The FCC Says Former Customers Are Off Limits To Verizon

Verizon, who had been using proprietary data to seduce former customers into returning, received a stern message from the FCC to discontinue such practices, according to the Washington Post. Local cable companies complained that Verizon would offer $200 American Express gift cards to keep their customers and send them letters via express mail which promised steep discounts. A majority of members from the FCC said that using this information to contact ex-customers is illegal and infringes on consumers’ privacy. Details, inside…

The article says,

“Today we carry out Congress’s unambiguous mandate to protect consumer privacy,” said Robert M. McDowell, a Republican commissioner. Two Democratic and two Republican commissioners voted against Chairman Kevin J. Martin, a Republican. The chairman had pushed for the agency to rule that Verizon’s use of phone numbers to contact its departing customers was legal, despite complaints from cable service operators.

Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, criticized Verizon, saying the company offers its best deals to customers only when desperate to retain them. They should be offering customers lower prices and deals throughout their contracts, he said.

“After today’s ruling, Verizon will have additional incentive to focus on making sure that all its customers are happy with their service, rather than reserving the red-carpet treatment for those who have already decided to leave but whose transfer has not yet been technically implemented,” Copps said in a statement.

Companies need to maintain their customers by offering superior service, not by bribery. The FCC’s decision gives us the warm and fuzzies and makes us think the government is looking out for consumers after all. Hopefully, it will set a precedent which will dissuade companies from using underhanded tactics to maintain their customer base.

Former Customers Off Limits To Verizon [Washington Post]

Comments

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  1. nfs says:

    Nice.

  2. jjeefff says:

    What’s wrong with Verizon bribing ex-customers with $200 cash? Does the government really think Verizon is now going to take those $200 bribes and give it to current customers?

  3. JayDeEm says:

    Verizon made several attempts to get me back after canceling my cell phone service. Of course they recently bought Alltel, my new provider, so it doesn’t really matter much anymore. I just hope they honor my Allel contract.

  4. theblackdog says:

    Commissioner Michael J. Copps, a Democrat, criticized Verizon, saying the company offers its best deals to customers only when desperate to retain them. They should be offering customers lower prices and deals throughout their contracts, he said.

    “After today’s ruling, Verizon will have additional incentive to focus on making sure that all its customers are happy with their service, rather than reserving the red-carpet treatment for those who have already decided to leave but whose transfer has not yet been technically implemented,” Copps said in a statement.

    Maybe he should have a chat all of the other companies who have retentions departments.

  5. Concerned_Citizen says:

    I fail to see how this is a privacy issue. Whether they try to contact you with a really good deal or not, they still have your information. It would seem the only issue here is if they are allowed to offer you a really good deal when canceling service to get you back. I would have to say yes. Companies do it all the time.

  6. Mr_D says:

    I thought the issue here was that Verizon was using a request to port a number to trigger these offers, after a cancellation request had gone in. Not merely offering incentives to persuade customers to stay.

    Or was that something else?

  7. nfs says:

    @JayDeEm: Even if they don’t honor your contract, then they should probably let you go ETF free.

  8. TorrentFreak says:

    I want to be bribed! What’s wrong with that?

  9. Juggernaut says:

    Not that this really applies but I called to disconnect service with Verizon today. And the conversation went like this:
    V – Where are you moving to?
    Me – I don’t think that appies…
    V – In state or out of state?
    Me – How does that apply to a disconnect…
    V – If you’r emoving out of state, the disconnect would initiate from the state you’re moving to
    Me – Get the fuck outta here!!
    V- Sir
    Me – So if I’m going to prison you need to know waht state?
    V – Yes sir, what state are you moving to?
    Me – Kansas
    V – Do you have a zip code?
    Me – I’m not sure of the zip for Leavenworth
    V – is that the town?
    Me – That’s where the prison is, I won’t know the sip until I do the intake thing
    V – aaaaaaaaaaaaah, geez I’m sorry, give me a second here

  10. Lucky225 says:

    damn I wish I knew about this earlier, I would have so ‘canceled’ fios

  11. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Sounds like they feel they didn’t get enough from the EFT they charged those who left, and want to woo them back so they can do it all over again.

  12. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    @Neecy: That should be ETF, sorry for the typo.

