Verizon Wireless On 'Naughty' List for Bill Shock

By Josh Long Comments
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Verizon Wireless has landed on Consumer Reports' "Naughty" holiday list for its less-than-transparent billing practices.

This is the second year of Consumer Reports' public-education campaign, the Naughty & Nice Holiday List, which analyzes the shopping policies of companies in various industries such as air travel, apparel retailing, credit-card lending, concert ticketing and telecommunications.

Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile provider based on subscribers, has reportedly told the Federal Communications Communication that it provides ample notice to customers who are about to exceed their monthly allotment of data, minutes or messaging.

"But we caught Verizon doing – and admitting to – something else. Two staffers who are Verizon customers recently were notified only after they went over their allotment, at which time the company tried to upsell them to a pricier plan," wrote Tod Marks of Consumer Reports. "When contacted by our reporter, a company spokesman acknowledged that its voluntary alert system isn't always reliable."

The pervasive problem of "bill shock" in the U.S. wireless industry shouldn't last forever. Last month, wireless providers agreed to take steps to help customers avoid unexpected charges by sending free alerts before and after customers reach a monthly limit on voice, data and text.

Responding to Consumer Reports, Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon Wireless declared that the Naughty list failed to recognize that the mobile-phone giant "leads the wireless industry with a variety of consumer-friendly tools and options that help our customers monitor and manage their accounts" and that the company "helped lead the charge to create the new industry standards for customer usage alerts, most of which we currently meet or exceed."

Telecommunications companies are notorious for including early termination clauses and other policies that infuriate consumers, but one company managed to land on Consumer Reports' "Nice" list: Cablevision.

The New York-based company offers free movie tickets on Tuesdays and highly discounted tickets on other days to customers who sign up for its "Optimum Triple Play" package of Internet, phone and TV services, and Cablevision also offers a free program that grants customers such benefits as discounts on popcorn and soda at certain theaters, Consumer Reports noted.

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