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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Verizon Wireless To Issue $90 Million In Refunds 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-some-cash dept.
tekgoblin writes "Verizon Wireless had somehow been charging customers extra money on their bills for data that they actually hadn't been using. Approximately 15 million customers were affected by the billing error. According to BGR the FCC had been pressuring Verizon to respond to the hundreds of complaints that had been piling up. So Verizon's answer was to refund all of the overcharged money as soon as possible."
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Verizon Wireless To Issue $90 Million In Refunds

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  • And? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:05AM (#33783170) Journal

    At least their answer was to issue refunds.

    • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by erroneus (253617) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:51AM (#33783454) Homepage

      $90 million was no "accident." This is all standard operating procedure. In some circles, this is huge theft. If done to the government, it would result in criminal charges. Being quick to refund was nothing more than cover their asse[t]s. The telecoms are all resisting FCC inquiries and we know why... we KNEW why -- because they are all massively ripping off the public.

      • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gorzek (647352) <gorzek&gmail,com> on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:15AM (#33783706) Homepage Journal

        It's also hardly limited to Verizon. I've been with Sprint for several years and had a few occasions where they put strange charges on my bill. Of course, I called and complained and they took them off, saying they were "billing errors." I don't know what I'd prefer, that they're so shady they're purposely tacking bullshit charges onto people's bills, or they are so incompetent they don't know how to keep such mistakes from happening.

        I can only guess how many people get those charges who never bat an eye and just pay them.

        • by delinear (991444)
          It would be nice to think they were only incompetent, but you don't hear stories of people frequently receiving credit errors, or portions of their bill inexplicably removed. Either this happens a lot and people keep it quiet, or the system is set up in such a way that, if there are errors, they always go in the company's favour, or that said errors never flag internally for investigation and removal, so the customer has to do all the legwork.
          • Re:And? (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gorzek (647352) <gorzek&gmail,com> on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:36AM (#33783874) Homepage Journal

            The same thing happens with banks, for that matter, or any instance where you're charged for something. What are the odds you'll be accidentally credited instead of, say, debited twice for the same thing? And if multiple erroneous debits wind up overdrawing your account, how good are the odds that the offending party will reimburse the overdraft charges?

            These errors always seem to be at the expense of the consumer and it's a struggle just to get back to zero, much less be compensated for your time and trouble.

            • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:46AM (#33784606)

              The same thing happens with banks, for that matter, or any instance where you're charged for something. What are the odds you'll be accidentally credited instead of, say, debited twice for the same thing? And if multiple erroneous debits wind up overdrawing your account, how good are the odds that the offending party will reimburse the overdraft charges?

              These errors always seem to be at the expense of the consumer and it's a struggle just to get back to zero, much less be compensated for your time and trouble.

              Yeah, you're right about that (and it's statistically improbable at best.)

              Still, I did have one positive experience along those lines once. Gotta be about twenty five years ago, but at the time I was pretty broke and was waiting for some money to come in, so I could open another checking account and get away from a bank that had seriously screwed me over (in fact, that's why I was pretty broke.) Suddenly, a substantial amount of money appeared in my account: obviously a banking error, but I immediately withdrew some of it, used it to open an account at another bank, then immediately withdrew those funds and put them back in my original account. A couple of days later, the original bank fixed its mistake, but that was all the time I needed.

              But you're right, that's pretty goddamn rare.

          • by mea37 (1201159)

            You say it would be nice to think it's incompetent, but it sure sounds like you'd rather think they're out to get you.

            I have no problem at all believing that a billing system, which has many dynamic provisions for adding charges but probably only one or two pretty simple methods for adding credits, would tend to error in the company's favor.

            An error in the company's favor is defintiely more likely to be noticed. If I don't use data but I see a 1MB data charge on my bill, I know something's screwed up. If

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bberens (965711)
            There's a company down the street that does billing for (I think) Sprint. Some of their developers have interviewed here. Apparently it's a pretty rough shop to work in. I dunno if it's bad legacy code or not but they have constant problems and they're always getting after hours calls. It's a big deal if a billing cycle has problems. Part of the problem is that the bills are so unnecessarily complicated. And lots of stuff *does* get flagged before it goes out. That's what happens when the company cre
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by sjames (1099)

              So why is it then that the complexity so greatly favors invalid charges rather than creating an equal liklihood of credits or charges?

              In fact, over time since customers are far more likely to report an erroneous charge than a credit, the system should come to vastly favor credits.

