Verizon Wireless's new $2 "convenience fee" for paying a bill online has outraged consumers, and today the Federal Communications Commissions said it will look into the fee.
"On behalf of American consumers, we're concerned about Verizon's actions and are looking into the matter," the FCC said in its statement.
The FCC isn't providing further information about its investigation. The New York Times was the first to report the FCC's statement.
Verizon confirmed on Thursday that beginning January 15, it will charge customers $2 to pay their bills online using the one-time Web payment option on its Web site and in its mobile app. Customers will also be charged for making a payment by phone. The company said the fee will not be charged to customers who sign up for automatic bill payment using their credit cards, nor will it apply to customers who pay via electronic or physical checks.
The company did not offer much of an explanation for why it needs to charge this fee. In a statement sent to CNET on Friday, Verizon said that "the fee will help allow us to continue to support these single bill payment options in these channels and is designed to address costs incurred by us for only those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone)."
In other words, Verizon is being charged to clear payments via phone or online and it's passing those fees onto customers.
Spokeswoman Brenda Raney also stressed that there are several ways for customers to pay their bills and avoid paying the fee.
Still, the news of the change has outraged many Verizon Wireless customers, many of whom feel they pay enough already for Verizon's service. In the more than 240 comments left following CNET's story reporting the news of this charge, one reader wrote:
"Yet another example of the 1 percent sticking it to the 99 percent."
And on the social-networking site Twitter, there were many people expressing their annoyance at the new charge.
@VerizonSupport @VZWnews $2.00 "convenience" fee for paying online?? No thanks, Verizon. Adios. I am switching to a different phone company.
Some people on Twitter suggested making payments to Verizon as inconvenient as possible for the company:
kistari Kathy Kozakiewicz
Instead of paying Verizon's $2 convenience fee for credit card payment, walk into the store & pay. Give them a little inconvenience.
So far, Verizon seems to be sticking to its guns regarding the fee despite the backlash. But it's possible that as the January 15 date approaches and now as the FCC looks into the matter, that the company may retract this fee. That's what happened to Bank of America earlier this year. The company was going to charge a $5 fee to customers who use their debit card to buy things. After outraged customers voiced their opinions loudly online, the company backtracked.
Still, other companies charge fees for processing online transactions. For example, the loan company Sallie Mae charges a fee for customers to pay their bill online. And several power utilities throughout the country also charge fees for processing online transactions.
For Verizon, the outcry comes at a time when the company has been experiencing frequent outages on its 4G LTE wireless network. Three times in the past month, the company has experienced nationwide outages of the data network.
What's more Verizon is also one of the most expensive wireless service providers in the country, so the added fee to customers who already pay more for their wireless service than subscribers for other wireless carriers, almost seems offensive to some wireless customers.
"If you stop and think about it, it's absurd that you have to pay ANYTHING to settle your account with a provider of anything," said real_kieron, a CNET reader who posted a comment following the news of Verizon's new fee. "I mean, really? I pay for the 'service,'...I get an invoice monthly for the 'service,' then I have to pay the provider to zero my account balance...really, it's ludicrous, absurd, totally whacked out, etc."