Verizon Wireless to charge customers $2 per month to pay bills starting Jan 2012

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Apparently there is also no such thing as hard-working, honest Americans paying their monthly phone bill without being charged for the privilege. Starting January 15, 2012 Verizon Wireless is going to charge their customers $2 per month for anyone that pays their phone bill online or via the phone. (This is $2 per bill — not $2 per line, for those that have family plans.) The only way to avoid this $2 surcharge is to either signup for Autopay or pay via electronic check.

For what it is worth, Verizon Wireless isn’t the only one doing this. Sprint and T-Mobile USA have already done something similar; last year Sprint started charging customers $4.99 unless they signed up for automatic payments and T-Mobile started charging customers $1 per month for receiving a paper bill, so Verizon is sort of late to the party. Still, though — getting charged for paying your damn bill? Forget net neutrality; how about dont-charge-customers-for-paying-their-bills neutrality, first.

As a conciliation prize, this new fee most likely will trigger that sweet clause in your contract with Verizon that states you can break contract and stop using Verizon Wireless services without paying an Early Termination Fee if Verizon changes the terms of the contract. Tacking on an extra fee may or may not be considered a change in the terms of contract — only time will tell. Be sure to let us know if you are able to quit Verizon without paying ETF because of this.

Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

[via Engadget]

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29 comments

  1. Darcy

    @James:
    I can understand your anger over this, goodness knows we get enough extra charges from everywhere. There’s a little matter of setting the record straight here though. I used to work for T-Mobile.

    The extra fee mentioned is for hard copy paper bills only. Per the management it’s an attempt to reduce not only the expenses of printing and mailing but the pollution involved with paper as well. When this was announced it was widely advertised and anyone who already had the billing for free had the option to call in and have that service continued FOR FREE. I remember about 4 months of setting up customers for that. At that time many people did leave T-Mobile over it, but nobody is doing so now. Even the option to continue the service for free for existing customers can’t be added to the account now, though those that took advantage of it still have it to the best of my knowledge.

    T-Mobile doesn’t charge for online or automated phone system payments either. You do get charged a service fee if you speak to a rep to make a payment, that’s all. In all you can find your account balance one of 6 different ways and there are two ways to see your bill electronically, email and online, for free. So aside from the fact that they charge you for a paper bill, with it’s related extra expenses, T-Mobile is doing exactly what you said you considered fair. Hope this clears the air a little.

  2. redmaledeer

    But this whole thing brings up the question of whether a biller should be able to charge more to customers who choose more expensive ways (to the biller) to pay. Or, to put it the way billers would prefer, can the biller give discounts to customer who pay in cheap ways?

    For example, here in Massachusetts I believe there is a law that a merchant has to charge the same whether payment is by cash or by credit card. This sounds very decent and favorable to consumers, but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Merchants have to adjust their prices upward to cover the extra costs to them (i.e., fees charged by credit card companies) of purchases made by credit card. So if I go to a restaurant where most people use the convenience of paying by credit card, and I pay cash (which I prefer to do, since I’d rather the money went to the merchant than the credit card company), I am subsidizing the credit card customers.

    Of course I’m not talking about profiteering, but about putting the extra costs of convenience on the people who benefit from that convenience and incur those costs.

    And yes, I think this has been a fine wake-up call that people should shop wisely for their phone service. Where there are alternatives this is the surest safeguard against profiteering.

  3. david roper

    @~ Dan:

    Thanks Dan and Ashraf, the trouble is this, now…
    Which Boost Mobile phone do I buy now with a good Qwerty keyboard for texting? I hate the 0-9 keyboards to text. This Verizon mess has me looking for a $50 (everything) plan which I can control easily. Thank you Verizon for waking me up. You have lost me as a customer. You proved you don’t really care. You were just greedy.

  4. newJason

    I can not understand why anyone would still be tied to a contract with a major provider In this age of Pre-paid wireless. I dropped Verizion 3 years ago because I was paying upward of 150.00 a month for unlimited(not) min, capped data, and unlimited(not) sms. Most months I went over and ended up with a 4 or 5 hundred dollar bill.
    I went out and bought a Phone from Boost mobile and have never paid a cent more than $50/mo ever. That includes unlimited, talk, text, internet and walkie talkie anywhere in the U.S. / Canada /Mexico.
    ATT and T-mobile have similar plans.
    I do not have coverage probelms, in fact I get service where my Buddies ATT I-Phone does not.

    Maybe most people like to pay more and more for their phone service.
    I personally do not.

