data card then they can charge you for data space. One of my friends did this and was charged when he used the memory card. However, one of my friends but a basic data card not connected with sprint and it worked. Since it wasn’t with Sprint he wasn’t charged the data fees.

  10. PaTRICIA Says:

    I bought the new driod phone from Verizon with the whole data package etc. I decided I did not like the phone (too touchy sensitive) so I took it back to Verizon and cancelled the entire service. Did this at 12:00 PM. Three weeks later I got a bill for data usage — $712.00… I did not use this feature and it if I did it should have been covered under the data package I was under. Was told charges were incurred at 3:45 a.m. for internet surfing for 70 full minutes… How outrageous…. I was certainly sleeping at that time. Verizon has rejected several of my requests to credit this amount to my account and continue to bill me. I have been told by two of Verizon reps on the phone that these charges should have been reversed but the “supervisor” has rejected the their request to reverse these charges, Any suggestions???

  11. K. T. Bradford Says:

    Patricia, my suggestion would be to escalate this to a higher management level. If you go to consumerist.com and search their site for “Executive customer service” and Verizon you should find some old posts with the numbers of executives at the company. Call down the list until you find a number that works and explain your situation. They are more likely to resolve it than the lowest level customer service reps.

  12. godisgreat Says:

    to all……..

    contact The federal trade commisions (FTC) or your state public Utilities board and file a complaint.

  13. jeff Says:

    im fed up with verizon.my phone locks i can not make calls or get into any features but yet when i sit down my butt will make it connect to the internet and i dont know it and get charged.Also i had them block the premium txt and yet for 3 months straight they charged me with 50 of them so all together for the past 3 months are bill was $500 over charged.We have called them numerous times they said we will take care of it.Nothing has been done yet and they still want the money.

  14. schramm Says:

    BLAH BLAH BLAH, Alot more important issues out there other than 1.99 . Really find a greater cause.

  15. Jess Says:

    @ Patricia- same exact thing happened to me! In 2010 I was in the Dominican Republic and had an older phone without data email etc. I never used the phone to call or text, just used it as a watch and alarm clock. Everything was fine. In 2011 I got the droid2 and went to Mexico. I used the phone in the same exact manner-for a clock and alarm clock. After the first two days there I satrted getting text messages about $250 charge, $300 charge…for roaming. So in rustic rural Mexico with no one to call, I turned off my phone. I got back to the states and had an $850 bill for things I never used…they said it was from even when my phone was off?!?!! The verizon reps were rude and didnt help!! Terrible!!!! Not sure what to do because they just disconnected my line. I dont want to pay for this scam!

  16. rob Says:

    Dear readers or ex verizon customers. verizon has in the past burned me for overcharges on just a simple flip phone. they are well known to scam people. i tell you something you may never heard before but inside sources say all their phones are designed to create buttons to simply overcharge you. in short, their network is rigged. i hope all of you read this and take action to the FTC AND FCC. Verizon knows their network and policies are rigged. it is up to all of us to stop their scam.

  17. Mike Says:

    I fought Sprint for 2 and a half years over this. It started as $.04 to $4.00 “casual data usage” once every 4-6 months with no explanation as to what I had done differently in those months to initiate a charge. I have a basic digital phone with no internet or e-mail. I even had data blocked for a month, and Sprint still reported 3kb of usage (although I hadn’t been charged.) Each phone call to customer service was a 45-minute battle with them insisting I was accidentally accessing the internet. When the charges suddenly hit $29 this January after I hadn’t seen the extra charges for almost a year, they sent me to a Sprint store so a tech could show me how to properly use my phone. Instead, the tech and manager verified that I had done nothing different in January to incur the charges, but no one could pin-point where they had come from. I currently have a BBB complaint pending.

    My sister had the same problem with her Sprint phone, but they eventually just gave her a free data plan. I haven’t been treated as well as she was.

  18. Allen R. McNew Says:

    I moved on oct. 26th. My service was to be switched that same day. I am bundled and my direct tv was switched that same day, how ever they add a bunch of movie stations that I did not order. I had no home phone for a couple of weeks. Not my falt,it was verizons. I had no computor for almost a mounth. I got a phone bill for 238.88 . Normal is 150.00. I have a conformation no. billing at least for the computor. It iscicn314730518. Of cource I tried to reach verizon by phone. of cource I put on hold as I AM typing this. I’ve been on hold it seems forver. I want my bill corected. If not I’ll be switching my services, asyou folks broke the contract by not giving servive for so long, force me to rely on my cell phone. And ansewer me this, why is it so toke so long to talk to a person? What you got one person working at a time? Please contact, With a real person from billing please, as I can never get off hold when trying to get a hold of you. WE’ll in a moment. I thank I heard that 300 times to day

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