The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reached a record settlement of $25 million with Verizon Wireless over what it calls “mystery fees” the carrier charged its customers over the last several years.
The payment is the largest in FCC history and the settlement ends the agency's ten month investigation into the overcharges. In addition to Verizon Wireless's payment, the company will refund a minimum of $52.8 million to some 15 million customers.
“Mystery solved: today's settlement with Verizon Wireless is about making things right and putting
consumers back in the driver’s seat,” said Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau.
“Today’s settlement requires Verizon Wireless to make meaningful business reforms, prevent future overcharges, and provide consumers clear, easy-to-understand information about their choices. I am gratified by the cooperation of the Verizon Wireless team in the face of these issues, and pleased they are taking the high road.”
The FCC's Enforcement Bureau began investigating Verizon Wireless in January 2010 after large numbers of
consumer complaints and press reports about unexplained data charges. The investigation focused on
“pay-as-you-go” data fees -- charges of $1.99 per megabyte that apply to Verizon Wireless customers
who do not subscribe to a data package or plan.
“These inadvertent charges affect those customers who do not have data plans and choose to pay for data usage on a per megabyte basis,” Verizon said in a statement.
“We are notifying eligible current and former customers that we are applying credits to their accounts or sending refunds in October and November. Current customers will be notified in upcoming bills; former customers will receive a letter and refund check in the mail. In most cases, these credits and refunds are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger amounts. The rest of our customers, 77 million or roughly five out of six, are unaffected. We have taken steps to ensure this does not happen in the future.”