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Verizon Refunds Data Overcharges

The FCC says
it has been investigating Verizon over "mystery" fees on its wireless
bills, and that while it is glad the company will pay them back, FCC
penalties are still on the table.

"We can
confirm reports of an FCC investigation into mystery fees that appeared
on Verizon Wireless bills costing over 15 million Americans tens of
millions of dollars," said FCC Enforcement Bureau
Chief Michele Ellison in response to reports Verizon had conceded the
overcharges and would refund them to customers.

Verizon itself has put the amount of overcharges [which were attributed
to mistaken data charges], at more than fifty million dollars, dating
back two years," said Ellison in a statement
Sunday night.

the commission was glad Verizon was repaying them, but said questions
remain as to why it took the company two years to do so, "Enforcement
Bureau will continue to explore these issues, including
the possibility of additional penalties, to ensure that all companies
prioritize the interests of consumers when billing problems occur."

In a statement, Mary Coyne, Verizon Wireless deputy general counsel, Verizon Wireless. said the company wanted to "do right by its customers."

"In October
and November, we are notifying about 15 million customers, through their
regular bill messages, that we are applying credits to their accounts
due to mistaken past data charges, she said.
"We will mail former customers refund checks. In most cases, these
credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or

What happened?

"As we
reviewed customer accounts, we discovered that over the past several
years approximately 15 million customers who did not have data plans
were billed for data sessions on their phones that they
did not initiate," she said. "These customers would normally have been
billed at the standard rate of $1.99 per megabyte for any data they
chose to access from their phones. The majority of the data sessions
involved minor data exchanges caused by software
built into their phones; others involved accessing the web, which
should not have incurred charges."

She said steps have been taken to prevent a repeat performance, but suggested the refunds were hardly unique.

Wireless issue credits to customers from time to time based on regular
review and monitoring," she said.  "When we identify errors, we remedy
them as quickly as possible. Our goal is to maintain
our customers' trust and ensure they receive the best experience

The FCC has
been paying close attention to wireless bills as an overall effort to
address the issue of so-called "bill shock," charges that come as a
surprise to customers.