Verizon Charges You For NOT Making Long-Distance Calls

Call it a “you’re not making us enough money” fee. If you don’t make at least 12.5 minutes of long-distance calls, Verizon is assessing some home phone customers a $3.49/month “shortfall charge.” If you want to get rid of the fee, you can, but you’ll have to pay a one-time $5.50 fee. Verizon told KING5, “that even if a person doesn’t make long-distance calls, they still have access to the phone network. The “shortfall charge” helps pay for maintenance of the network.” What a crock.

Some Verizon customers upset about shortfall charge [King5] (Thanks to Cory!) (Photo: Atilla1000)

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  1. Gtmac says:

    Can we charge Verizon a $5.50 “business ethics shortfall charge” in return?

  2. El_Fez says:

    Man, if that were my phone company, I would be raising nine different levels of hell. Fortunately I’ve got Quest, which doesn’t seem to be that evil of a company.

    Or at least not obviously evil. . . .

  3. unobservant says:

    That sounds ike the “system access fee” made famous in Canada by Rogers.

  4. floraposte says:

    There’s a “Get Out of the Fee” fee? That’s quite the labyrinth they’ve got there.

    • kc2idf says:

      @floraposte: Not yet. It’s not labyrinthine until they add a “get out of the “get out of the fee” fee” and hold a sweepstakes, the winner of which gets to get out of the get out of the get out of the fee fee free.

      :-)

      • Mythandros says:

        @kc2idf:

        ROFL! That’s awesome, I’d so sign up for that… so that I could sign up for the get out of the fee but they’d probably end up charging me a sign up fee to sign up to sign up out of of the fee fee..

        *Head spins* Now I’m confused.

  5. nakedscience says:

    THAT IS BULLSHIT!

  6. Nighthawke says:

    That raises questions if this passes muster with the state PUC’s. I’d be posting inquiries with your respective states as well as the FTC on this matter.

  7. vladthepaler says:

    You can also avoid the charge by using a different phone company.

    Sprint tried to do something similar a few years ago, they wanted to charge $2/month for long distance service whether I used it or not. So I cancelled my Sprint long distance.

  8. Justin Gross says:

    This has been going on for a few years now. There were stories at first where it was $2 for the free. Even the article linked here is from a year ago. I wonder if the fee is even more now.

  9. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    They’re getting off easy. I pay $9.50/month for line access because I’m in a “rural” area with what the phone company claims are very, very high maintenance charges because I am SO FAR from my nearest neighbor and the line maintenance charges are therefore exorbitant. And by “rural” I mean “3rd-largest metro area in Illinois (after Chicago and St. Louis) with an urban history dating to 1680.” I even live in old urban housing stock in an older urban neighborhood. So by “so far from my nearest neighbor” I mean less than 10 feet on one side and about 16 on the other, and that’s just so the driveway can go through. Just so we’re all clear on what “rural” means to a phone company.

    • Ein2015 says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (on Twitter: LPetelle): Tried disputing that yet?

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        @Ein2015: It’s statewide and our very active citizen’s utility group has had no luck.

        @howie_in_az: I use DSL, and I have to pay that $9.50 line charge to get the DSL even if I don’t have phone service. Even with the $9.50 line charge on top of the DSL and the other phone-line-related taxes, it’s still about $10 cheaper than the local Comcast monopoly for internet.

        (We actually do have a 50-cents-a-month calling plan (still $10 cheaper than Comcast), just so we can occasionally call for pizza when the power’s out. Also we don’t have e-911 yet here and we were mighty glad we still had the landline when my neighbor had a heart attack and everyone was kinda panicking while calling 911.)

    • howie_in_az says:

      @Eyebrows McGee (on Twitter: LPetelle): If you have TMobile you can pay $0.50 more than that fee for their VoIP service and keep your original number.

  10. vastrightwing says:

    Is this like the $5 bank fee for not having money in my savings account each month?

    I fixed the fee by closing my account. Simple enough.

