Is Verizon Randomly Charging You $1.99 Per Line For "Data Usage"?

On August 14, the Cleveland Plain Dealer printed a column by a business writer who described her 6-month-long ordeal with Verizon concerning a mysterious $1.99 charge for “data usage.” The paper says that over 400 Plain Dealer readers responded with complaints similar to the one in the column. Now the paper says they have a promise from Verizon to refund these mysterious and erroneous charges.

We join our hero as Verizon tells her that she and her family must have been “accidentally” using the internet. I would accept this immediately with no backtalk because using the internet is somewhat akin to breathing for me, but her family apparently doesn’t suffer from this problem and didn’t find this explanation credible.

From the Plain Dealer:

My patience with this issue ran out last month. I went to a local Verizon store and told the nice salesman, Jason, that I wasn’t leaving until the mysterious, recurring $1.99 “data usage” charge was resolved. Lo and behold, he was able to look up what day and time my son most recently “accidentally” accessed the Internet for one minute and one minute only.

It turns out this $1.99 charge showed up on my son’s line on a day when he was grounded from his phone. His phone was in my dresser drawer. And we were out of town that afternoon. Oops. No accidental Internet access going on that day. I erupted.

Verizon’s next explanation was that it has a “backup assistance” service that automatically backs up your contacts list without your knowledge in case you lose or break your phone. Some people get charged $1.99 a month for this, even though it’s free.

Jason told us he could fix it so we’d never get billed for this again. Yes, it can be done. If customer service tells you otherwise, they’re wrong.

The paper has some instructions for getting your money back from Verizon, so we’ll pass them along:

Take a look at your bill

Where to look for the data usage charge:

The first page of your bill should have a section labeled “Quick Bill Summary.” Look under the summary for “Usage Charges, Data.”

What to do if you spot an error: Call Verizon customer service (800-922-0204) or visit a full-service store to investigate the charges and ask for a credit.

If Internet usage is the issue, ask technical support to track down the Web sites visited, and dates and times.

If premium text messages are the issue, determine whether you have applications that are downloading information automatically. Go to your “menu,” then click “media center.” You may need Verizon’s help determining what applications cost money.

You can block features you don’t use and don’t want to be charged for by accident, such as Internet access or the weather forecast. Access your account online, call customer service or visit a store.

Verizon’s $1.99 ‘data usage’ charge ended, but it wasn’t easy: Money Matters [Cleveland]
Verizon offering refunds because of mystery ‘data usage’ charges [Cleveland]
(Photo:Tom Simpson)