The FCC's 'got your back': huge Verizon Wireless settlement enumerated

The Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday that Verizon Wireless will be paying a $25 million settlement to the U.S. Treasury, and a refund to some 15 million customers totaling at least $52.8 million as an answer to the "mystery fees" it has been charging its customers for the last three years.

"Today's consent decree sends a clear message to American consumers: The FCC has got your back," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today. "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. In these rough economic times, every $1.99 counts."

These so-called "mystery fees" were the result of defects in Verizon's software which charged subscribers a data connection fee even when they didn't subscribe to a data plan. Around 15 million pay-as-you-go customers were charged this fee between 2007 and the present.

The investigation, which began in January of this year, found that these charges were caused by: "unauthorized data transfers initiated automatically by applications (like games) built into certain phones; accessing certain web links that were designated as free-of-charge (e.g., the Verizon Wireless Mobile Web homepage); unsuccessful attempts to access data when there was insufficient network coverage to complete the requested data transfer; and unwanted data transfers initiated by third parties and affecting customers who had content filters installed on their phones."

"[VZW's] $25 million payment to the U.S. Treasury -- the largest in FCC history -- is an important recognition of the harmful impact on consumers.  It will serve as a significant deterrent to others in the future," Genachowski continued. "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."

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