Verizon Wireless Readies Refunds for Wireless Customers

Chris CrumBusiness

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Verizon Wireless reportedly intends to pay millions of dollars in customer refunds to customers who were charged for unintended web access and/or data usage. Amounts vary by source. The Wall Street Journal pegs the total at about $50 million. Some have the total as high as $90 million.

Verizon says the charges occurred as a result of software on some phones, but apparently only decided to issue the refunds after the FCC started poking around. Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica quotes a statement from FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison:

"We can confirm reports of an FCC investigation into mystery fees that appeared on Verizon Wireless bills costing over 15 million Americans tens of millions of dollars...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."

We are addressing billing error. Affected customers will get average of $2 to $6 refund on their Oct. or Nov. bill. Oct 04 11:01:04 via web

The company will notify affected customers of the charges and the forthcoming refunds over the next couple months, and they'll receive $2 - $6 credits on their phone bills. Here's Verizon's official statement from Mary Coyne, General Counsel:

In October and November, we are notifying about 15 million customers, through their regular bill messages, that we are applying credits to their accounts due to mistaken past data charges. 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.

As we reviewed customer accounts, we discovered that over the past several years approximately 15 million customers who did not have data plans were billed for data sessions on their phones that they did not initiate. 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. The majority of the data sessions involved minor data exchanges caused by software built into their phones; others included accessing certain web links, which should not have incurred charges. We have addressed these issues to avoid unintended data charges in the future.

Verizon Wireless issues credits to customers from time to time based on regular review and monitoring. When we identify errors, we remedy them as quickly as possible. Our goal is to maintain our customers’ trust and ensure they receive the best experience possible.

The story seems to indicate that it pays to complain. It certainly looks as if the FCC's investigation (sparked by numerous customer complaints) is what got the ball rolling on these refunds. 

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.