  11. Nate425 says:

    Even with the occasional problems associated with VoIP, if I wasn’t already using it, I’d dump Verizon in a heartbeat and switch over. It’ll only get worse. It’ll get worse for VoIP too, but it’ll at least get worse slower, and hopefully not with the same blatant disregard for its customers.

  12. FooSchnickens - Full of SCAR says:

    Next thing you know they’ll have a Fee fee for covering the development of these ridiculous fees. I bet Xzibit would make a great CSR, “Yo dawg, we heard you like fees, so we made fees for your fees so you can overpay for the same service. Word.”

  13. edison234 says:

    How on earth did Verizon perform maintenance before this fee was created? Was it built-in to the per-minute charge? It was? So the users of Verizon long distance customers subsidized the non-users for maintenance fees? I guess that division isn’t a bunch of commies any more. Go capitalism!

  14. maxx22 says:

    This applies to ALL telehone companies:

    Customers need to go through their telephone bills line by line and review ALL charges and alternatives. Examine the details of each bundled PLAN.

    Are you paying equipment charges for stuff that you no longer have or need?

    Look for OVERLAPS between your cell phone coverage and your land line coverage. Are you paying for long distance charges on both?

    Can your cell phone replace one extension or even that second land line?

    Do you really need a dedicated fax line or can everything be incorporated into your computer?

    Check the company’s web site to see what else is available.

    I believe that most people can cut a significant percent (1/4 – 1/3) off their monthly phone bills by careful analysis.

    • Myotheralt says:

      @maxx22: This needs to be bumped to the top. In every service contract, ie cable, phone, murder for hire… the customer needs to make sure that he is getting exactly what he is expecting and paying for.

  15. Cyclokitty says:

    We were sick of paying the $6.95 systems access fee with Primus and we found out phone cards were a lot cheaper. It runs for something like 1¢ a minute anywhere in Canada and no extra fees or charges.

    Primus is the biggest rip off since Rogers. The systems fee was supposed to be every other month but it always appeared on the monthly statement. The catch was if we made more than 6.95 in long distance charges then the fee turned into a credit.

    Whatevs. The $5 phone card lasted 4 months before we had to buy a new one.

  16. zentec says:

    Verizon started doing this a few years ago. But they also instituted a $5.00 charge for making the changes necessary (a couple clicks of a mouse, I’m sure) to stop being able to make long distance calls. When I moved into my current house ten years ago, the monthly cost for a landline was $23 with taxes. Now it’s over $48.

    With the cellular coverage as good as it is, I told them to shove their landline and went with a cheap VOIP service for the home number.

    Ported and waved buh-bye to Verizon.

    • howie_in_az says:

      @zentec: I did the same with Qwest, who wanted $25/mo for a very basic landline (pretty much just a dialtone). Now I pay $10 to TMobile for their VoIP service and have caller-id, call waiting, 3-way calling, voicemail, and free long distance, something that would have been at least $35/mo via Qwest.

      I sound like a TMo shill but I really don’t understand how local phone companies could think that $25/mo for a phone line is perfectly acceptable.

  17. Saboth says:

    Heh, that’ll win over some customers. Glad I never bothered to get a landline…my cellphone works just fine.

  18. tc4b says:

    Not to sound too old-man here, but ALL of those chintzy little fees are BS. If I go to a newsstand to buy a paper and a coffee, he doesn’t charge me a ‘store heating and cooling fee,’ even though those are real costs to him. He just includes ALL of his costs in the PRICE of his goods. It’s way more honest that way.

    • Ein2015 says:

      @tc4b: … and thus I refuse to use Ticketmaster. Ever.

    • parkavery says:

      @tc4b: 100% agree. I’m so sick of “maintenance fees” that should be considered a cost of doing business (like my bank trying to charge me a maintenance fee for holding my money). None of these systems are new, but the fees to manage them are. WTF?

    • Eliamias says:

      @tc4b: This is why I ditched my phone company in Canada. There is a touch tone fee. You can’t get pulse service anymore, but you can’t not pay a premium for touch tone though it’s standard. Wrap your mind around that one if you can.

