Friday, December 04, 2009

FCC Questions Verizon About Absurd Early Termination Fees And Web/Data Buttons On Smart Phones

Verizon's Absurd ATF,
When we reported about Verizon's Absurd Early Termination Fees, we actually hoped that FCC would step in to help the beraved customers.
We specifically mentioned about the $120 ETF a customer has to pay at the 23rd month of the contract, just a month before the contract expires.
FCC has stepped in and bought both the issues to light and have sent Verizon a letter requesting an explanation of the fees and more. FCC also wants to know about $1.99 fee charged for accidental web usage by customers without data plans.

1. What information about the higher ETF does Verizon Wireless provide to
prospective customers, and when? How do consumers know whether the increased ETF applies to the device and service plan they would like to purchase? Please provide a description of whether or how a customer seeking to sign up for Verizon Wireless service by first selecting a device or service plan on the Verizon Wireless website would be able to find out about the levels and terms and conditions of the ETF, other than by calling up the formal Customer Agreement accessible in small type at the bottom of the web page. Please also provide a detailed description of how consumers receive relevant information across other retail sales channels, including retail outlets and sales made over the phone (if applicable). Please describe the format in which this information is presented, and provide sample materials.
6. It appears that if a customer cancels a two-year contract after 23 months, the customer would still owe an ETF of $120. Is this correct? If the ETF is meant to recoup the wholesale cost of the phone over the life of the contract, why does a $120 ETF apply?
FCC also queried about something else as well. Apparently Verizon customers with data service but with phones equipped with web button are charged $1.99 for accidental usage of these service bu inadvertently pressing the said button. FCC specifically queried about the New York Times article that suggested Verizon's shady tactics to profit from customers who accidentally push a dedicated Mobile Web button on Verizon phones.
 8. When does Verizon Wireless charge usage fees for access to Verizon Mobile Web? In particular, is there a minimum data amount or level of access that triggers charges, and if so, what is that amount or level? Which phones sold by Verizon have individual keys pre-programmed to provide for one-press access to various Mobile Web services? Is it correct that customers are charged for minimal, accidental usage by customers using these phones?

9. Can a customer re-program keys that provide for one-press access to various Mobile Web services to disable that function? If so, how can a customer do so, and how does Verizon inform consumers how to re-program these keys? If not, how does Verizon inform consumers that these keys cannot be reprogrammed, and that consumers may be charged for pressing them accidentally? The recentarticle also suggested that, even if a consumer asks to have the Mobile Web feature turned off, charges are incurred for transmission of a blocking notification. Is this correct? If so, are consumers informed that they may incur charges even after turning off the feature?
Verizon has until December 17 to respond to the FCC.

Complete letter sent to Verizon by FCC (PDF)


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