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Cellphones The Almighty Buck

Verizon Doubles Early Termination Fee and More 520

Posted by timothy
from the infuriating-design dept.
An anonymous reader writes "If you buy a smartphone through Verizon, be prepared for an increase in the early termination fee. Verizon is doubling the phone-subsidy to $350. What's more, is that Verizon also actively charges customers for accidental data transmissions of as little as 0.02kb. '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. [...] 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.'"
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Verizon Doubles Early Termination Fee and More

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  • by Z34107 (925136) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:37PM (#30079430)

    Problem is, you hit the web button by mistake, kill it before the browser is even open on your phone, but still get charged $2. 0.02 KB (according to the article) goes across the wire, but you're charged for 1024.

    And, they place the "Bill me $2" button on an arrow key. Or, on or near some other commonly-hit button.

    I hate cellphone companies for reasons just like this, so I got a terrorist cellphone (OK, a Tracfone) for just that reason. But, they too have an all-too-large "Bill me .3 minutes" next to your arrow and "OK" keys.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:37PM (#30079436)
    See, if it were real data usage, that would be fine and I agree with you. One major problem: they explicitly refuse to disable data. I have no intention of ever using data on Verizon yet I have to have a plan that says they charge obscene amounts for accidental button presses on a phone I only want to use for calls and texting. (I have nothing against smart phones / data plans... I just have an n810 and am at university so there is free Wi-Fi everywhere.)
  • Re:Termination Fees (Score:5, Informative)

    by ircmaxell (1117387) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:37PM (#30079438) Homepage
    This one is proportional... $10 per month IIRC... So if you canceled 23 months in, you'd only owe $105.
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:39PM (#30079474)

    Is this some kind of hit piece to try and convince people not to use Verizon instead of AT&T? If you use data, it seems reasonable to me to charge a fee even if you just made "a mistake". It's not like international roaming is any more lenient.

    Except that it's far easier to do this even when you know the consequences. I have a Motorola Krave on Verizon for example (which BTW just might qualify as shittiest phone in existence) - the touch screen is INCREDIBLY fickle. When typing a text message even when I'm sitting there doing my best to hit 1 letter sometimes it'll register the one next to it - making me backspace 3-4 times to fix it (and it then occasionally not registering the backspace but instead a key next to THAT key - further frustrating me). So, the web browser (which I have no desire to use - AT ALL) is right next to the Tools and Media Center icons under the main menu. Despite your best efforts sometimes it'll hit that key when you're going for one next to it. Such things shouldn't incur extra charges.

    Luckily I was able to go online and specifically disable all web data access from my phone, but it's sad to have to jump through hoops like that. Ideally just opening the web browser shouldn't use any data.

  • by alecto (42429) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:49PM (#30079682) Homepage

    Tracfone has a brand, Straight Talk [straighttalk.com] (I have no affiliation and that's not a referral link), with phones available at WalMart with unlimited voice and text plus 30 MB data for $45/30 days. Prepaid being only for low-usage folks is a bygone idea.

  • by jpcarter (1098791) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:50PM (#30079702)

    Also, unlike most other services, with TracFone you don't own your number.

    Google Voice to the rescue.

  • by lgftsa (617184) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:52PM (#30079738)

    OK, this might be mean of me to say, but here in Oz I called my monopoly 3.5G telco (Telstra) and asked them to disable my phone's data service. I left SMS and MMS active, because they're not accident prone. It took 5 minutes which included hold time and a friendly chat with the operator.

    The base model Chinese-made Telstra-branded rubbish phone has a custom firmware and the browser button cannot be re-programmed, but many of the other phones they offer like my Nokia E51 can be. The easy-to-accidently-press BigPond button now launches the camera app.

  • by todrules (882424) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:55PM (#30079808) Journal
    T-Mobile does exactly that. You can either buy a subsidized phone and get a contract and a higher monthly fee. Or you can buy retail price and pay a lower monthly fee. If you want, you can pay the retail price in installments as well.
  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mike Buddha (10734) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @05:59PM (#30079882)

    I don't recall if AT&T uses the same frequencies as Europe

    Nope. AT&T uses 850Mhz & 1900Mhz for 3G, Europe uses 2100Mhz. T-Mobile uses 1700Mhz (which nobody else uses) and 2100Mhz for 3G. Unfortunately, they use 1700Mhz for the uplink and 2100Mhz for downlink, making their network incompatible with Europe and Asia.

