U.S. mobile service Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay the U.S. Treasury $25 million on top of more than $52 million in refunds to consumers for overcharging them, the U.S. regulator said.
In a settlement with the FCC, Verizon has agreed to a payment of $25
million to the U.S. Treasury even though the inaccurate billing was
"Internal billing processes can be complex and, in this case, we made
inadvertent billing mistakes. We accept responsibility for those errors,
and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charges on
their bills," Verizon daid.
The settlement acknowledges Verizon's prior announcement that it would
reimburse about 15 million current and former customers who may have been
mistakenly billed. The company will spend $52.8 million to reimburse those
customers. The company will also provide targeted information about data
usage and tracking to new and existing customers, in both English and
Spanish; establish a special internal team to track, identify and address
customer data usage complaints; and provide additional training on data
charge and credit issues to all of its customer-facing customer care
Verizon said that it had already begun the process of repaying the 15
million customers for "accidental" past data charges that the company
discovered through its own investigation in response to customer
inquiries. These inadvertent charges affect those customers who did not
have data plans and choose to pay for data usage on a per megabyte basis.
Verizon is notifying eligible current and former customers that it is
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, Verizon added.
By far the single largest problem, involving the vast majority of credits,
was caused by a very small data "acknowledgment" session sent by software
pre-loaded on certain phones. For Verizon customers who did not have data
plans and who were not otherwise using data features on their devices,
this triggered a "pay as you go" charge of $1.99.
"We never intended to charge customers for this "acknowledgment" data
session," Verizon said in a statement. "In other cases, we accidentally
charged customers for access to website links that were not supposed to
trigger data charges. Once again, this affected only some of the customers
who did not have data plans, and who were not otherwise intentionally
using the data features on their devices," the company added.
Verizon have put in place additional improvements to resolve issues that
caused these accidental charges. The company is changing software on
future devices to remove acknowledgments and prevent them from triggering
the small data "acknowledgment" sessions. Other steps involve enhancing
internal controls on website links that should be free to access, as well
as additional software improvements.