              Perhaps the developers only get bug reports for erroneous credits?

        • It's also hardly limited to Verizon. I've been with Sprint for several years and had a few occasions where they put strange charges on my bill. Of course, I called and complained and they took them off, saying they were "billing errors." I don't know what I'd prefer, that they're so shady they're purposely tacking bullshit charges onto people's bills, or they are so incompetent they don't know how to keep such mistakes from happening.

          I can only guess how many people get those charges who never bat an eye and just pay them.

          Yes, I had much the same experience with Sprint. It's why I went to T-Mobile: believe me, I asked around and tried to get an idea of if I would experience the same problems. Everyone I spoke to at the time was very positive about T-Mobile's billing practices.

          With Sprint, I would get charged .25c per text message even though my account had unlimited texting. Then the bastards would spam me, and charge me for the privilege (the same .25c per message.) Then, on top of that, I would get Internet charges on a

      • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mea37 (1201159) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:21AM (#33783752)

        '$90 million was no "accident."'

        Maybe it wasn't, but I find this "matter-of-fact" statement amusing. What, the fact that it's a large number makes the idea of an error impossible? A systematic error in their billing system - the kind of thing I have no problem believing would slip past a corporate QA department - could easily rack up $90M across the book of business before being noticed.

        IT makes it possible to do everything - including screw up - a lot faster than you would imagine.

        'This is all standard operating procedure'

        Citation needed. If you've ever actually worked in a corporation, then you know that the management will do all manner of unethical thing, but only to the extent they can delude themselves into believing it's really ok. I've yet to meet an executive so far gone that he believes you can overcharge your customers and then repay the principal when you get caught. They like to be a lot more subtle than that.

        'The telecoms are all resisting FCC inquiries'

        All companies resist all manner of oversight. Oversight costs money even when you're following the rules. This doesn't mean that there should be no oversight, but it does mean that a company cannot be presumed guilty for trying to avoid oversight.

        • Re:And? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:59AM (#33784078) Journal

          A systematic error in their billing system - the kind of thing I have no problem believing would slip past a corporate QA department - could easily rack up $90M across the book of business before being noticed.

          So why would it take an FCC inquiry (and a large number of consumer complaints, endless websites/news stories about Verizon's bad data-charging habits, "Verizon Math" [verizonmath.com], and even firing employees who offer service blocks to customers [slashdot.org])?

          In most cases, okay, I can totally grok the 'never attribute to malice' line. But Verizon? Sorry... they're the type where this sort of thing is designed, not accidental. Also, that $90m is likely only a portion of the money they've taken in over the years.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ncy (1164535)
          as a customer of Verizon, i can say that i've received third-party charges multiple times on things i never used or even heard of, in the amount of i believe between $30-$50. good thing looked at the bill in detail. and what's more annoying is that Verizon support said they can't do anything about it in terms of refunding; had to call the third-party company listed on the bill, who only after getting threatened to be reported said "i'll talk to my supervisor" and refunded the full amount, sometimes with ext
        • 'I've yet to meet an executive so far gone that he believes you can overcharge your customers and then repay the principal when you get caught. They like to be a lot more subtle than that.

          It doesn't take much for executives (and people in general) to delude themselves into thinking they're doing the right thing. Executives have an ethical responsibility to do whatever is in the best interest of the stockholders. Therefore, if it means more money for stockholders for them to screw over customers with a slight possibility of getting a hand slap at some point in the future, then it is their moral responsibility to do so.

        • I've yet to meet an executive so far gone that he believes you can overcharge your customers and then repay the principal when you get caught. They like to be a lot more subtle than that.

          Besides, the executives plan on not getting caught to begin with.

        • Also, as someone who has worked on the technical side of the a large telco's billing department; I can guarantee that it was in fact a mistake and not malice. Our billing system constantly had errors. We weren't as large as Verizon, but we did have to issue refunds of maybe $100,000 every couple of months. It was usually do to some regulation and taxes being improperly applied. Telco billing changes so much so often it is hard to build a billing system that can change to any and all ways the government
      • First hand account? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mcrbids (148650) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:01PM (#33785502) Journal

        I can say first hand, with confidence, the $5 refunds they are "giving" are a joke, and pale in comparison to the problem.

        I have a large family, and *had* a large family plan to match. Every single month I had "mystery charges" that they couldn't explain. No, it's not just one month, it's month after month of spending hours on the phone sorting out why the !@#$ I'm getting charges without decent explanation.