  • by operagost (62405) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:01PM (#30079906) Homepage Journal
    I was able to port the number from a Tracfone to an AT&T phone about a year and a half ago.
  • by langedb (518453) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:02PM (#30079920) Homepage Journal

    Also, unlike most other services, with TracFone you don't own your number. You decide to switch carriers and your phone number goes with it. Personally keeping my number is worth quite a bit more than $350. To each his own though.

    According to TracFone's FAQ. They will allow you to transfer your number out of TracFone, but your personal information on the TracFone account must match the information on the new carrier's account. Source [tracfone.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:08PM (#30080024)

    People who make a lot of calls aren't going to come in at $9 per month - pre-paids are only good for people with very low usage.

    Common misconception. I have unlimited calls and text messages for $39.95/mo with Page Plus Cellular. (On the Verizon network to boot.)

    I switched when I got my first $1.99 data fee.

  • And it is a trap... (Score:5, Informative)

    by hackingbear (988354) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:13PM (#30080126)

    What could be worse? They seem deliberately design the interface to trap users into triggering this extra usages. I have a Samsung SGH-T509 from T-mobile. Once you take a picture with this phone, it will display "Send to : My Album" with the right (yah, most people are right-handed too) button conveniently displaying "Yes". Every person that ever used my phone, including myself, would almost automatically click Yes; saving to the album sounds like the right thing to do after taking a picture. It turns out My Album is an online service, saving to there initiates a data transmission which is costly if you don't have a data plan. If you want to save locally, you need to click the left button (now labeled "Options",) scroll down to select and click"Send to", scroll down to and click "My photos". I figured this trick out after the first time I hit the Yes button, but still making mistakes from time to time. My wife never seems to remember this trick until it is too late.

    You bet the marketing people figured out most people wouldn't want a data plan and need to trick you into sending data. trick or treat.

  • Re:new york times (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gmai l . com> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:15PM (#30080150) Homepage Journal

    The last time I was on Verizon I went to get a new phone after having one for 3 years. They told me I wasn't eligible for a new phone, because my wife got one the year before. We had a shared family plan.

    I found it in writing where it stipulated where we were both eligible for new phones every two years. They insisted that if I didn't get mine at the same time she got hers, then I missed my window. I was livid. I kept going back to the Verizon store (and waiting 30 minutes to talk to a person each time) and trying to talk to different people.

    Eventually I said, I'll just pay my $150 cancellation fee, which is cheaper than paying full retail on a phone, since they wouldn't give me a new phone after two years.

    They then said, I'd have to pay $350. They consider family plans two seperate lines. I'd pay $175 each. Funny how it is two lines for cancellation purposes, but one plan as far as getting new phones. The weird part is that I was convinced my cancellation fee was $150 when I signed the contract.

    They explained that all prices and fees can be changed at any time during the contract, and that raised my cancellation fee over the life of the contract. I was pretty livid. I ended up waiting a few months and then jumping to AT&T. Now I have a phone that doesn't get signal in half the town, but I never want to go back to Verizon's service again.

    Everytime a Verizon rep talks to me and tries to get me to switch, they insist they'd never pull a stunt where they wouldn't give me a phone, and yet in talking to two store managers, and calling the 1-800 number, that is exactly what they did to me.

  • re Verizon (Score:2, Informative)

    by freddieb (537771) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:16PM (#30080182)
    I though AT&T was bad..(well they are). Looks like Verizon is thanking customers as well with very unfriendly customer service. I am a Sprint customer and I can say they finally seem to be getting it. I recently received unlimited cell to cell (any carrier) from them without having to do anything. Looks like T-Mobile also gets it. I see they have added some nice options to their plans. Unfortunately, they (Sprint and Tmobile) are the small guys now.
  • Re:Termination Fees (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:35PM (#30080466)

    What doesn't make sense is the fact that if I cancel my contract 1 year and 11 months in, I'm expected to pay the whole termination fee

    I hate VZW as much as the next person, but that's flat out wrong. The ETF (at least the one I remember @ $175) is prorated per month you are in contract, and it goes down by $10 every month to a minimum of $60. It never goes away completely until you are on month-to-month, but you don't owe the entire fee if you cancel a month before your contract is up. You would owe $60 at that point. And if you gripe loud enough or just tell them you're moving to one of the few areas where they don't have coverage, chances are that $60 WILL be waived. All you have to do is be nice to the goon on the other end of the line and they will usually try to accomodate you if they can.

