Few people could remember a day without their smart phones. Coverage can make or break a date night, a job opportunity, or any important life event. Verizon is one of the biggest providers of wireless coverage but, unfortunately, the wireless provider has had a questionable history of keeping its promises to customers of providing consistent, affordable coverage.
Early last November, the popular wireless carrier Verizon admitted to, and began investigating, massive data charges on customer accounts that sometimes amounted to thousands of dollars. Verizon spokespeople indicated that they are following up with each user who contacts them to look over data use and clarify the charges. The story, however, goes back much further. Teresa Dixon Murray of the Plain Dealer broke the story of unexplained surges in customer bills. Verizon’s billing statements were sometimes double or triple the amount of previous bills—some customers were charged tens of thousands of dollars with no specific explanation. One man’s data spiked from 6 GB per month to 38 GB. One education center in Cleveland was told they had used over 1.3 terabytes of data in ten days.
In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission fined Verizon over $25 million and ordered a $52.8 million refund to customers who had received unexplained data fees. In that case, almost 15 million customers without contracts might have been overcharged for data use from 2007 to 2010. Verizon cited inadvertent billing mistakes at the time.
Two recent articles from The Verge further investigate Verizon’s recent questionable decisions where consumers are concerned. The FCC wrote two letters in December to AT&T and Verizon regarding sponsored data plans as a threat to net neutrality. Both companies created similar strategies that allowed customers to use services without adding to a data cap. This, according to the FCC, is damaging for competition and harmful to consumers. Verizon’s response to the FCC’s accusations that the free sponsored data directly benefit Verizon’s affiliated mobile video service is that the primary benefit is to consumers. However, the new chairman appointed under President Trump, Ajit Pai, dropped the inquiries. The free data offerings are popular among consumers and seem to have enhanced competition in the marketplace. Going forward, according to Ajit Pai, the FCC will focus on broadening broadband deployment and making more creative service offerings. The initial investigation was brought on net neutrality grounds but the FCC will no longer be enforcing them.
This year, Verizon has already been sued by New York City over promises Verizon broke regarding Fiber optic connectivity. In 2008, Verizon promised to pass every New York City residence by 2014 but thousands of people requested FiOS and Verizon did not install it. Access to FiOS is available in 2.2 million households, and Verizon disagrees with New York City’s definition of “passing” houses.
The wireless giant may be returning to the kinds of questionable practices it displayed prior to the lawsuits in the early 2000’s but it does seem to be taking customers’ concerns seriously. However, when individuals are harmed by companies they rely on for their daily needs, they deserve representation to help make up for their losses. Verizon class action lawsuits run rampant as a result of various issues with wireless coverage. Customers deserve champions who are willing to take up their mantles against large companies that attempt to deceive or defraud them.