Yesterday 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?