  5. jayesstee

    Welcome to the real (money-grasping) world! Over here in the UK, all the telecomm providers charge a similar sum for paying by cheque (check) or even cash at a bank. The main way to avoid it is by what is called ‘Direct Debit’. This is where the company takes the value of the bill directly from your bank account. (There is a code they supposed to work to, 10 days notice of the amount to be deducted, immediate suspension of the agreement to debit if requested by the customer). The other way to avoid this ’administration fee’, is to pay online. Perhaps someone should tell Verizon Wireless? The other charge (scam) the telecomm providers make is for a paper bill. We are supposed to be web-savvy! So the old, poor or purely technophobic who can’t or won’t view their bill online are fined.
    Incidentally, the travel industry is bad, all charge for credit card payment and often for debit card payment. The worst is a company called Ryonair(TM). They operate between Ireland or UK and Europe. They regularly offer air fares as low as £5GB or even 50p. You can only book online, but they charge an ‘admin fee’ of £8 per person per flight for accepting payment by any means other than the use of their own pre-paid card). So a family of 4 would pay £64GB! (At approx £1GB =$1.50US, you do the math.) They also charge for: not checking online, checking in baggage and even basic refreshments. They are threatening (allegedly) to charge for use of the onboard bathroom and the CEO has publicly stated that he would like to remove seats, just have leaning boards. They also advertise the flight to a major European city. But actually fly to an airport some 50 miles from the destination city.
    Beware, other industries will follow.
    If you want to see what the Irish and Brits think of Ryonair(TM), visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPyl2tOaKxM

    Enjoy!

  6. Jason Carver

    Metro PCS charges me $3.00 to pay the bill in store, and $2.00 to pay over the phone. What rat bastards! And I get dropped calls all the time too. Well if you pay with a payment card there is no fees.

  7. david roper

    I wonder how I would go about buying a Phone Card for 1000 minutes from SAMS CLUB from ATT for 3c a minute and using that somehow. I would still have to own a wireless cell phone. Right? Help here?

  8. Donna

    @James:

    With cc they are charged fees to process the payment. With phone payments they have to pay their personal to take the payments. That is why they are starting to charge the fees. Some places charge as much as $7 to $10 for the same thing. So $2 is actually sort of reasonable. I don’t do paper billing for environmental reasons and I feel safe seeing that my payment was processed instead of mailing in. I have had where the payment was processed late and received a late charge that was indeed more $2 But then again, I use auto pay so the $2 won’t effect me. So maybe I should not toot my own horn.

  9. mukhi

    i really wonder when online payment does not involve any physical work from merchant side, how LAW does allow this kind of fee. well, not a surprising thing for me now when US law is ready for SOPA to implement in order to make us pay more to the greedy audio/video companies.

  10. david roper

    @redmaledeer:

    What would be better would be to go by the bank and get cash to pay for it. $1 bills. Just be sure to get a receipt. That will set them backwards in a time warp paying cash and its coin change and handling that stuff every night.

  11. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @david roper: They are beginning to be absurd.

    @Daniel: Leave it to American corporations to think of new and innovative ways to take our money.

    @JohnD: The issue is if you want to pay with CC you must use their AutoPay, otherwise they will charge you $2 a month. You could do electronic check but not only do many people don’t feel comfortable giving out their bank account information electronically, most people don’t even know how to use e-checks.

    As far as I can understand these are the two reasons they are doing this:
    a) With AutoPay they are ensuring they get paid on time.
    b) With e-checks they are cutting out the credit card transaction fees they would be paying otherwise.

    @James: It is very absurd. They charge for paying online to offset credit card transaction fees (as far as I know). That should be illegal.

    @Chris R.: Good question. Although I know personally it is too much for a hassle to go to a store and pay just to save $2…

  12. James

    I have a utility that charges me a fee for paying its bill online, though none of my others do. I cannot believe this. A charge for paying via phone I understand, because they are paying for customer service agents to handle such a service. But payinjg online? That saves the company money because it is all automated and you DON’T have to have a customer service agent handle it. Because of this, I have made that utility stop sending me email statements and am now requiring them to BOTH send me paper statements via the mail AND handle my payments by check that I send to them. Idiots. I am also sending a letter of complaint to the state and Federal agency that handles utilities. And that is what I recommend that every Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile customer do: Write to BOTH the Federal Communications Commission to file a complaint about this practice, AS WELL AS file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission for the companies committing consumer fraud by enticing you into a contract without revealing this fee up front (technically, the charge would be for “deceptive marketing.”) A letter to the Democratic chair of the Senate Telecommunications Committee would also send a message to the companies. Phone company VPs do not like receiving calls from Senate staffers. I know, because I’ve been one. And Republicans don’t want this, either, as every ruckus over a clear active of corproate greed like this — and Netflix’s major faux-pas back in October — is more fuel for the fire under the Occupy Wall Street movement and support for Obama in the Fall they do not want to see.

  13. JohnD

    This is not that big of a deal IMO, Verizon allows you to use a CC to pay so you don’t Have to have a checking account to debit from although that is another way to pay. If you pay by phone or online you have to use one of these methods anyway so whats the big problem? I agree it is a fairly stupid fee, especially for an online payment that requires no human interaction, but I wouldn’t switch from Verizon because of it.

  14. Daniel

    I never heard anyone doing this over here in Australia. I know that if I pay my bill late I get charged a late fee. Maybe we are just lucky here. Only time will tell if we end up paying to pay our bills.