Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

For Nine Grand, Verizon Pokes Itself In the Eye

Posted by Carl on 6th May 2010 in Broadcasting, Consumer Electronics

By Richard Martin, Editor in Chief, xchange
05/05/2010 14:06

The story of the $18,000 cell phone bill that Verizon Wireless (VZ) is trying to collect from a customer in Massachusetts reminds me of the old Steve Martin routine: “You can be a millionaire – and never pay taxes!” (Unfortunately the clip, from a 1978 appearance on Saturday Night Live, doesn’t seem to be available online; here’s a transcript.)

When the IRS shows up at your door demanding taxes on the windfall, Martin advised, just use “two simple words in the English language: ‘I forgot!’”  

Bob and Mary St. Germain, of Dover, Mass., didn’t forget, exactly; their son Bryan just thought they had an unlimited data plan when, in fact, he was being charged for every minute he used the mobile device as a modem for his laptop. Thus the eye-popping bill, which is still being fought over four years later. Rather than use this as a P.R. opportunity (by, for instance, forgiving the debt in exchange for a long-term unlimited data contract, and getting a picture of a Verizon exec shaking hands with Mr. St. Germain in the Boston Globe, which broke the original story), Verizon – a company that had more than $16 billion in wireless data revenues in 2009 – is choosing to play the Evil Carrier role to the hilt, and continuing to go after half the $18K. Thus proving, once again, that the major U.S. carriers richly deserve all the consumer ire they routinely generate.  

Verizon is now e-mailing a form response to publications that run with the story, including ours. It is a classic case of a corporation Blaming the Customer. “We clearly explain service plan details in brochures, during the purchase process, in our customer agreements and again through confirmation letters. …We provide access to tons of account information through the MyVerizon webpage, and by dialing #BAL (balance information), #DATA (data usage), and #MIN (available minutes). …We also provide numerous tools through the Internet to manage your family’s cell phone use…”  

Translation: Read the fine print, because we’re in the business of screwing our customers every way we can.  

In other news, the U.S. deficit is now expected to drop to “only” $1.2 trillion, down from the previously forecast $1.4 trillion. In its confusion of “fiscal responsibility” with blindness to the real-world consequences of its actions, Congress takes second place to no one. Except, maybe, Verizon executives.