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back to article Verizon retreats on ‘convenience fee’ for online bill payment

Verizon Wireless has dropped plans to institute a $2 convenience fee for subscribers who pay their bills online or via phone calls. Yesterday the company quietly announced the fee would be started on 15 January, and it said was “designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill …

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Flame

See

See the industry does need SOPA/Protect IP. They could cut this outcry malarkey down to nothing with a few website take down orders.

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Paris Hilton

If this stuff gets MSM coverage...

...it might even get through to the B-Ark candidates in big corporates who come up with these braindead notions. Then we might all benefit from them understanding the potential downside. No doubt the droids in Verizon have been well & truly apprised of the value of Brand Image by the CEO!

Paris? Because her MSM coverage is fairly guaranteed (at least by the usual subset)

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Mushroom

Logical

I understand this perfectly well. Customers who take advantage of this payment method are those who left it a bit late to pay and are in danger of incurring a late fee. Verizon feels entitled to that late fee, and was just trying to bring a portion of it forward. I know of at least one bank that makes a hefty charge if you pay your credit card bill online within a couple of days of the due date. Banks, phone companies - all the same really. They'll both be first up against the wall together when the revolution comes.

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Unhappy

"Banks, phone companies - all the same really."

Nope. Phone companies allow you to phone anywhere. Banks only allow you to phone India.

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Anonymous Coward

It's been a long day

So I just can't upvote you enough for that Phone India comment!

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FAIL

Logical?

It's not logical, loon.

You are either late or on time, not "nearly late". And no, the company doesn't have a right to want a bit of a late fee for being nearly late. Get real.

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Facepalm

allow me to make the introductions...

Justin Clements, meet sarcasm, it appears to have passed you by the first time.

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About the same as others..

I pay my water bill in two installments. One due at the end of March, the other due (I think) in October.

Last year, I paid the March one at the post office a few days before it was due, A couple of days after it was due, I got a final demand for the full year's bill.

When I queried this, I was told that despite the fact the bill said the first payment was due by 31st March, the latest I should have paid it was by mid February...

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Phone processing does cost more

Ok, I know I'm practically asking to be flamed here, but...

While I'm glad the Internet payment fee was dropped, I wish that either a) they had kept the fee for phone payments or b) done away with phone payments altogether, and that every other non-essential utility would follow suit. They are a horribly inefficient payment processing method, usually contracted out to a third party, and subsidized by the bulk of the customers who neither need them nor would want them if they knew their price.

-d

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Alien

But what is it for

"While I'm glad the Internet payment fee was dropped, I wish that either a) they had kept the fee for phone payments or b) done away with phone payments altogether, and that every other non-essential utility would follow suit. They are a horribly inefficient payment processing method, usually contracted out to a third party, and subsidized by the bulk of the customers who neither need them nor would want them if they knew their price."

Now, I can understand this. The rest of it, not so much. What is the reasoning behind the processing fee? Does anyone actually know?

I BET THE ALIENS KNOW

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Anonymous Coward

Look on the bright side

At least phone payments require the employment of humans

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You're so out of touch

"please key in your card number followed by the hash key"

bip, bip, bip.

Your card number is "*******" is this correct? press 1 for yes, 3 for no

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Silver badge

Not necessarily...

"At least phone payments require the employment of humans"

Based on an experience trying to pay a bill in the US, not as many as you might think. I was trying to sort out a final bill, and it expected me to fight with a voice recognition system (and you thought that 'press 1 for...' was bad?) For one thing it wasn't calibrated for British accents and I had to repeat everything multiple times, then when it wanted a zip code for the address for the small refund, I lost the will to live (I was moving back to the UK). Fortunately they do have a few humans in there, and it did get sorted once I'd sworn at the automatics enough and been put through to one who was most helpful. This experience brought to you by the letters P, G and E.

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Silver badge

Seems a bit backwards

Here at least, you have to pay a 'convenience fee' if you want them to actually send you a bill.

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FAIL

Listening to your customers

Whilst I applaud the idea of listening to your customers, often a better strategy is to actually think before making these kinds of changes.

No doubt the additional revenue looked good on a spreadsheet of the type loved by certain MBA graduates. Perhaps best though just to pause & consider whether it is a good business strategy to piss off your customers.

Still, heads won't roll I expect, unless its very junior ones who didn't have much if any input in the first place.

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Big Brother

FCC

They retreated because of rumblings from the FCC, who threatened to investigate them.

I guess I actually got some "governmenting" for my tax dollars. God only knows what they'll screw up next week to make up for it.

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Big Brother

re: FCC

>>I guess I actually got some "governmenting" for my tax dollars. God only knows what they'll screw up next week to make up for it.<<

And I can't give you enough votes for this, unfortunately Cassandra-like, prediction.