        Charges with names like "account restoral fee" (on a line that had been in continuous use for years) and "recovery surcharge". (what's being recovered? And why am I being charged for it!?) Charges that, when enquired about, nobody could justify. Charges so egregious that it sometimes doubled my total bill.

        I wrote letters, I complained, I got stonewalled and nobody said much. I switched providers to Metro PCS, where the deal is simple: prepaid, unlimited calling, no contract. Wow, what a difference! I pay my bill, I get service. I don't, the service quits. The bill is always the same - no surprises, and they don't even have a shutoff/restoral fee so if I'm late paying the bill, I go online and pay, and within a few minutes, service is active.

        Verizon, I was one of your best customers, but now, you've lost me for good. And I don't hesitate to talk about it.

    • And:

      This is only the screwage we know about. Every day there is screwage by megacorps but happening on a smaller scale. Like when a Motel 6 manager refused to honor the 10% sale price that I had booked... and then when I called the national office, they forced him to honor the sale price, so he invented a story about how I was having sex with deskgirl, and then called the police to have me removed.

      - Or the power outlet somebody buys where only 2 of the 4 outlets work.
      - Or when you're charged shipping on a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Swanktastic (109747)

        It's interesting that your Motel 6 story is about a local franchisee screwing you over, and the national office (the Megacorps!!!) solving the problem for you.

        • Read more carefully. The national corporation *didn't* solve the problem for me. Yes they ordered the manager to honor the 10% off reservation (which is good), however the manager then invented a lie about me having sex with the deskgirl and threw me out. When I contacted the national corporation they backed the manager's decision despite it being a lie, so YES this is a story of screwage by a megacorp.

      • by rjstanford (69735)

        Why should WalMart take the financial hit by accepting a viewed DVD for return (which they can't resell at the same price) because you didn't like it?

        • >>>Why should WalMart take the financial hit

          They don't. Stores send all their customer returns to the original supplier and get money back. It's called a chargeback. The person taking the hit would be Sony or WB or whoever originally produced the crap movie.

    • by muridae (966931)

      The refund customers are getting is between 2 and 6 USD. The charge, per month that this occurs in, is 1.9 USD per Mb (anyone with a verizon plan want to confirm whether it's megabit vs byte? I don't deal with their data system). Sure, looks like a great refund, if this only happens to you once or twice or even three times. Anyone who has had to deal with this problem more, and it's not a real refund any longer.

      And the problem is not people who are using the internet on their phones, and then just lying abo

  • by skyride (1436439) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:05AM (#33783172)
    If you RTFA, it actually says the overages were caused by "built in applications" such as web features on the phone put there by verizon, and then charged $1.99 for 1MB of data used despite it being merely a few kilobytes downloaded.

    Also, the majority of customers will be receiving Credits instead of an actual refund. So essentially they will never get this money back.
    • by Pharmboy (216950) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:07AM (#33783186) Journal

      I did RTFA, Verizon said:

      "We will mail former customers refund checks. In most cases, these credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or refunds." which means actual refunds for larger amounts, and for the $2-$6 range (most customers) it will be a credit on their next bill. Looks like they are trying to do the right thing. For once.

      • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:12AM (#33783232)

        Looks like they are trying to do the right thing. For once.

        Right...after the FCC told them to do something about it. This is totally conjecture, but I doubt Verizon would have been so willing to issue refunds without pressure.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:33AM (#33783346)

          But but but the FCC is a government agency! They can't possibly do anything right! The free market should have sorted everything out!

          • by Kilrah_il (1692978) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:38AM (#33783374)

            So on the blue corner we have Verizon, a mega-corp. out to make a buck. By definition, everything they do is evil. On the red corner we have the FCC, a government agency and as such incompetent and wrong-doing by default.
            Looks like we have a tie.

            I mean people, we have a company that charged incorrectly (I'll even admit, based on what is written on this thread - indecently). People complained, the FCC checked on this and Verizon responded by refunding people. I'd say that for once the system worked - someone X did bad, someone else (Y) corrected him and then X did the right thing and gave the money back. I say cheers!

            • by alen (225700)

              they charged correctly. before the iphone and the app store Verizon had it's Get it Now where you can watch TV via your cell phone via 3G as well as buy games from an app store. the button to launch it was very easy to press and resulted in a dollar or so of data charges a month for people who never subscribed for $15 a month.

              happened to my wife who had VZW phones until her iPhone 3G

            • by tsj5j (1159013) on Monday October 04, 2010 @12:29PM (#33785118)

              I'm really curious about how the US legal system works.