    That being said, I would hope this new fee only applies to NEW contracts, or extensions, as it's been a flat $175 for ALL phones for as long as I can remember. They can't up it if you're already under an existing contract. However, I SERIOUSLY doubt they will tell you anything about this if you go into a VZW store to purchase a new smartphone. They are notorious for telling you one thing and doing another. In fact, that's a LOT of what the people in customer service have to deal with. Granted, people should READ their receipts and bills, but the stores are horrible about putting things on there that they don't mention. A store will never tell you about the billing being a month in advance, so the people answering the phones get a ton of abuse about the first bill being around 2x what they thought it would be. VZW stores have also been known to call customer service themselves when a customer has a valid reason to get their account credited. Why? Because it costs nothing for a rep to credit the account, while if the store salesperson does it, it comes out of their commission.

    DISCLAIMER: Former Verizon Wireless Customer Care Rep. Posting anonymously because I flat out don't trust them as a company and I have friends who still work for them.

  • by Bodero (136806) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:37PM (#30080490)

    What you are saying is good if it wasn't false.

    No Contract Required -- New Month-To-Month Agreement Gives Verizon Wireless Customers Even More Freedom [vzw.com]

    Verizon Wireless' new Month-to-Month agreement gives customers the freedom to purchase new devices at full-retail price, or use their own CDMA devices without the commitment of a one- or two-year contract. Additionally customers can terminate their agreement at the end of any month without paying an Early Termination Fee.

    No, you don't get a plan discount, but I don't believe that the plan pricing has to do with the ETF or the subsidy anyway.

  • Re:new york times (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:40PM (#30080542)

    So this change is a change to the contract. If they change your contract, you can get out of it for free.

  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

    by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:52PM (#30080700)
    The Droid is coming to T-Mobile. Google for it. Android Guys have the article I believe.
  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by AmigaMMC (1103025) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @06:56PM (#30080760)
    I had Verizon for 5 years and regardless to them having the best network I dropped them for not having SIM card phones. I called customer service many times and asked for solutions but ultimately I made sure they knew that I was not going to support a company that does not support the standard SIM cards to I moved to ATT, got a Blackberry, called ATT and they unlocked it right away over the phone. I happily use it with local SIM cards when I travel around the world rather than paying Verizon astronomical fees for their so called "world phone." Plus Verizon has a horrible customer service.
  • by itsjz (1080863) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:06PM (#30080900)

    OK, this might be mean of me to say, but here in Oz I called my monopoly 3.5G telco (Telstra) and asked them to disable my phone's data service. I left SMS and MMS active, because they're not accident prone. It took 5 minutes which included hold time and a friendly chat with the operator.

    I tried doing this with Verizon. I was able to get data service disabled, but in order to do so I also had to block MMS messages, which are included with the text message plan. There was no other option. Not having to deal with random $2 charges is worth the lack of MMS for me (since I don't send them very often), but I still found it ridiculous that they couldn't be blocked separately.

  • Re:new york times (Score:5, Informative)

    by Achromatic1978 (916097) <{robert} {at} {chromablue.net}> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:16PM (#30081026)
    *IF* you act on it in a certain period, usually 30-60 days. You can't just ride it for another year, and then say "Oh, that was unacceptable to me" and get out that way. If you don't immediately act, that's viewed as performance of the contract, implying its acceptability to you.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:24PM (#30081132) Homepage

    AT&T is no different when it comes to nickel-and-diming their customers to death.

    - I have unlimited messaging on my family plan. It allows me to send unlimited SMS and MMS messages.
    - I quite often accidentally push the dedicated "MediaNET" button on the phone. This opens a browser, and I am charged $0.01 per KB (rounded up, of course).
    - You can have them block the browser, but blocking the browser blocks picture messages (both sending and receiving).

