Saturday, November 14, 2009

Evil/Genius: Verizon Wireless

Have you ever noticed the button on Verizon phones for Get It Now or Mobile Web? It's the large button in the middle of the D-pad or some other prominent location, and you're always hitting it accidentally.

Well, every time you hit it, if you don't have a data plan, Verizon charges you $1.99 for use of its data network. Multiply that small charge by the thousands of people who accidentally hit that button, and you've got a $300 million business, according to an anonymous Verizon employee:

"The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I've had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I'm sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.

"Every month, the 87 million customers will accidentally hit that key a few times a month! That's over $300 million per month in data revenue off a simple mistake!

"Our marketing, billing, and technical departments are all aware of this. But they have failed to do anything about it-and why? Because if you get 87 million customers to pay $1.99, why stop this revenue? Customer Service might credit you if you call and complain, but this practice is just not right.

"Now, you can ask to have this feature blocked. But even then, if you one of those buttons by accident, your phone transmits data; you get a message that you cannot use the service because it's blocked–BUT you just used 0.06 kilobytes of data to get that message, so you are now charged $1.99 again!

"They have started training us reps that too many data blocks are being put on accounts now; they're actually making us take classes called Alternatives to Data Blocks. They do not want all the blocks, because 40% of Verizon's revenue now comes from data use. I just know there are millions of people out there that don't even notice this $1.99 on the bill."
Very clever, Verizon. Glad I'm not on your network anymore.

[Pogue @ NYTimes via Gizmodo]

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