Oh Look, Another Completely Ridiculous Wireless Broadband Bill

from the ripping-off-retirees-is-our-business-model dept

Last week we highlighted the highly-flammable combination of users who don't read their contract fine print or know what a gigabyte is -- and carriers that seem incapable of properly alerting customers before their 3G bill requires a second mortgage. This week the Boston Globe has yet another story of this kind -- exploring how a Dover, Massachusetts man has been fighting Verizon Wireless over an $18,000 phone bill since 2006. The man (obviously annoyed about the impact this has on his credit report) missed the fact that his two-year contract with Verizon expired, and his new contract began billing him by the kilobyte. His son, who had tethered his phone to his laptop, quickly racked up thousands of dollars in overage charges after downloading 1,119,000 kilobytes. Verizon, for their part, were not particularly helpful according to state regulators:
"Kevin Brannelly, an official at the state Department of Public Utilities, tried to help the St. Germain family fight the bill because it did not seem right. "Never in my 25 years here have I seen such stubborn and senseless resistance to what is obviously a mistake," he wrote in an e-mail to St. Germain."

As with all these stories, Verizon justifies this absolutely insane markup over cost on their data service by insisting they at least made their ridiculously-constrictive pricing clear to consumers. Apparently not, given we've been watching a steady parade of these stories for years now. What has been made clear is that the cap and overage billing model isn't working for many customers. It also continues to be clear that carriers are doing a miserable job educating their users, and an even worse job implementing effective systems that alert a user before their bill goes utterly apocalyptic. While carriers often do reduce these charges after they're exposed in the press (though in this case half-off is still obnoxious) -- you have to wonder how many of these over-billing stories aren't being told.

Some carriers appear to be realizing that the millions to be made from ripping off retirees and the kilobyte confused isn't worth the endless bad press, and that helping your customers understand their bills might just help you differentiate your services. T-Mobile for instance is moving away from this cap and overage model, and last week announced they'd simply start throttling users back to slower (usually around 128 kbps) speeds should they cross their monthly cap. It seems like wireless carriers can either continue to rip people off until regulators get involved (or customers flee to more user-friendly carriers) -- or they can provide users with the tools necessary to help them adequately understand and control their monthly bill -- before it requires loan shark intervention.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: bills, mobile data, mobile phones
Companies: verizon

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  1. identicon
    CA, 6 May 2010 @ 5:10pm

    It's not a hard concept to understand, if the guy didn't read the fine print his bad.

    Try pulling the "I didn't know I was being charged by the byte/kilobyte/megbyte/bit after I went over my 1Gb cap" in Australia and you'll get laughed out of court.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.