      The beauty of this is that they’re haemorrhaging customers and they called and gave me an exit survey of sorts all the while begging me to come back. I sat there with my bill and went through their BS line by line completely bending that poor woman’s ear. Felt oh so good.

  19. darcygreen says:

    This is exactly what Telus did in Canada. In order to get the best rates they would charge a $4.95 monthly administration fee. I then switched to RBC Visa’s “Talk & Save” program. They pitched it as lower rates and no administration fees. Well, guess what, 2 months ago I start to see a $3.95/month administration fee on that bill as well. I finally switched to Shaw cable phone. I get an even lower long distance rate and no administration fee (yet).

    • Mythandros says:

      @darcygreen:
      And you won’t get one. (By reading this you are agreeing that this is my opinion and not in any way a fact that will hold true for any amount of time as I am not an administrator and I do not make the decisions.) :P

      *Works for Shaw cable*

  20. nataku8_e30 says:

    I’m completely fine with that as long as there are no other flat charges in addition, say like a $15 a month base rate plus long distance minutes * long distance fee. Otherwise, isn’t that base flat charge supposed to pay for things like network maintenance and company overhead?

  21. consumer-warrior says:

    Sort of like Dish TV who charges you a $5.00 a month fee if you don’t have your receiver hooked up to a phone or broadband line. Anything to try and squeeze every cent they can out of every customer.

  22. SavitriPleiades says:

    The article is from May 2007.

  23. nwaasob says:

    Verizon first hit me with this fee 8 years ago. I called them and at that time, as is typical with Verizon to this day, their answer was “Too bad”. They are evil and should be destroyed.

  24. JeffDrake says:

    Err . . . this article is dated May 2007

  25. richcreamerybutter says:

    I have to say I was honestly confused upon first reading this headline, then realized it applied to land lines. I haven’t had one in so long…

  26. corinthos says:

    On my old landline I got like 50 minutes of long distance on a seperate charge than what I paid for the service. I was told that I might as well keep it because the fee for taking it off was the same price as having.
    I hate all the extra fees, sure you are checking price quotes and they give you a price of 25 dollars and its 30 from a different place. Though the place that has the 30 dollar plan doesn’t have the extra 17 dollars in random fees they tack on every month.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Yup. Used to drive me crazy. $5 a month (PLUS TAX) in long distance fees when I never made any long distance calls. Their response: “Well, we’re charging you for the ABILITY to make them.” WTF?! Then they’d charge you the $5 PLUS the cost of the call when you DID make one.

    Imagine if all of life was like this? You get your bill at a restaurant and there’s a charge for a bottle of Dom Perignon. “But I didn’t order any Dom Perignon!” you say to the waiter. “Maybe not, but you had the ABILITY to order it! Since you didn’t, we need to make up for the loss of what we would have made if you had.”

    Bye, Verizon! You may still own my lines, but at least now my $27 phone bill doesn’t balloon to $52 from the addition of 14 (I counted) different fees, surcharges, and taxes on fees and surcharges.

  28. chiieddy says:

    This is nothing new. I removed long distance from my phone completely and bought a calling card when they started to assess this.

  29. Stream Of Consciousness says:

    What. The. Fuck. ??

  30. JeanStork says:

    Is this on landlines? or both land and cell… I havnt had a house phone in easily 4-5 years now… Ive been carrier shopping, and if this is on cell phones too, they can kick rocks…

  31. madanthony says:

    In today’s environment of VOIP and unlimited long distance, this seems like suicide. Why would you want customers to have another reason to stop using a product that’s already in decline?

    My nearly-70-year-old parents just switched to FIOS, despite not owning a TV and using the internet for nothing more than casual websurfing and email. Their reasoning was that right now they have long distance, which they only use very rarely, but had stupidly high rates when they did, plus extra charges for things like call waiting and caller ID. With FIOS, which uses VOIP for phone, all those things are included for about the same price.