              When a user shares a song, they pay statutory damages hundreds or thousands of times of the song's original value.
              When a corporation rips off the public (by accident or on purpose), they get to just refund what they took without any "encouragement" to make sure it doesn't recur.

              Is that right, or am I missing something?

              • In order to get statuary damages, you need to go through some kind of legal process - be it a law suit or just a fine by the regulatory body (i.e. FCC). By admitting their wrongdoing promptly and offering instant refund, they managed to prevent this process.
                A user can still file a law suit claiming statuary damages, but most (all) wouldn't bother.

                • +1 accurate. When the US DOJ sued the record companies in 2000, the companies avoided the heavy fine if they lost a lawsuit by simply offering to refund ~$20 to each and every purchaser of a CD. The DOJ agreed.

                  The same thing happened a few years later with Paypal. And now with Verizon.

          • by Cwix (1671282) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:39AM (#33783378)

            Dont worry its just pretend time now... Just pretend that either the FCC wasn't involved, or that it was the FCCs idea to do it in the first place.
            Then accuse the FCC of persecuting small businesses.

          • by nicolas.kassis (875270) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:44AM (#33783416)
            Since when is the wireless world a free market?
          • >>>But but but the FCC is a government agency! They can't possibly do anything right!

            The Government does *sometimes* do the right thing. Such as when they filed a lawsuit against Toyota and ordered them to replace customers' engines which had died before reaching 100,000 miles (Toyota refused to honor the 100K warranty). But then the government does wrong things too: Like sending 1 billion dollars of the "U.S. Stimulus" Bill to Africa. And Brazil. And also some to India. Not sure how sendin

        • by TheLink (130905)
          Maybe we should give them both a cookie and say "Good boy!", and hope they continue behaving like this.

          Hey it works for dogs :).
          • Maybe we should give them both a cookie and say "Good boy!", and hope they continue behaving like this.

            How about we put a shock collar on both of them? One that goes to 11.

        • This is totally conjecture, but I doubt Verizon would have been so willing to issue refunds without pressure.

          Hmmmm.... while I'm not sure a proof of this conjecture can be produced via rigorous mathematical analysis, any mathematician with Verizon service probably disagrees.

          • by omnichad (1198475)

            Verizon mathematicians don't know the difference between dollars and cents [blogspot.com].

            • I confirmed it with the representative I spoke to, and she confirmed it "point zero zero two cents per kilobyte."..... I received my bill and was charged $.002/KB - which is dollars - "point zero zero 2 dollars per kilobyte"..... I'm still currently on the hook for the $71 and change.

              That's pathetic. He should have been charged $0.71 or 71 cents.

              He wasted 25 minutes to a Verizon rep who kept insisting .002 dollars is the same as .002 cents
              Stupid shit. Stupid fuck. Stui9d college dropout. I would have been cursing at the guy.

      • by skyride (1436439) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:32AM (#33783338)
        You read it wrong:

        "In most cases, these credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or refunds."

        So no, there will be a lot of people owed more than $6 dollars and receiving credits. Regardless, in the vast majority of cases, its still $2 they should never have been charged.
      • by ZedNaught (533388) on Monday October 04, 2010 @09:48AM (#33783566)
        Verizon never does the right thing. While they are refunding the money for the accidental data usage, they are also imposing a mandatory $9.99 minimum data plan on every wireless customer with a browser capability on their cell phone to prevent this from being a problem in the future. So they give back $90 million and collect $9.99 per line going forward.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zeropointburn (975618)

          It seemed like everything they did after taking over Alltel was designed to drive people away. They gave us a few months on the original much more generous plans before booting everyone to overpriced Verizon plans. Viaero has been awesome since I switched, with the same or better plans and coverage as Alltel. It was much much cheaper with Viaero to get unlimited access for both lines compared to any other carrier.

