Verizon Backs Down to Consumer Protests

By Kelly Hodges
Consumers rang in the New Year celebrating yet another victory over big business.  Verizon Wireless announced Saturday that they were retracting the new $2 fee on one-time phone or internet credit card payments that they had introduced just 24 hours before.  The introduction of this fee by Verizon was thought to be a tactic to encourage consumers to use their automatic bill pay services, and was being termed a “convenience” fee by Verizon spokespeople.  There was public outcry and consumer backlash immediately following the announcement with the start of online petitions and postings on Twitter against the company.  The tactic clearly worked, because almost as quickly as it was announced, the fee was removed.

This scenario is reminiscent of what happened with Bank of America just a few months ago.  When the banking giant announced that it would be rendering a $5 monthly fee on debit cards, it turned into such a disaster that they were forced to drop the fee almost immediately as well.  Consumers were so outraged that they started a “Bank Transfer Day” to encourage the masses to move their money out of big financial institutions in favor of smaller community banks or credit unions.  This grass roots tactic seems to have worked, as the Credit Union National Association reported acquiring 40,000 new customers with $80 million dollars of funds on the designated Bank Transfer Day of November 5th.

This small victory over Verizon seems a fitting end to 2011 for consumers.  Though reversing a $2 fee may not seem like a big deal, it’s the statement being made that is the larger story.  The people are showing that they are no longer willing to sit back and blindly accept the terms and conditions big business imposes upon them.  The last few years of financial hardship have produced a more savvy and outspoken consumer who will put up a fight against fees big or small.  It will be very difficult going forward for any company to try and sneak a new fee past consumers without causing a rebellion.

It will be interesting to see how the relationship between this new breed of “don’t mess with me” consumer and service provider morphs in 2012 and the years to come.  It seems that at least for the moment, the people are succeeding at keeping the big boys in check.

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