    So either I put up with paying an extra buck or so every month (across five phones) or I shut off MMS entirely.

    There's other games that cell carriers like to play, too:

    AT&T loves charging you "upgrade" fees when you upgrade your phone (quite separate from getting charged for the phone itself). They claim it's so they can update their system - which is of course a gargantuan lie. I sat on the phone for twenty minutes coaxing the CSR into refunding it for me, last time they did it. The same goes for "activation" fees. I signed a two-year contract with an early cancellation fee; there's no reason to charge me on top of that. (I got that fee refunded as well.)

    Seriously, people - call your cell service provider next time you upgrade your phone. Insist that they refund the "upgrade" fee, and if they need a reason tell them they're obviously charging you for nothing (since you could have merely obtained your phone some other way and they'd never know). A two-year contract is enough to satisfy their "well we subsidized the phone" fake concerns. AT&T will cave to your demand - if enough of us do it, maybe they'll stop charging it altogether. I can only assume Verizon and Sprint will follow suit given enough customer pressure.

    I don't even want to start ranting about SMS messaging rates without a plan. $0.20 for a 160-byte text message that (quite literally) costs them nothing? That's where to look if you want to show nickel-and-diming...

  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Informative)

    by techoi (1435019) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:25PM (#30081144)
    If you travel a lot outside the US you can just purchase a local access SIM card for the geographical area you are in. Pre-pay, pop it in your compatible phone, and save a bunch of money usually.
  • by IronChef (164482) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @07:45PM (#30081362) Homepage

    My 5 year old Sony Ericsson ATT phone played the same games. There was a big "Charge Me" button on the face.

    I always dig into phone settings, find wherever the data stuff is configured, and #*@(! mangle it so even if I push the wrong button the phone won't go online.

    Mobile internet and even SMS just isn't worth what all the telcos want to charge me.

  • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:05PM (#30081582)

    I had that happen. I specifically called them to have them block data service.

    The next 2 months each had data charges that I had to call them up and insist they remove the charges and enforce the block.

    Verizon sucks. I never want to use them again. They nickel and dime you worse than any other provider.

  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by GIL_Dude (850471) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @08:14PM (#30081678) Homepage
    You can keep an old (but functioning) phone around and if you go to somplace "phone dangerous" like an amusement park, take the SIM out of your high-end phone, and use it in the old phone for a day. A lot less worry about the phone getting wet or damaged, etc. When you are done it that environment, switch the SIM back over to the higher end phone.
  • Re:new york times (Score:2, Informative)

    by yottabit42 (1357921) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:16PM (#30082226)

    As for me, I can't wait for LTE rollouts to become widespread. At that point, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon will all be using compatible networks and people will be able to switch without changing phones.

    No. For now only VZW and Sprint have announced they're going to LTE; most everyone else is going to UMTS before evne thinking about LTE. VZW is leading the pack on LTE as they're already working on a trial with my company. VZW should have LTE public by middle of 2010, far ahead of anyone else. And it will be awesome. :o)

  • by klubar (591384) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @09:36PM (#30082346) Homepage
    Actually I've found VZ customer service incredibly pleasant -- the hold times until you speak to a rep are rather long; but once you get a rep, it's clear they aren't measured by how fast they get you off the phone. The reps seam pleasant and remarkably well trained. (On the other hand, almost all of the VZ phones use the exact same interface so the training is easier.) I've found it relatively easy to make plan and service changes with verizon. I don't think I'd ever get a SBC (now called AT&T) phone.
  • Droid vs. Android (Score:4, Informative)

    by crow (16139) on Thursday November 12, 2009 @11:43PM (#30083234) Homepage Journal

    No, you're confusing Droid with Android. Droid is a specific Android-based phone made by Motorola and currently only available through Verizon. Droid is also, by most measures, significantly better than any other Android-based phone.

  • by JerryQ (923802) on Friday November 13, 2009 @05:19AM (#30084696)
    “Texting is the closest thing to pure profit ever invented” – Sir Chris Gent, founder of Vodafone.

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