          I'm not a shill (and not AC), just a satisfied customer. I'm sure they are probably ju

        • by C0L0PH0N (613595) on Monday October 04, 2010 @10:59AM (#33784080)
          This is absolutely correct. Verizon has a very small number of phones, called Feature Phones. You can find the models on their website, here [verizonwireless.com]. If you purchase a Feature Phone (and that is all I purchase, as I don't want the data capability), then they won't charge you the extra 19.99/month for the data plan. If you purchase any non-Feature Phone, as most of them are, then you will automatically be charged 19.99/month. You cannot get out of it. So if you are not into texting or browsing the web on your phone, and just want to use it for voice mail and calls, as I do, then you MUST get a Feature Phone. Further, unless you ask, the Verizon policy requires their representatives to sell you a non-Feature Phone set. They are forbidden to advise you, "unless asked", about the existence of Feature Phones. This is Verizon veering very close to being evil, certainly completely interested in their customer's money and not at all in their customer's best interests.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Myopic (18616)

            Very close to evil? Sheesh, you are a lot more forgiving than I am. I think it's evil to fail to provide straight-up easy plain non-bundled prices for each individual product in your line. It's hard to find any companies which offer that, and impossible for communications companies. But, eh, I'm sort of a hater that way.

        • Verizon never does the right thing.

          Right is relative. I doubt you'll hear their stockholders complaining.

      • by Myopic (18616)

        Doing the right thing? Hey, it's a sliding scale, but the minimum would be to include nominal interest along with the refund. Are they doing that? If not I'd personally be wary of calling it "right". Also, a sincerely worded letter bearing the CEO's signature would be part of the minimum.

        Changing the entire way they do business would be better than minimum, and easier to call "right". But, hey, it's a sliding scale.

    • by kidgenius (704962)
      Actually, I had to call up to dispute a data charge on my wife's phone. Despite actually going onto the web site earlier this year and completely BLOCKING all data/web access to the phone, last month there was a data charge. The VZ tech tried to argue with me saying that even if I didn't have a plan, data could still be charged. I then told her I set up a BLOCK on all data. Looking deeper into my account, she saw the block that had been put in place, and she was completely flummoxed how I would get char
  • Good (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:08AM (#33783190)

    I don't even have a Verizon account but I feel entitled to money by proxy for the suffering they have imposed that has filtered into the shared unconscious of humanity.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:12AM (#33783226)

    They had designed their phones such that there was a shortcut button to their web portal. Users without a data plan, taken to that portal, were charged for the data at the usual ridiculous out-of-plan rates. They could have the portal blocked but this just meant they were charged for the data used in retrieving the "this portal is blocked" page instead. So there's an interesting bit of background detail going on here. Maybe $2 per customer isn't much to the customer, but it's a tidy bit of extra revenue to Verizon.

    • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:36AM (#33783372)
      I think Sprint is worse. Because whenever I would play an MP3 from the memory card in the phone, we got charged for data. I think their music player connects to the internet for some reason. My phone had a habit of launching the music player without my knowledge sometimes, perhaps due to a button placed on the outside of the phone. One day it played the same song all day and we were charged for several hours of internet use. This is regardless of the internet connection being explicitly turned off in the settings. If I tried to use the web browser, it would say the internet connection was off and ask if I wanted to turn it on. If I played an mp3, it would say nothing and just start charging for data.
      • by gorzek (647352)

        That sounds more like a defective phone/application than something Sprint was specifically doing wrong. I've had multiple Sprint phones over the years and never had a music player that used Internet access when accessing local data. I hope you complained to Sprint about it. They've always been pretty good about crediting me when there's a billing screwup.

      • what kind of phone did you have?

        it's pretty common these days for software to go out to get the CDDB information for any tracks that don't contain the full ID3 tags. though I've only seen one or two phone media players that do it without asking you?
    • I have a verizon phone and have this problem as well. There's not just the portal, there's a dozen other "apps" that make use of the dataplan and they have them all hotkeyed to the front of the phone. Not only can you open them by mistake, you can also set them off just by having it in your pocket. To me it was clearly intentional on verizons part. I called them and told them I not only didn't want a data plan, I also wanted them to shut off text and data to my phone entirely, so it couldn't be used. You ca
    • by xaxa (988988)

      I used to hit the "Internet" button on an old pay-as-you-go phone accidentally, and I'd be charged for viewing the home page.

      Fortunately, the charge was £0.20/MB, charged in 1kB increments, so the minimum charge for a data session was 1p. Also, being charged pennies made me far more likely to actually use the service, since I could read the news and check my email for less than 20p. That's 20p more than they'd make from me if the minimum charge had been £1.50.

      How can $2 possibly be reasonable?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      As far as I can tell, all carriers do this. My last tracfone and my new one have the same problem, although it's harder to accidentally hit the button on my new LG phone than on the old Motorola. It's also harder to open the phone, though, so I'm not sure it's a win.

