The Verizon Refund Debacle

In case you missed the news yesterday and today, Verizon Wireless is refunding approximately $50 million to about 15 million of it’s wireless customers.  This stems from incorrect billing that the company did over the past few years.  In a statement posted to Verizon’s website they stated:

“We have addressed these issues to avoid unintended data charges in the future. … When we identify errors, we remedy them as quickly as possible.”

However, the FCC investigation into this is still ongoing.  According to FCC rep Michele Ellison:

“But questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner.”

The question still remains if the FCC will fine Verizon (Ellison did not rule that out).  They are still attempting to determine if Verizon “intentionally” charged a $1.99 per MB data charge to phones that did not have data plans.

Obviously the ramifications if Verizon was knowingly charging people for the data they didn’t use would be disastrous for the company.  At this point we can’t even speculate if that was the case, and honestly, we may never know.

But here’s what I do know.  I (and my wife and daughter) are Verizon Family Plan customers.  I have a smart phone and pay a $29.99 monthly data plan.  However, my wife and daughter do not have smart phones (they both the LG Cosmos).  My daughter just recently got her first phone so there has not been a problem with that, but my wife, periodically, over that past year or so noticed a data charge for her phone on our bill.  It wasn’t there every month, just a few times.  It usually ranged from $2-4.  A couple of times she called and inquired, but never got a satisfactory answer.  And, let’s face it, the charge was too small to put much effort into pursuing.

I can’t say that Verizon did this intentionally and I want to believe they didn’t because I really am happy with the service.  I can say that if I were going to set up a scam I would certainly think that billing a lot of people a little bit would be the best way to do it and not get noticed.  But that proves nothing.  I will withhold judgement and continue with our service with them.  But what I am a bit upset about is the settlement amount – between $2 and $6 per customer.  First, I have no idea how they have determined who the affected 15 million customers were and if we are even on the list.  Second, I calculated the total amount we were overcharged to be a good bit more than the refund that may be coming.  Granted it’s still a small amount of money, but it does leave a bit of a bad taste behind.