Tap the Wrong Button? Pay Verizon $1.99

David Pogue from the NY Times wrote a column that calls out a couple of unfriendly fees Verizon’s charging its customers. the company recently upped its early termination fee on smartphones to $350. Fortunately, users that go on their merry way won’t have to ever face that fee. But there’s another fee that is catching a lot of users off guard. Consumers are complaining of a $1.99 charge for accidentally accessing the web.

Verizon customers that don’t subscribe to a data plan are billed by the byte. $1.99 per MB to be exact. The problem is that Verizon is billing customers $1.99 every time they accidentally tap on a quick access button and are connected for just a blink of an eye.

One Verizon customer wrote to the NY Times about his experience:

“Here’s how it works. They configure the phones to have multiple easily hit keystrokes to launch ‘Get it now’ or ‘Mobile Web’—usually a single key like an arrow key. Often we have no idea what key we hit, but up pops one of these screens. The instant you call the function, they charge you the data fee. We cancel these unintended requests as fast as we can hit the End key, but it doesn’t matter; they’ve told me that ANY data–even one kilobyte–is billed as 1MB. The damage is done.”

Sounds pretty bogus to me. The buttons can’t be reconfigured and I bet he’s not the only one accidentally mashing the wrong button and ringing in the $1.99 charges multiple times per month.

A NY Times reader that said he’s a Verizon employee had this to say:

“The phone is designed in such a way that you can almost never avoid getting $1.99 charge on the bill. Around the OK button on a typical flip phone are the up, down, left, right arrows. If you open the flip and accidentally press the up arrow key, you see that the phone starts to connect to the web. So you hit END right away. Well, too late. You will be charged $1.99 for that 0.02 kilobytes of data. NOT COOL. I’ve had phones for years, and I sometimes do that mistake to this day, as I’m sure you have. Legal, yes; ethical, NO.

There’s nothing wrong with charging what you will for a service as long as customers are aware of what they’re buying. But I hardly call what’s going on here ‘buying.’ Hopefully Verizon will figure out a way to not charge customers for accidental taps.