Verizon backs off $2 bill payment charge

The Internet speaks and Verizon is forced to listen.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Verizon is not doing much Internet

Verizon isn't doing much Internet "amping" with its failed attempt to charge users for paying their bills.

It must have seemed like just another day for Verizon Wireless executives. "I know," someone in the CFO's office said, "We'll charge people who make one-time credit or debit card payments on the phone or online $2 to pay their bill." It must have seen like another fine way to nickel and dime their customers and make the bottom line better. Then, the customers got word of it and all hell broke loose. A day later and Verizon announced it would drop this new charge.

In their statement, Verizon said, "Verizon Wireless has decided it will not institute the fee for online or telephone single payments that was announced earlier this week." Why? "The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions. The company continues to encourage customers to take advantage of the numerous simple and convenient payment methods it provides."

Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless' president and CEO added, that, "At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time." You think?

As word of Verizon's new charge had spread, out-raged users had taken to the social networks to voice their outrage. An online petition on Change.org stating, "It's not just about the money ... It's that Verizon thinks it can do anything to its customers, and that we're powerless to stop it. (Spoiler alert: We're not.)" garnered more than 100,000 signatures in a day.

At first, Verizon, following in the footsteps of Bank of America with its proposed $5 monthly fee for allowing users to use their debit cards, tried to tough it out. Earlier in the day, Brenda Raney, a Verizon spokeswoman, told Bloomberg News that Verizon wasn't "considering canceling the charges." Raney added, "Customers have a number of alternatives to pay their bill and not incur the convenience fee. Paying the fee is an option, not an absolute."

Users replied that they want the option of paying the bill the way they wanted to pay it and not one of the Verizon approved ways thank you very much.

Then, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took notice, and simply said, "On behalf of American consumers, we're concerned about Verizon's actions and are looking into the matter," in a statement.

Mere hours later, Verizon had backed down. Like the Bank of America and its charge, and more recently Go Daddy with its support of the Stop Online Piracy Act, we're finding that big businesses will, when pushed by the Internet-organized public, change their plans.

In the meantime, while Verizon Wireless has shown that while it can turn on a dime on its business plans when push comes to shove, its actual 3G and 4G Internet infrastructure continues to show signs of strain and the company's 4G service announcements aren't going to reassure anyone.

Verizon letter image by Matt McGee, CC 2.0.

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