  13. tinky XIII says:

    @Juggernaut: I don’t know if that’s more funny than sad or more sad than funny. My condolences either way, Juggernaut.

  14. On privacy grounds, I completely agree with the decision. Verizon shouldn’t be leveraging my account data to market to me after I have decided to sever my business relationship with them.

    However, the privacy argument seems to simply be a tactic used by the FCC to really attack Verizon over its pricing strategies: “After today’s ruling, Verizon will have additional incentive to focus on making sure that all its customers are happy with their service, rather than reserving the red-carpet treatment for those who have already decided to leave but whose transfer has not yet been technically implemented”. While this goal is laudable, the FCC or any other governmental body has no place dictating how a private enterprise should value its customers. This is overreach, and sets a bad precedent.

  15. veronykah says:

    Does this mean Verizon will have to stop sending me solicitations asking me to “please come back!” after cancelling my cell phone over a year ago and my home phone a few months ago?
    It really a waste of paper and definitely annoying to continue to get these things in the mail…not to mention they don’t even serve the area I live in now for home phone, yet they still tell me what deals they have for home phone.

  16. bohemian says:

    @Juggernaut: I would have told them I was moving to the space station.

  17. bohemian says:

    Verizon wireless has really gone downhill in the last year. We renewed our contract recently and it ended up being a big nightmare, of course this was after we had agreed to the contract. I really hope some better options appear in the next two years or at a minimum Tmobile expands into more of the midwest hinterland.

  18. Corydon says:

    Very poorly written article.

    Retention offers are all fine and dandy. Everyone (including the cable companies complaining about this) does it. No big deal.

    What Verizon was doing was not offering a deal to customers who called up to disconnect. Verizon had already received the request to disconnect their service and transfer the number to another company.

    They would sit on the request to port out the number and in the meantime try to strongarm the customer into staying.

    In other words, they were abusing the heck out of the local number portability system.

  19. highmodulus says:

    Show us your Verizon face! Please bring it back, so we can revel in their wonderful lies and crispy homed install customers. BTW, how deep in their back pocket is Martin, he wasn’t even trying to hide it. At least make an effort.

  20. NotATool says:

    Or they could save everyone the hassle and save their retention offers and just MAKE THEIR EXISTING CUSTOMERS HAPPY SO THEY DON’T WANT TO LEAVE!!!

  21. brainologist says:

    Wait, let me get this straight — the government thinks that the “illegal violation” of our privacy to offer us a better deal deserves an FCC crackdown, but the illegal violation of our privacy from warrantless wiretapping deserves immunity? Truly, America, we have stepped through the looking glass.

  22. TechnoDestructo says:

    @Juggernaut:

    So how do they handle people moving overseas?

    (They come up with a new lie, most likely)

  23. Squeegoth says:

    Thing is I’m pretty sure there’s a law against accessing a customer’s account to sell things to them. When I worked for Verizon we had to note every time we accessed an account why we accessed it. The reason was explained to me that there was a law against using people’s accounts to sell things to them. I could see Verizon interpreting a loophole to this law being if they don’t have active accounts the law doesn’t apply. Apparently they were wrong. I AM NOT A LAWYER (or studying for the bar) and my comma key is broken at work but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the reason for the ruling.

  24. magic8ball says:

    Congress to Verizon: You can’t contact ex-customers who had a previous business relationship with you and try to get them back; that’s an invasion of their privacy!

    Congress to telecoms: You can go ahead and spy on your customers for us. No, you don’t need a warrant. No, it’s not an invasion of privacy. Here’s your get-out-of-jail-free card, have a nice day!

    Me: wtf?

  25. magnoliasouth says:

    I’m not sure I get how this is protecting the consumer. They had your information already and what’s wrong with the consumer getting something back for a change. Granted, Verizon should’ve taken better care of said customers already, but I don’t see how the FCC can actually say this.

    No, I’m going to have to disagree with the FCC on this. Verizon should have every right to win back their customers for a short period of time.

  26. rekoil says:

    @magnoliasouth: For a short period of time, maybe…I, on the other hand, still get these kinds of come-ons from Bell South 4 YEARS after I ditched them for Vonage…the phone calls stopped after several angry citations of the Federal Do Not Call Registry rules, but the spam emails and junk mail still roll in every couple months.