    • They had designed their phones such that there was a shortcut button to their web portal. Users without a data plan, taken to that portal, were charged for the data at the usual ridiculous out-of-plan rates. They could have the portal blocked but this just meant they were charged for the data used in retrieving the "this portal is blocked" page instead. So there's an interesting bit of background detail going on here. Maybe $2 per customer isn't much to the customer, but it's a tidy bit of extra revenue to Verizon.

      Sprint did something kinda similar to me (note that I've not been with Sprint for some time.) I had a semi-smart phone that had a built-in Web browser. It was pretty limited, and I didn't bother to buy a data plan for the thing. In any event, it turned out that every time I went to check my minutes, I was being charged about two bucks per kilobyte. My first bill had a couple hundred dollars of "data charges" on it, with no explanation of what they were for. So I called up and complained, and at first I met

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:14AM (#33783236) Journal
    As opposed to the usual error free billing errors?
    • These were erroneous billing errors that were made, um, in error.

    • by Myopic (18616)

      Whoops! The error was getting caught. Actually, they always get caught; the error was getting caught badly enough for Big Government to come in and save the day.

  • Cost of billing? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:35AM (#33783366)

    These customers would normally have been billed at the standard rate of $1.99 per megabyte for any data they chose to access from their phones.

    Meant to say, "... standard obscene rate of ..." Thats oligopoly cartel price gouging at its finest.

    I work in the telecom industry (not mobile phones). Over my career all the costs of landline long distance service have collapsed except for the cost of billing. Thus most of the "whatever cents per minute" cost is the cost of detailed billing, auditing, handling complaints. Finally the industry moved to "all you can eat" billing and everyone benefits.

    I have no interest at all in owning a "smart phone" or whatever until per meg billing is abolished. I'm guessing out of the $2/meg they blow about $1 on customer support / complaints / legal / billing clerks time / software costs in support of the billing process itself and stash about $1 in pure profit.

    If I'm going to pay money to get screwed, the scenario is not going to revolve around cell phone billing. F that whole industry and the shills and crooks that run it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by inode_buddha (576844)
      Reason why I'm strongly considering switching *from* Verizon: I only make about 1/2 dozen long-distance calls per year, landline only -- I don't have a cell phone. I'm paying about $75 per month even if I make *zero* calls incoming or outgoing. That's like a grand per year. There is no way in hell that it costs them that much to maintain the line, nor to operate their biz. I'm looking at a "dumb" cell phone which has no features other than being just a phone [jitterbug.com]. No contract nor termination fees - the phone is
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by vlm (69642)

        Flat rate per month with no roaming nor long-distance charges.

        Your jitterbug is OK. The marketing, last time I was unable to DVR FF past it, was aimed at the gray/white haired crowd. If you could hold your nose and buy it despite its marketing, you could probably hold your nose and buy a virginmobile phone, which has different, yet equally offensive marketing. And it is something like a quarter per minute prepay, unused balance zeros after a couple months. Which is psuedo-flat rate at ultra low usage, but in practice runs single digit dollars per month. You may s

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iammani (1392285)

        If I may say so, thats (jitterbug) a complete rip off, you will much better of with a pay as you go t-mobile prepaid plan. Its $100 buys $1000 minutes thats valid for 1 year. You can top-up when you want to and be billed exactly for the minutes you have used.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        Is $75 normal? (I can't see the Verizon site outside the USA.)

        Round here, basic phone service is about £10-15/month (slightly less if you shop around). Once you're paying £20/month or more you've got free anytime calls to most of Europe, the USA and the more modern Commonwealth countries. However, I don't know anyone with basic phone service, since broadband tends to be about £5/month extra.

        Mum has a pay-as-you-go (prepay) mobile phone, which is fine for occasional use. I think she spends

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Per meg billing is great. It just hast to be at a reasonable rate. Half a cent per meg is reasonable, at the moment. You pay for what you get.

      Metering a connection doesn't cost anything at all. You're probably right about the rest of it, but that doesn't change with unmetered billing anyway. And unmetered services encourage companies to oversubscribe their systems and hope nobody actually uses what they've been sold.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vlm (69642)

        Metering a connection doesn't cost anything at all.

        Well, that would truly be a miracle. It costs a heck of a lot more to bill on a meter rather than flat per month.

