Why Is Verizon Charging $3/Month For Call-Blocking Service That Others Offer For Free?

Verizon Wireless now offers a service that is intended to help users block phone spam and robocalls. It appears to be quite similar to a service launched in late 2016 by AT&T or the anti-scam features introduced by T-Mobile earlier this year. But while those services are both free to use, Verizon customers will have to pay $2.99/month for this option.

Verizon has long offered its Caller Name ID service, which provides the full name, city, and phone number of callers, regardless of whether they are in your contacts list. That $3/month service now includes alerts for suspected robocalls, spam, or fraud, with the ability to report and block numbers from calling you.

That last part — the feature that will likely appeal to many Verizon subscribers who are irritated by unwanted calls — is being pushed as a new selling point for Caller Name ID, but it’s a feature that most of the competition gives away for free.

In Dec. 2016, AT&T launched its Call Protect app, which identifies problematic numbers and will proactively block certain calls from numbers that have been repeatedly flagged by users. The company says that the app has already been used to block more than one billion unwanted calls.

More recently, T-Mobile announced two similar features — Scam ID and Scam Block — that are integrated at the network level, meaning there is no need for a separate app. Like AT&T, T-Mobile doesn’t charge extra for this program.

The only obvious difference between Verizon’s Caller Name ID offering and the free services provided by AT&T and T-Mo is the ability to see the actual name of the person calling you. However, given that many illegal robocallers and fraudsters spoof their caller ID information to hide their actual identity and location, that information may be of limited use for people who just want a call blocker. What good does it help to see that “Sally Smith” from Omaha is robocalling me when that automated call is actually coming from an autodialer owned by a dude named Scott in Boca Raton?

We’ve asked the company to respond to the criticism about charging $3/month for tech that others offer for free, and we will update when we hear back.

It’s worth noting that Sprint — the “oh yeah, they exist” player in the U.S. wireless market — also charges $2.99/month for a Premium Caller ID service that, starting in Nov. 2016, now allows offers spam alerts and blocking. Both the Sprint and Verizon caller ID services are provided in partnership with the same third-party company, Cequint.