I know. They'll revise the net-nuetrality regulations to apply the wireless rules to the wired portion.

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Fee to actually get a bill

I've always thought that charging customers to get a bill showing WHAT they are charged for should be illegal. Fair enough a small charge to receive it on ex-trees sent via Royal Snail or equivalent, but receiving a PDF / link to web based itemised bill should be free. I'm pretty sure if I was a contracted plumber or carpenter doing a job for a phone company and I sent a bill with a "TOTAL" and simply "Charges for works and materials, £5,000" they'd be pretty quick to NOT pay me.

Then again almost everyone in Norway uses electronic payments now anyway, so if a bill has a due date of the 4th Jan, we tell the bank to pay it on the 4th and the money goes there and then, IF we feel generous we pay a day before due date.

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Unfortunately in the UK

you tell them to pay it on the 4th, they take it from your account at Midnight on 4th, use it for themselves for 3-5 days, then pay it into the recipients account at midnight on the 5th day**

** or any time they feel, if it's late, not the banks fault, read the small print T&C's about electronic payments

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Silver badge

Getting Better

To be fair, a lot of UK banks seem to be sorting this now. I can pay my credit card bill, or transfer money between accounts at different banks on-line and most of the time it's there the following day. They're not all there yet, but it seems to be improving.

If yours is still bad, ask them when they're going to update, with a suggestion that you might need to 'make alternative arrangements' if they don't extract the digit fairly soon.

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Bronze badge

My insurance gives me a $2 a month reduction for not sending out a paper bill and paying by EFT. My Gas company does the same. It's hugs savings for them not having to send paper bills getting the money faster by EFT. So was Vertizion wanting to charge more for some thing that saves them money ?

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Silver badge

>eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time

s/need/greed/

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Anonymous Coward

Verizon better han BT

BT, cheeky f***ers charge a payment processing fee, not only do they want your money, they want paying to take it, at least Verizon listened to their customers this time.

Wish there was proper competition in this country.

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@ AC 10:23

Take more water with it mate. UK is miles ahead of most countries for telephony competition. I just switched from Virgin to Sky, paid £10 for new BT Open Reach line (rewired back to exchange), paying 19.95/month for line rental, unlimited broadband and all evening/weekend calls. Why stay with BT?

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BT only charged the payment fee for certain types of transaction (non-DD or not monthly I think). In effect they charged awkward gits for being awkward(*). As another person has already pointed out to you the UK has one of the most competitive telecommunications markets in the world. There are dozens of different companies you can sign up with and LLU is available on most exchanges.

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Unhappy

Whilst I am glad that this fee has been dropped and can readily understand the ire......

.........it generated I cannot help feeling that it is rather strange that US customers got so exercised over $2 (roughly a quid or so) when there are things about the mobile market on that side of the pond which surely must cost American mobile phone owners a great deal more than that. The fact that the carriers collectively in the US are a form of near monopoly gatekeeper with regard to *both* service provision *and* retail sales of mobile phones must surely cost the American customer far more in a year that this type of fee. The fact that buying your own phone and then buying a "plan" can actually end up costing you more over the lifetime of the contract is something that stinks of collusion between the carriers, with "phone-less" contracts being artificially over-priced. Oh no, not any kind of formal cartel - just a clear understanding of their common interests at the expense of millions of US customers. Verizon threaten a two dollar fee and there is outrage and the company has to back down. Yet US customers (apparently) accept this unholy alliance that in practice controls both access to services *and* to mobile phones in the large majority of cases, leading in turn to a situation where a mobile phone producer or a particular phone can in practice be shut out of the market unless he drops his pants for the carriers. Where is the outrage over that? I really do not understand the situation - anyone got an explanation that makes sense?

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Facepalm

And iirc the poor sods also have to pay to _receive_ a call! Though I might be remembering wrong

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Unhappy

Nope, you are correct. As a Brit living on the wrong side of the pond, the fact that I get charged to receive spam texts is enough to make me spit my cornflakes out when I receive one. I usually calm down when I remember that I changed to a plan with unlimited texts and it doesn't now cost me anything, but still, it's the principle.

I have noticed over the few years that I have been here that the Americans are happy to put up with extortionate charges for cell phones and data plans here that we won't in the UK (and I guess the rest of Europe maybe). Which is odd, given that most other things over here seem to be consumer driven and mostly cheaper. A quick example, my 2 lines (one for me, one for the wife) cost us c. $135 per month. We get unlimited data, however since the max 3G speed in our city seems to be about 350 kbps, we are unlikely to need it! The handsets cost more too, can't get many nice ones for free, even on a contract.

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Unhappy

@Hurtlebum RE: ".......extortionate charges for cell phones and data plans........."