        You can't seriously claim there will never be a cost in capital or labor when connecting operational gear with the financial servers? Never an opportunity cost or labor cost when scheduling maintenance? Whats that, we'll make it all quadruple redundant? No problem open the wallet wide... Never a customer support call to complain about overcharges? Now that operational logs are "valuable" th

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          How much do you suppose it costs to fight with people who go over the caps on their "unlimited" plans? Or to get sued for false advertising because of those unlimited plans? Or to monitor each and every packet to make sure nobody is torrenting or tethering?

          Billing by usage for a modern information service should be a matter of turning on an option in some software you already bought, and hooking that up to your automatic report generator. A little bit of setup cost, and almost not cost from there on.

          • by vlm (69642)

            Billing by usage for a modern information service should be a matter of turning on an option in some software you already bought, and hooking that up to your automatic report generator. A little bit of setup cost, and almost not cost from there on.

            Well, you're talking "should be". Maybe if you buy your billing servers and routing/monitoring gear all from the same place and keep their versions up to date and in sync with each other. Also, now that one vendor owns you, they can extract all kinds of future costs at their whim. On the other hand, I'm talking about how the real world actually works, or more like, doesn't work.

            Also, I think you might be aiming a little simplistically. Yes, once you enable SNMP access you're all done, so whats the big d

    • Re:Cost of billing? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:29AM (#33784388)

      people think of me as 'gadget freak' and I have at least 6 pc's always running (mix of linux, bsd, xp, win7), I do embedded development (very much into arduino things these days) and I have my own hardware lab at home. I live in the bay area and have 30 yrs in software devel.

      but I don't own a smartphone. don't really want to buy one either (or rather, don't want to pay $100/mo for the priviledge of being with the in-crowd and walking around touching a small flat panel pad thingie).

      phone companies suck but mobile phone co's suck even worse. the whole system stinks. if your company is paying your way, fine. mine isn't and I'm not into all the hassles and 2yr contracts that come along with this in-crowd game.

      its almost a fulltime job just knowing the various carriers, models, and having to dispose of your broken model (these aren't fixable by regular people and they are EOL'd very quickly) and relearn some new one, that's just not fun to me anymore. I can transition from one pc to another easily enough but doing that between various level of lock on phones is just crazy. (the vendors do this to us and we seem to just accept it!)

      I choose not to take part in this rat race. I know that 'phone == fun' to a lot of you but it isn't that way for all of us. the carriers and the various lock-downs, fees and contracts all make a really unappealing package for those who are not already sucked into the system.

      I get enough internet at home and at work. don't really need it while I'm away from my desk or system.

    • I have no interest at all in owning a "smart phone" or whatever until per meg billing is abolished.

      Well, I have T-Mobile and they're pretty good about it. I pay about $25/month for unlimited data. Now, as I understand it, you get 3G speeds up 'til ten gigs, after which they back you off to Edge network speeds. Some outfits just shut you off if you go over some limit, but even if I go over that ten gigs I still get service.

      I'm not actually sure if that policy is still in force, however. But I've never had an issue with them, not one.

    • by IorDMUX (870522)

      I have no interest at all in owning a "smart phone" or whatever until per meg billing is abolished.

      Many carriers have been moving to this billing method, over the past few years. My wife and I just moved from a Verizon plan with per meg billing on one phone and per text billing on the other to a Sprint plan with unlimited data and texts -- for the same price. The signal coverage isn't as good as Verizon (you get what you pay for), but it is quite liberating to not have to count texts or data allowances against days remaining in the billing cycle.

  • by troll -1 (956834) on Monday October 04, 2010 @08:50AM (#33783442)
    Mobile providers make way too much money. They're always nickle and dimming.

    Thank God they don't run the Internet

    Otherwise:
    • You'd buy your computer from your ISP and it wouldn't work with any other ISP.
    • Email would be like texting, sold as a separate service.
    • There would be no DNS. You'd get IP addresses from directory services, the way you get telephone numbers, and type them in your browser.
    • Your time on the Internet would be billed per minute.
    • Your monthly bill would list every website you went to. Overseas sites would be billed at a higher rate.
    • by bsDaemon (87307)

      I'm sure there would be DNS. It does a grand bit more than many people realize. Additionally, I suspect that in your scenario, there would be a dramatic curbing of malware and spam, especially once users began to get super pissed off about getting bandwidth usage charges for having to download the messages. Anything that makes the spam stop is acceptable.

      • by tekrat (242117)

        Find out who the spammers are and firebomb their houses then. Find out what school their kids go to and hold them hostage. Only after spammers start winding up in the Hudson (or Yellow River, whichever is appropriate), with two bullets in their head will spammers ever get the message and stop.

