Verizon Wireless has been refunding customers who were mistakenly charged $1.99 for mobile broadband access they say they did not use. It is unclear how widespread the problem is, but according to an Associated Press report, Verizon officials believe it is nationwide. A Verizon spokesman did not clarify how widespread the problem was when asked.
The issue came to light after a column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about the issue spurred the newspaper's readers to send in their own complaints of being charged $1.99 for data usage they said they did not use. According to the paper, in some cases "customers were charged when their phones were off, the batteries were dead, the phone's Internet access was blocked or even when the phones didn't have the software to go online."
Roger Tang, Verizon's regional head for Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, said the charges were not an attempt to con customers out of their money. "We don't want to zing stuff into people's bills in hopes they don't catch it," Tang said. "We're not interested in charging customers for things they accidentally access. Our brand reputation is everything."
Verizon spokesman Tom Pica told FierceWireless that the carrier has been "crediting customers for unintentional data charges as customers bring the 'error' to our attention." He said that the biggest culprit was customers mistakenly activating the Internet on their handsets, sometimes without knowing it.
"This is where we need to do a better job explaining to the customer when they buy our service how and when they will be charged for data; at the same time we need to improve the usability of data services so mistakes aren't made," he said. He added that customers may mistakenly access the Internet and then immediately end the session--an action that could cause the $1.99 charge.
"It is obvious to us that we need to fix this aspect of our service, but in the meantime we are gladly crediting customers if this happens to them," he said.
Verizon to pay $1.5M settlement over 'free' ringtones
Goodbye unlimited: VZW charges for data overages
Survey: Unbilled data charges top revenue loss concerns