This may be at least partly driven by the degree of reliance on credit purchases amongst US retail customers. This leads perhaps to the choice being between a phone bought *with* a plan and buying on a credit card followed by buying a "phone-less" plan, rather than paying *cash* and then buying a plan. If, as I believe, phone-less plans are often artificially overpriced then the financial logic of the situation in practice drives credit customers straight into the arms of the carriers - a situation that has become self-reinforcing as the majority of customers have become dependent upon what are in practice 2-year hire-purchase agreements for both devices and services with the same retailer. In contrast to a good deal of the rest of the US economy the market in phones and services in the States is to a significant degree not functioning in the interests of anyone other than the carriers.

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Headmaster

I would however also like to make the point that I am not suggesting that ......

..........the European carriers are intrinsically more "worthy" than the US carriers. Whilst it is certainly the case that the markets in both data and voice traffic *within* the various nation states of Europe function reasonably well with local prices tending to be much lower than in the US, the situation when one leaves one's home country to travel to another European destination is another case entirely. Here the European carriers have been allowed to get away with so-called roaming charges for data and voice that amount to a degree of usury that would have brought a nod of rueful respect from Don Corleone. The primary difference here in Europe being that it is definitely a political hot potato with a considerable row going on between members of the European parliament and the commissioner responsible for EU telecommunications over the timing and scale of the upcoming capping of these charges. AFAIK there is not anything like the same degree of political noise over such issues within the US and I admit that I am bemused as to why that appears to be the case.

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Thumb Up

Telecoms in the UK has always been an exception to the 'it's cheaper over there' law. Probably because of our higher population density. For instance the US has had free local calls for a long time - but by local they often mean just a block or two. In the UK local calls have always been cheap and our definition of local is 'anywhere within 35km' with some exceptions made for towns/cities with strong links. We also tend to pay lower standing charges and international calls are a lot cheaper even without a special deal.

I'm not sure about broadband. I think ours is still cheaper but we pay for that in service quality. I still think we should be praised for our near universal availability but congestion and usage allowances are a bit naff and it's time someone did something for those still on less than 2Mb/s.

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On prepaid (Yank for PAYG) phones, the minutes still expire after a month or so. How quaint.

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Bronze badge

Convenience fees and all that

Convenience fees in general are the the convenience of the person writing the bill. Often companies (telco, bank, etc.) want you to do things that save THEM money, and then they charge you for the privilege. An example of this is tone dials: It turns out that tone dials encourage faster dialing, which means that you can have cheaper switching equipment. Of course, they charged you for having tone dials. Fortunately, they stopped doing this locally over 10 years ago. My bank also wants to stop issuing mailed statements, for MY convenience (not the banks). They won't even give me a break if I stop the paper.

Then again, what is the difference between fully electronic payments through an ATM card, or the cost of processing a physical check. One wonders these days, why the "cheaper" method is charged for.

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Silver badge

Maybe the other way around.

Where I stand, most of the convenience fees I see get assessed for the following:

- Paper bills. Understandable. Involves the use of paper and the snail mail system, which inevitably cost real money. Electronic deliveries of bills are so cheap as to be negligible to them. Still, some people insist on a paper bill, believing it to be more legally permanent and binding than an electronic one.

- Paying by credit card. This is because some firms don't do credit card payments themselves. Most go through clearinghouses who take a cut, which the company will tend to pass on to the subscriber. They would prefer you pay at one of their facilities or authorized agents if they have such or by EFT which has lower overhead (since they can usually handle those directly).

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How about cinemas too!!!

And the ridiculous 1.50 "booking fee" if you pay for your ticket UP-FRONT online.

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While I agree they're annoying there is at least a reason for them - with a 'booking fee' the entirety of it goes straight to the venue, whereas if they just increased the ticket price the increase would normally be split with the film (or the producing company in the case of theatre), so to make the same amount they would have to increase the ticket price significantly more (hence it's actually better for you in the long run)...

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Bt has sent me an email to say that they will no longer be giving me a discount for having electronic billing. Tomorrow I will go online and switch back to dead tree mode - which is more convenient for me anyway.

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Unhappy

"Convenience fees", "processing fees" and other bogus charges

What BT does is simply daylight robbery. I pay online, which must surely cost BT nothing, and yet they still charge me a "processing" fee of £5.67 for refusing to give them control of my payments with direct debit. How the fcuk can it cost BT £5.67 just to have a computer make an automatic transaction with a clearing house? Lying, thieving b'stards.

Then there's those bogus "surcharges" with certain retailers for spending under a tenner with a credit card, or paying with an electron card, or because it's a full moon, or whatever other bullcrap they've invented that month to screw customers (see OFT vs airlines).

