Updated: 6:45 p.m., Dec. 30.
Why should banks have all the fun? We can only imagine that’s what Verizon Wireless executives asked themselves before deciding to hit customers with a $2 fee — for paying their bill via a one-time payment on the carrier’s website. Angry customers have taken to the Internet to flood social media sites with their displeasure over the fee, which kicks in Jan. 15. Will consumers succeed in getting Verizon Wireless to roll back this new fee the way they did with Bank of America’s ill-fated debit card fee?
Verizon Wireless, which announced the new fee Thursday, says on its website, “[A] new $2 payment convenience fee will be instituted for customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone.”
Much of the consumer outrage seems to stem from the fact that — like the Bank of America debit card fee — this new fee doesn’t seem to be based on the merchant’s costs. Verizon Wireless’s announcement goes on to say that bills paid via paper checks and snail mail, or payments made in person by any method at Verizon Wireless stores, wouldn’t incur the fee. The New York Times reported that Verizon Wireless refused to say how much it cost them to process an electronic payment versus one made in person or via a paper check, but it’s a safe bet that the online payments cost the company less than either of these two methods.
Whether or not customers’ ire evolves into action remains to be seen. It’s a pain in the neck to switch cell phone carriers — not to mention the fact that if you do so before your contract expires, you could get hit with a significant early termination fee. These factors make it harder to imagine the kind of grassroots movement that urged people to switch banks.
Aside from paper checks or in-person payments, there are a few other ways to avoid the fee. Customers can pay online using their bank’s online bill-payment system. Paying via electronic check (which entails giving Verizon Wireless your checking account and bank routing number) is free, as is setting up automatic monthly bill payment — which is probably the option Verizon Wireless is trying to steer customers to with the new fee. After the debacle banks went through with debit fees this year, though, Verizon Wireless’s move seems pretty tone-deaf.
If you have Verizon Wireless, what will you do? Gripe and pay the fee? Switch to paying via check each month? Switch to automatic payments? Or switch cell phone companies?
Update: After angry customers blasted the company and the new fee on Twitter, with many vowing to switch carriers, it seems Verizon can hear them now. On Friday, just one day following the announcement of the $2 fee, Verizon Wireless backtracked and now says it won’t implement the fee after all. “Verizon Wireless has decided it will not institute the fee for online or telephone single payments that was announced earlier this week. The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan,” it said in a statement on its website.