FCC puts Verizon under the microscope for excessive cancellation fees and “accidental data fees”

by Mike
Posted December 4th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Cell Phone FeesCancelling your cellphone contract use to come with a hefty fee of anywhere from $175 up to $200+. The carriers justified this fee by highlighting how customers buying subsidized phones and then canceling their contracts was killing their checkbooks. Then a revelation happened last year — pro-rated cancellation fees starting at the same $175-$200 but decreasing by $5 each month were introduced meaning the longer you stayed in your contract, the lower the cancellation fee. It makes perfect sense. I shouldn’t have to pay for the full price of cancelling a contract that’s on month 20 out of 24. It appeared that the world was heading towards a happier place with carriers removing barriers and becoming *gasp* more consumer friendly. Then Verizon announced at the beginning of November that they were going against the trend and instead raising cancellation fees for “advanced devices” (read: all smartphones and even some “higher-end” feature phones) up to $350. This new price reduces by $10 each month instead of the old $5. Can you see the problem with this?

Anyone with a basic understanding of elementary math will figure out that after 24 months of decreasing by $10/month means carriers will have stolen $110 of your money for no reason. I don’t care what kind of BS excuse or reasoning a carrier tries to try, by the time you reach the end of your contract, if the sole point of cancellation fees is to recoup lost money on early cancellations, then the cancellation fee should be $0 — not $110. Verizon is netting an extra $110 on every smartphone user. It’s crap. But there’s another catch. Accidental data fees account for a healthy dose of cash as well. All of those stupid buttons on low end and mid-range phones that bring up all of those web services cost money. $1/MB. Even pushing one and closing it a millisecond later, noticing your error, will result in the $1 charge added to your account. This is less frustrating though because many users have written in stating that a simple phone call more often than not removes the fees. To each his own.

So what’s your call: Are you happy with the FCC’s new investigation and overall more aggressive stance on consumer rights or is it just another form of government “messing with life”. Hey, if it means saving me a few dollars and keeping crooked companies from squeezing every last cent from me, I’m all for it.


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