        And why is the relevant to this entire story about Verizon? Because if you ask any spammer, he'll tell you he's "just a businessman". Another thread for this slashdot post had someone claiming that no excecutive at Ver

  • As others have noted, this is because of the practice of making the internet connection the most easy to select thing on the phone... despite the fact that extremely few people without smartphones use the internet on their phones. The two phones I had before I got an unlocked Nexus One were like this - you had to be careful because it's so easy to start the web browser, and there's no way to disable it. Nowadays, people also complain about the bloatware on Android phones, and now there's no easy way to get an unlocked Android phone.

    Sure, these companies can get away with whatever they want because there's not really a cell phone free market in the US. Since they're already getting away with whatever they want, though, why do they purposefully make customers angry with this kind of stuff?

    They act as if they don't actually make any money on selling phones and service, and their business model relies on tricking people into ridiculous charges. That's obviously not true, and it's simply insulting to the customers not only to nickel and dime them "legitimately", but also to trick them into paying ridiculous fees like this.

    I *don't* think there should be more regulation, but I hope that the FCC continues to do things like this, to the point where it's no longer profitable for the cell carriers to act like such assholes. Maybe then people won't hate them so much, too.

    • by trapnest (1608791)

      there's no easy way to get an unlocked Android phone.

      Never heard of craigslist or ebay? I unlock phones every day. It's not a hard thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vlm (69642)

      there's not really a cell phone free market in the US.

      I *don't* think there should be more regulation,

      If, as you correctly observe, the market is unfree, why wouldn't you want it to be regulated to be fairer? There seems to be no other valid justification for regulation, so why apply it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Myopic (18616)

      I *don't* think there should be more regulation

      YOU DON'T?!? Fer fuck's sake, what will it take to get through to people like you? You sit there and rant about bad corporate behavior, you recognize that government is the solution to the problem, and then you state that you don't favor more regulation. There is this asinine anti-regulation ideology in America for which we all suffer, and it's a big pain to deal with.

  • my wife's VZW blackberry and my Sprint BB do this all the time. in my case i thought it was pressing on something but it would call my wife's grandmother. i might have called the number a few weeks ago and it wasn't in my address book and not in the recent calls list. yet somehow the phone would spontaneously call her.

    in my wife's case she keeps calling me and all i hear is background sounds. i'll hang up but she calls again

  • My very first FiOS bill arrived at more than double the two year guaranteed price.

    Weeks later, they still haven't sorted it out.

    • by tekrat (242117)

      I had the same issue: I signed up for 89.99 per month, and on month 1 I recieved a $220 bill. Needless to say, after many heated calls to Verizon, it was only after I contacted the FCC and the State Attourney General that Verizon was even *willing* to discuss a renegotiation of the bill.

      Before that, all I got from them was "pay the bill" and "the salesman lied to you, it's $220". Verizons reps always believe what the bill says, not what your contract says. I was asking where these extra charges came from, a

  • by bmidgley (148669) on Monday October 04, 2010 @11:00AM (#33784086)

    It looks like this is unrelated, but a fun adventure for everyone.

    I had a motorola flip phone I was using for tethering with verizon in 2007. I started getting bills for $600, $700, $800 for each month. I would call in and they would fix it. After about three months of this they told me they would not fix it any more. I had to get a firmware upgrade after which tethering stopped working. The device was worthless to me.

    When I looked at the bill, it seems I was being charged per minute if I connected through the 1xrtt network. One rep actually told me "unlimited broadband" meant only unlimited when it was 3g and I was responsible to pay for when it connected at the slower speed. But there was no way to disable the 1xrtt fallback. It was just a convenient lie.

    Then the collections department started calling me, saying "when do you think you will be paying this $1800 bill?" I asked them if they knew there were open tickets on the account to fix the broken charges. It basically came back to "but when do you think you will be paying this bill?"

    I insisted on a device replacement and they got me a palm treo that worked ok but never as well as the flip phone for what I needed. They also reversed all the bad charges.

    I quit verizon when the contract was done and I'm never going back.

  • it looks like they are not addressing another illegal charge: I have a VOIP account that gives me a local phone number to make international calls. I used it from my cell and Verizon charged me $1.4 / min to call Brazil, when I was not using their system to make an international call. I was using their network to call a local domestic number in the US. When discussing the problem with Verizon, they told me that their system was charged because of my call and they have to re-pass that cost to me... interest

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