Customer 'error' biggest cause of data overcharges

Verizon responds to a data overcharge problem by claiming customer 'error' is the biggest culprit

Ron wrote to say that when he read "Verizon billing error may be rampant" last week, he was gratified to learn that others are catching on to the fact that they are in the same boat with him.

"I have been fighting with Verizon for four years over overcharges of all kinds," he says. "I refuse to pay for these erroneous charges or for the late fees Verizon assesses when I do not pay them. These charges are a blatant and calculated means of deceiving and robbing customers. The company makes no apologies and -- without any remorse whatsoever -- attempts to mislead customers into believing they made the mistake and are responsible for the fees. It is outright extortion. We consumers need to join together and do something.  I've written to my Public Utilities Commission but it may take hundreds of letters and I'm not sure they care anyway."

[ Also on InfoWorld: "Verizon billing error may be rampant" | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

I forwarded Ron's concerns to Verizon. (The Cleveland Plain Dealer got a quick and thorough response to its original article on the topic.)  I heard back quickly from Verizon. "We have been crediting customers for unintentional data charges as customers bring the 'error' to our attention," wrote Tom Pica at Verizon.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, there were several reasons for the overcharges. One reason was a contact-backup service that should be free. But there are other ways a customer can be charged for data they did not -- or did not intend -- to use. "By far the biggest culprit," says Pica, "is a mistake by the customer in accessing the Internet on their device. To be fair, customers sometimes don't even know it's happened."

He gives an example of how easy it is to accidentally incur this charge without ever knowing you did: "A customer reaches into his pocket for his phone and pushes a key (the Internet browser key) in the process. When he looks at his phone, the screen is an Internet page -- something he is not used to seeing when he picks up his phone.  So he hits End to clear the screen and never thinks about it again. But this action can trigger a $1.99 charge."

Pica says the company is working on fixing the situation. "We need to do a better job explaining to every customer how and when they will be charged for data. At the same time we need to improve the usability of data services so mistakes like this aren't made. In the meantime, we are gladly crediting customers when and if this happens to them."

Meanwhile, Verizon customers, turn on your phone's keyboard lock to avoid pocket surfing and watch your bill for data charges. If you never acces the Internet from your phone, you can call to have that service blocked altogether.

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