Verizon Wireless to pay out millions to consumers for past 'mystery fees'

Verizon Wireless has wrongly levied data fees on about 15 million customers. The refunds are in the mail.

Verizon Wireless will issue a refund to consumers for past 'mystery fees.' At left, a Verizon Wireless store in New York.

Verizon Wireless will issue refunds to millions of customers hit by unwarranted "mystery fees." That's the news today from Verizon, which has apparently been under investigation by the FCC for more than a year. Verizon says the fees in question were labeled as "data charges," and were applied even to the statements of customers who had not purchased a data package from Verizon.

"In October and November, we are notifying about 15 million customers, through their regular bill messages, that we are applying credits to their accounts due to mistaken past data charges," a lawyer for Verizon Wireless wrote in a statement today. "We will mail former customers refund checks. In most cases, these credits are in the $2 to $6 range; some will receive larger credits or refunds."

In a note emailed to the site Ars Technica, FCC spokeswoman Bureau Chief Michele Ellison confirmed that Verizon had been under investigation for some time. "Questions remain as to why it took Verizon two years to reimburse its customers and why greater disclosure and other corrective actions did not come much, much sooner," Ellison wrote.

Well, refunds are cool. But you know what would really lift the moods of more than a few Verizon consumers: An Apple iPhone, configured for the Verizon network. Gossip about a Verizon iPhone, of course, has been circulating the Web for more than a year. But late last month, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg apparently put a kibosh on the rumors, pointing out that that Apple had not yet made an iPhone that would work with Verizon's CDMA network.

"We would love to carry [the iPhone] when we get there, but we have to earn it," Seidenberg said at an NYC investors conference, according to the tech site Ars Technica. "I think 4G will accelerate the process, and any other decisions Apple makes would be fine with us. Hopefully, at some point Apple will get with the program."

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