It's time the OFT stepped in and introduced a blanket-ban on every single one of these bogus "surcharges" for good. It's nothing but a con, and there's zero justification for any of it. These are computers exchanging ones and zeros at the speed of light, not fusty bank clerks counting farthings on a counter top. What exactly is it they think they're charging for?

What a racket.

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Yeah that's a poor decision by BT. I won't change back though because I find nothing convenient in stupid bits of paper that are just going to lie around looking untidy and that I will have to remember to shred in order to minimise the risk of identity theft. I am also aware that imposing additional costs on BT as a 'punishment' is rather self defeating since they'll just pass the costs back on to me.

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Most of those credit cards charge the retailer 2½% per transaction. The retailer would be happier to swallow the cost if the size of the transaction is greater.

That said, the business practices of RyanAir regarding payment charges is scandalous. I take my business elsewhere.

Don't forget that the OFT recently put out something around banning these fees.

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FAIL

Verizon

Quote: “At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers...."

It seems like they told you to collectively shove your heads up your collective asses.

A while back, I paid my Verizon landline bill ON ITS DUE DATE, yet the slimy buggers tried to tack on a $7.00 LATE PAYMENT FEE!!!! That went over like a ton of bullshit hitting a high velocity fan; and I laid into the CSR for Verizon's fucking incompetence. As a result of this, I scrutinize their bill EVERY FUCKING MONTH! I trust them about as much as I can throw one of heir trucks.

Goddamn twats.

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Anonymous Coward

ref. BT "handling charge"

BT got away with it nicely, when they introduced this "charge" a few years back, a pensioner felt it unfair and refused to pay the extra. They took a risk, took him to court and they won. I don't think he's with them any more, but most of us, folks are, and the fact is - there is, for the general public NO competition. Yes, it's nice for you lot who happen to have alternative, fibre optic or whatever else wiring up to your door, so you have a benefit of "alternative" providers (oh, so f... many). If you don't, and contact SKY, or Virgin, they enthusiastically suggest you sign up with them - on the same BT copper line, for the very similar, shitty BT price plus a fantastic package of shitty TV channels to make it look like you're getting a bargain. This is competition in Britain. Not enough choice? You can choose mobile broadband instead, with a monthly cap of 15 Gb and a "coverage" + customer non-service.

And I'm not talking about a 500 miles away from the nearest paved road, some f... moorland, this is what they call "central" London, and not exactly an estate from Little Britain.

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There are several alternate providers that resell BT's wholesale offering so no need for LLU or Cable. The Post Office is one option although I'll grant that signing up with the Post Office for anything doesn't sound very clever.

Now granted from a technical point of view unless you go for MPF LLU or cable you're still using BT's network but their voice network is exemplary anyway. It's only their customer service that's a bit mad which is what we're discussing. There's no reason for anyone in the UK to put up with BT customer service if they don't want to.

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Coat

Verizon voice coverage without the cost

PagePlus Cellular in the US has VZW coverage (reseller). 2000 minutes for $80 USD or £52. Service up to a year. US customer service with folks who live in Ohio USA. Zero cost to activate a phone with them and no fees to speak to a rep to buy "cards" for continued service. Data can be pricey though.

For data unlocked GSM phones can be used with T-Mobile. Give them $100 USD (£64.42) and they'll give you service for up to a year. $2 per day ONLY ON DAYS USED (prepaid) gives unlimited voice text and data (at 2G speeds... which is all my unlocked iPhone can handle on their network).

I carry two devices -- PagePlus for voice and T-Mo for data -- (think -- double the battery life and I can always make a call as THAT battery doesn't get eaten by the datamonster) and have paid UNDER $20 USD (£13) per MONTH for BOTH including all the voice and data that I chose to use without feeling cut off from the world.

And for home service: Ooma. $3.50 per month. About £2. Unlimited to USA. Seriously.

Options. We've got options. I'll watch the VZW drama from the sidelines.

Mine's the one with two mobiles in the pocket.

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@Homer 1

"Then there's those bogus "surcharges" with certain retailers for spending under a tenner with a credit card, or paying with an electron card, or because it's a full moon, "

According to Visa that's a no no. But I've never heard o a retailer getting slapped for that. Same thing goes for having a minimum limit to use a Visa card. Once again I'd be supervised if Visa slapped some for this unless they pissed Visa off.

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RW
Trollface

Paying through a third party

I.e. paying a bill through an ATM: here in BC, the statutes governing "agency" stipulate that a payment to an agent is considered as having been made to the principal immediately. Thus, if a bank tries to say "it takes X days for your payment to be passed on", the correct response is a reference to the law and a suggestion that they'd better get a less sluggish system installed.

Other jurisdictions may have similar provisions in force.

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