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FCC Inquires About Controversial Verizon Fees 178

olsmeister writes "As previously noted here on Slashdot, Verizon Wireless has been increasing their early termination fees and actively charging non-data customers who accidentally press the wrong button and go online. The FCC has now sent them a letter asking why. The PDF of the letter can be viewed online. Maybe someone at the FCC does read Slashdot."
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FCC Inquires About Controversial Verizon Fees

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  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:40AM (#30334500) Homepage Journal
    The FCC gave Verizon two weeks to reply. And when a government entity or a large company sends someone a letter as serious as this, it usually has a statement to the effect "We'll take your silence to imply refusal to cooperate. If push comes to shove, we will take it to court."
  • How pleasant (Score:3, Interesting)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:43AM (#30334514)
    I just came a little while reading that letter. Some of the questions are worded in such a deliciously "we're going to screw you to the wall" manner... I'm starting to like the FCC more and more.
  • by PhreakOfTime ( 588141 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:58AM (#30334568) Homepage

    Sometimes, perhaps.

    Sometimes, though it just makes the company sending the letter look uninformed and foolish. If you would like to see an example of a foolish letter being sent, you can always read the Foolish Cease and Desist [demystify.info] letter a corporation sent to me a few years ago.

    Obviously, the sender of the above letter was making such over the top threats, that it was clear they had no understanding of the legal process involved. I imagine the thought that this foolishness would become public information, never crossed their mind. In the years that have followed, tens of thousands of people have viewed that letter, and the company who wrote that has had its business practices laid out for everyone to see, and has become a running joke in the community.

    But yes, in this case, the FCC probably has a little more professionalism and backbone, to see these sort of questions through.

  • Re:How pleasant (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @09:59AM (#30334570)

    They should also make text messaging free.

    That's right. I wrote free.

    If you put the price of a voice call, in 3 seconds to the (stupidly) expensive $.15 per minute, and compare it to the 3 seconds it would take to send a text message, you will find it negligible: .15/60 = $.0025 per second. $.0025 * 3 seconds / 10kbps for the voice data transfer = $.00075 dollars per kilobyte (aside: $.771 dollars per megabyte).

    Now let's say, for the sake of generosity, it takes a 16KB packet total, up and down for ack, all carriers, etc., to send a text message.

    It would cost $0.012 by my numbers...

    Draw your own conclusions, I am just playing with units.

  • Come on... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @10:18AM (#30334648)

    Its one thing to try and recoup the costs of smartphones that you all but give to customers. There is plenty to be said about that but I'll give that part a pass here.

    But to setup the OS such that a user can 'go online' as described only to be billed for it is just downright sleazy. I am quite sure that if any customers called in to complain Verizon's solution to them was that they just needed to add a data plan to their contract.

    Look, I'm not anti corporations/big business but so many business models have turned into 'how can we best extract money from people' rather than 'provide good service in return for money'. That type of thinking needs to change and it is the job of the government to do that. They are the best 800lb. gorilla that can reign in large corps.

  • Block Data? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by natehoy ( 1608657 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @10:28AM (#30334694) Journal

    Does Verizon allow you to block data?

    My wife's parents ended up with some incidental charges for accidental data access on their phones, called AT&T, and they refunded the amounts and asked if they wanted a "data block" put in place to prevent them from accidentally accessing data again. "Yes" "OK, we're all done, thanks for calling AT&T". Next day, my father-in-law tried the data access, and it came up "unavailable", and they've never seen a charge since.

  • by SaffronMiner ( 973257 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @11:42AM (#30335270) Homepage
    My Father died in October. He had a shared Verizon account with my Mother. They charged Mom $100 to terminate his account, even after I explained that he was dead. I wanted to terminate Mom's account as well, as she only talked to Dad on her cell phone. They refused to do it without having to pay more than $100 beyond the first $100! They told me Mom had to keep the account until it expired in July. While she racks up charges for a service she will not use; Her income is now very limited, she should be using the money to buy food and keep the house heated. A bit off topic to this tread but all of the paperwork and people you have to contact when someone dies is an absolute nightmare. People have been dieing for a really long time now, you would think it would be an easy one click process. Who is up for stating such a service? Oh right, Amazon already has that patented...
  • Re:Riiight (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @12:23PM (#30335550) Homepage Journal

    Well maybe and maybe not however there are a lot of government contractors and as a former one, I'd read slashdot and pass along interesting information to my contacts who, most of the time had already read it.


  • by Herger ( 48454 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:29PM (#30336236) Homepage

    It would be nice if they would do something about consolidation in the telecom market. I think it's a little suspicious that, of the four remaining major wireless carriers, there's a significant trend towards uniformity among plan features, hardware, and especially pricing. In fact, one might even suspect price fixing. I remain shocked every time I travel abroad at how little people pay for wireless outside the USA.

    All the government would need to do is do away with early termination fees for individual consumers, as well as mandate easy portability by forcing adoption of SIM or UICC cards, so users could quickly switch when a better deal came along.

  • by Beltway Prophet ( 453247 ) Works for ThinkGeek on Saturday December 05, 2009 @01:32PM (#30336264) Homepage Journal
    I've had a Mi-Fi (dedicated 3G Wi-Fi access point) from Verizon since the summer. Works great (trouble-free video conferencing from rural Virginia!), but there are consistently charges for SMS messages "received" -- which are not from anyone I know -- given that there's no way to retrieve them, seems kinda disingenuous.
  • What innovation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday December 05, 2009 @06:54PM (#30339046) Homepage

    No innovation here. As long as the ETF represents the losses that the provider would have had because of an early termination, I see no issue with it. If the cost of the phone is subsidized by the service contract, then an ETF should be the remaining subsidized cost of the phone. That should be specific to the type of phone, and spelled out in the contract.

    Now the real question is: should the providers be allowed to even subsidize the phones via a combination service contract? I say sure because many people need this as a way to bankroll the cost of a new phone (a real bank is less likely to grant credit because they don't have a particular interest in generating demand for phone services). For this to be a valid offering, it needs to also offer paid-up-front pricing for the phone, and service at the basic service rate. The basic service rate must not be more than the total term cost minus the ETF (no jacking the service rates to embed the cost of phones). Basic service must be available to anyone owning a compatible phone, too.

    The phone and the phone service are complements in microeconomics, just like Joel described [joelonsoftware.com]. In this case the phone company is assisting in lowering the cost of one to drive demand for the other which they make their real revenue on (supposedly). That's fine as long as the basic costs balance out (not considering the extra service someone might later choose to add on) for the consumer. The problem exists when these numbers manipulate the consumer to bring in un-earned revenues (much like banks do for all those service fees they charge which are way much more then the supposed costs they claim those are to cover).

    Again, there is no innovation here by Verizon, regardless of whether you look at this as a means to subsidize phones for people that cannot afford to buy them up front (and don't have the will power to save up to buy them later on), or look at this as a way to boost revenues by ripping off less savvy consumers ... because both of these things have been going on for decades.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein