Verizon announced it would begin issuing refunds to about 15 million users who were wrongly charged an average of $2 to $6 dollars apiece for data usage, due to a handset glitch. When users accidentally hit a preloaded demo app that launched Internet access, they were charged $1.99 a per megabyte for connectivity. Verizon declined to name the handsets that had these preloaded demos.
The payout is a result of a year-long FCC investigation that eventually led to Verizon making the refunds two years later. The FCC said it would continue to investigate Verizon's business practices and could still penalize the company.
Although Verizon said it would credit current account holders and give checks to former customers, how can you be sure that you've been credited?
1. Refunds to Be Sent October and November
Although some people may want to see their refund immediately, know that the company plans to send credits or checks through November. Wait a few weeks to see a refund before following up.
2. Refunds Only to Customers With No Data Plan
Customers without data plans or monthly Internet access fees were the account holders overcharged in $1.99 increments for per-megabyte data usage. Usually these customers had demo applications preloaded on their handsets, which often launched inadvertently.
3. Your Check Is in the Mail?
Current account holders will receive a credit from Verizon and former customers, provided that Verizon still has your valid address, will be sent checks. If Verizon may not have your current address, skip to No. 5.
4. Many Charges Date Back to 2007
Complaints about the charges began three years ago, but were downplayed by Verizon, the New York Times reported. If you might be among the affected Verizon customers, start checking over your phone records since 2007.
5. How to Reach Verizon
Verizon released a customer service number to deal with the flood of inquiries, including questions regarding refunds. For more information, call 800-922-0204.
While the FCC investigation did lead to Verizon's less-than-speedy refunds, the agency is also doing more to highlight problems with wireless carriers, including investigating Verizon's recent doubling of early termination fees (Verizon has until Dec. 17 to explain to the agency why it raised fees from $175 to $350.).
At least now the FCC is starting to show some teeth and protect consumers and businesses from arbitrary fees.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.