The FCC and Verizon Wireless announced a settlement Thursday in the long-running investigation into "mystery fees" charged to some subscribers over the past several years. Verizon has agreed to refund a minimum of $52.8 million overall to about 15 million customers and to make a record $25 million payment to the U.S. Treasury.
The FCC’s investigation focused primarily on "pay-as-you-go" data fees, in which customers were overcharged for data usage beginning in November 2007.
“People shouldn’t find mystery fees when they open their phone bills, and they certainly shouldn’t have to pay for services they didn’t want and didn’t use,” said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. “Today’s settlement also includes strong FCC oversight and accountability to ensure that Verizon Wireless fully repays what they owe to their customers and puts new measures in place to improve customer service.”
In a news release Thursday, Verizon Wireless said: “We made inadvertent billing mistakes. We accept responsibility for those errors and apologize to our customers who received accidental data charged on their bills.”
Verizon Wireless said it has already begun repaying the 15 million affected customers. The company added that some customers will be notified in upcoming bills that they will receive credits in their new bills, while former customers will receive a letter and a refund check in the mail.
Verizon Wireless said that most refunds will be in the $2 to $6 range, though some customers will receive more. Verizon Wireless noted that about five of every six of its customers were unaffected by the billing controversy. The company added that it has made improvements aimed at avoiding similar overbilling in the future.
“We are a company that listens to its customers, and in this case we got to the bottom of a problem and resolved the errors,” Verizon Wireless said.
Genachowski singled out Michele Ellison, chief of the FCC Enforcement Bureau, for carrying out the investigation and performing the hard work that led to the settlement.