  32. William Mize says:

    It’s about time I got mentioned on Consumerist!
    Well, at least a charge I am currently saddled with is mentioned.
    The only reason I have a land-line to begin with is that it’s mandatory for my home alarm system. Gotta have a dial tone.
    Every six months I call Verizon and get changed to the minimum plan that they have. They move me, and then magically, a few months later, charges such as the above, start creeping in.

    ‘effin HATE Verizon.

    • Sir Winston Thriller says:

      @William Mize: I know that ADT will put in a wireless connection for about $100. I was going to do that, but instead kept my landline and went to Comcast.

      • William Mize says:

        @Sir Winston Thriller: True, but it’s a bit more expensive down here. ADT quoted me about $200 to install the wireless connection, and then an additional $30 to $40 a month for the privilege.

        Sometimes, I think that a good 12 gauge would be a cheaper alternative :)

  33. MeOhMy says:

    I switched to Cavalier. Eat it, Verizon.

  34. TheFuzz53 says:

    Maybe I should bill them at my hourly rate for the hours I have to spend on the phone with these idiots whenever they manage to screw up my bill.

  35. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    When Verizon in Vermont raised my rates again, claiming it was needed to put in fiber, I cancelled. I mean, they’d been going for approval to sell to Fairpoint. I knew that fee was going to cover someone’s bonus…I switched to Comcast. (Hold on…) It has been mostly problem free, with just one or two reboots of the phone modem. And damn cheap.

    Verizon? Gone from Vermont. Fairpont? Losing money, losing customers, and can’t keep the network going.

  36. runchadrun says:

    Actually FIOS doesn’t use VOIP for phone. The fiber comes into the big gray box on the side of your house where the different wavelengths are split into data (for Internet), TV, and voice.

  37. Anonymous says:

    @runchadrun

    Actually, it IS VOIP and the tv is IPTV. The fiber comes either to the curb or directly to the premises and goes into an ONT or Optical Network Terminal. Most houses are provisioned with about 40-70 mb/s which is then split off to provide your broadband, your tv, and your voice services. Now you as an enduser don’t really see it as voip, its as transparent to you as any digital telephone service, but the reality of the situation is that its VOIP, always has been, always will be.

  38. itsgene says:

    AT&T did this about a decade ago, charging $4 or so per month if you DIDN’T make any long distance calls.
    This is news?

  39. mbd says:

    As much as cable companies suck for tv, there is nothing wrong with their phone service.

  40. Stephanie Young says:

    The landline I got with Verizon was the last dealing I ever hope to do with Verizon. I ordered DSL and a landline with pay-per-minute long distance. The phone line barely worked to begin with and we never made long distance calls since we had cell phones. So I called to switch to the local-only line, which their website claimed was $5/month. I was paying $45. So they put me through the variety of CSRs and finally say I’m all set! My new monthly cost will be…$39! ‘Cause, you know, dial tones are expensive. Seriously. That’s why it cost more than $5/month. This was AFTER I spent 4 hours trying to cancel my DSL order because they said they’d “mail me the internet in a month or two.” This was in 2003 and I’m still bitter.

  41. fatcop says:

    @ William Mize: You should have a 12 gauge anyway.

  42. nybiker says:

    @hi: Reply isn’t working here.

    @Ein2015: And here’s another reason to avoid LiveNation, the folks that run roughshod over the equally bad folks at PNC Bank (Arts Center). It seems that LN has instituted a $6 per person PARKING fee on EVERY ticket for shows at what used to be called the Garden State Arts Center. Yes, EVERY TICKET. No matter how you get into the joint. The story was reported yesterday in the New York Daily News (page 2). And for some reason, PNC also hits you with a “charity fee” of 25 cents. Gee, I don’t know what’s worse; naming rights or TM/LN.

  43. Keter says:

    I ran into this non-use fee for long distance with Southwestern Bell, now AT&T. The solution was to simply block long distance access on the line. For the times I need to make a long distance call on my land line (rarely, almost always for faxing), I use a third party long distance provider, Dime Line (VarTec) – cheap and reliable, bills to my regular phone bill with no surprises. I can still call toll free numbers directly.

  44. Coolintino Testingpage says:

    lame.