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Verizon Wireless still faces FCC scrutiny over wrong data charges

Verizon Wireless is trying to make good with its customers they wrongly charged for data services, but the nation’s biggest wireless service operator still faces scrutiny by federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission said Sunday that it will continue to investigate Verizon Wireless for charging 15 million of its cellphone customers for data services they didn’t intend to use. Such practices include launching an application or opening a cellphone Web browser accidentally. Over the past two years, Verizon said that it charged customers without data plans $1.99 per megabyte.

The FCC has rules against mystery fees, a practice known as “cramming,” where an unauthorized, deceptive or misleading fee appears on a phone bill (which can include wireless phone bills). Ten months ago, the agency launched an investigation into whether Verizon was cramming customers’ bills with unwanted data charges based on media reports (including David Pogue’s column in the New York Times).

The agency said in their release last night that questions remained in their investigation. Verizon is presented now with two regulatory actions, experts say.

1) The company can settle the investigation through a consent decree, which would result in Verizon paying a settlement fee. (A past example: In 2007, Univision paid a $24 million settlement fee after the agency found that it had violated children’s programming rules).

2) The FCC could slap a fine on the company through a “notice of apparent liability.” If Verizon were to respond, any of its statements about its practices would be under oath.

The practice of cramming has drawn complaints from subscribers of services offered by competitors such as AT&T. But it is unclear how broadly the agency is investigating the practice. A spokeswoman for the FCC declined to comment on whether its investigation included other carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel.

By Cecilia Kang  | October 4, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  FCC, Verizon  
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Next: Comcast-NBC Universal merger review hits FCC speed bump

Comments

I tried to call AT&T about reversing similar charges and they said too much time had elapsed (less than a year!). The FCC needs to jump on these other carriers so we can get our money back!

Class action lawsuit anyone?

Posted by: daiei | October 4, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Now would someone look at COMCAST.

Posted by: gunnysgt77 | October 4, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Do you really think the few dollars that Verizon is returning really amounts to what they stole? Steal a few pounds and the government requires a few ounces in penalty. Good business when you know that no one will go to jail and you'll get to keep the lions share of the illegal profits and you have had an interest free loan. Of course there are/may be a few expenses. Perks for government officials/friends??

Posted by: gunnysgt77 | October 4, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Gunnsgt77 has said a mouthful! They steal pounds and return a few ounces!

Look at the waiver order they asked for to receive billions in revenue in return for the promise of refunds. Well they received billions and never did as they contracted with the FCC and laughed in our faces.

Come on Julius get tough enforce and watch how the public benefits!

Posted by: rmaro2 | October 5, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

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