On Thursday, wireless telecom giant Verizon Wireless said it would begin charging consumers a $2 “convenience fee” for some bill payments starting January 15. Verizon then decided the fee wasn't such a hot idea after all. That decision, which Verizon said was necessary to cover the costs of processing some payments, caught the attention of the Federal Communications Commission. After public outcry, Verizon has decided that it will not instate a $2 “convenience fee” for customers paying monthly bills with a credit or debit card via the Internet or telephone.
There are three ways for customers to avoid the charge: customers can make a one-time payment using an electronic check, they can pay their bill using their home banking accounts, such as Citibank Online, or they can use a Verizon gift card or rebate card. Otherwise, single telephone and online payments will incur a $2 fee. “The fee will allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments,” the company said in a statement. Customers can still enroll in a service that will debit their bank accounts or charge their credit cards on a recurring basis for free. They can also show up at a Verizon store to pay without incurring the fee, and they can mail checks to the company.
However, Verizon Wireless will not institute the “convenience fee” for one-time payments made online or over the phone, the company said in a statement Friday afternoon. Verizon reportedly made the decision in response to strong customer feedback. “At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers,” states Verizon Wireless President and CEO Dan Mead. “Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time.” This move also came after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a statement earlier Friday declaring that it would “look into” the $2 charge, which would apply to any customer making one-time payments online or over the phone using credit or debit cards. Even as it took a beating on Twitter, Verizon initially defended itself, saying it would go ahead with the fee. “Customers have a number of alternatives to pay their bill and not incur the convenience fee,” Verizon spokesperson Brenda Raney told. “Paying the fee is an option, not an absolute.”
It seems pressure from the FCC, coupled with the mounting outcry from consumers was just enough to make Verizon back down. A similar thing happened to Bank of America earlier this year. The company had planned to charge customers $5 fee to use their debit cards to buy things. After outraged customers voiced their opinions loudly online, the company backtracked. Still, other companies charge fees for processing online transactions. For example, the loan company Sallie Mae charges a fee for customers to pay their bill online. And several power utilities throughout the country also charge fees for processing online transactions.
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