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October 29, 2007

Verizon: When “Unlimited” Doesn’t Mean Unlimited

Filed under: Computers,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:44 am

Verizon unlimited broadband No one wants to have to watch the clock or keep track of kilobytes downloaded when surfing the net while traveling, so when Verizon offered “unlimited” broadband access for your laptop via its cell towers, many consumers signed up.

From a 2005 press release announcing a promotion for its BroadbandAccess service, Verizon said:

Because of Verizon Wireless’ number of customers, network footprint and experience in deploying a national wireless broadband service, customers can take advantage of unlimited BroadbandAccess for $59.99 monthly access with a two-year customer agreement.

The problem was that “unlimited” did not really mean unlimited.

*MOUSE PRINT: The downloading of movies and playing online games were not allowed. And there was an undisclosed cap on monthly usage which could trigger termination of your account. The service was primarily intended for web browsing, email and intranet access only.

Unfortunately for Verizon (and fortunately for consumers), the New York Attorney General started investigating the promotion, and learned that some 13,000 customers nationwide had had their services terminated for excessive use of the unlimited service they purchased.

To settle the case, Verizon agreed to reimburse terminated consumers some $1 million in costs for their equipment, and pay $150,000 to the NY-AG. [Settlement announcement from the New York Attorney General.]

Currently, on the Verizon Wireless website, the service is being marketed specifically for web browsing, email and intranet access, and all references to unlimited use have been removed:

verizon broadband updated

Their terms and conditions now explicitly state what activities are prohibited and what the cap is on usage.

For its part, Verizon said:

“We are pleased to have cooperated with the New York Attorney General and to have voluntarily reached this agreement,” said Howard Waterman, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. “When this was brought to our attention, we understood that advertising for our NationalAccess and BroadbandAccess services could provide more clarity.”

Putting aside the PR BS, let’s hope this is a lesson not only to Verizon about how it promotes its services, but also to other providers who also promise “unlimited” service but in fact have undisclosed usage caps.

[Disclosure: Edgar is a new member of Verizon’s Consumer Advisory Board and receives a small grant to help operate ConsumerWorld.org .]

• • •

14 Comments

  1. Nice to see a happy ending for consumers…:)

    Comment by Peter — October 29, 2007 @ 6:53 am
  2. Well, as far as I know there’s still a limit of 4 or 5 Gigs. And most annoyingly “internet browsing’ explcitely excludes ‘streaming’. So that means you can NOT use your “unlimited” package to listen to your favorite radiostation online while commuting.

    The fact that the judicial system led to the addition of more fine print, in stead of proper use of the word ‘unlimited’ is a fallacy. It shows that marketers can pretty much promise anything, as long as they limit their promis in the fine print. Thanks NY! No, not really.

    Comment by Jasper — October 29, 2007 @ 7:09 am
  3. Anytime a telecom offers unlimited anything it should automatically become “buyer beware”.
    They take advantage of the fact that most people don’t read the fine print before they sign on. the line.

    Comment by Jimbo — October 29, 2007 @ 11:13 am
  4. Oddly enough, I agree with Jasper. Shame on me! Unlimited should mean unlimited. Anything else is, well uh . . . limited!

    Comment by shawn — October 29, 2007 @ 1:56 pm
  5. @ shawn: You are forgiven :-D

    @ Jimbo: ‘Unlimited’ should not mean ‘buyer beware’. It means ‘unlimited’.

    What is wrong with people that think they can change the meaning of words in mouse-print? Is this really a consequence of Clinton asking what the meaning of ‘is’ was? Is that his legacy?

    @ All, sorry for my typos.

    Comment by Jasper — October 29, 2007 @ 6:02 pm
  6. Amazing how unlimited is like the Clinton speech (depends on what the meaning of “is” is)

    I can only imagine that years from now we’ll wonder why all the commotion about this, like when Yahoo limited e-mail to 5MB, then 10MB, then…and now unlimited (which is essentially no practical limit of space including attachments.)

    When the phone companies realize that unlimited communication through a single cell phone has little impact on the system (or will in a few years) then you’ll probably see every service offering that and we won’t have to worry about them putting fine print on THOSE parts of the contract.

    Comment by RS — October 30, 2007 @ 1:07 am
  7. @ RS: The problem is that there is no real competition for customers in the cell phone market. If there were, there would be an incentive for companies to lower their price and to actually offer unlimited internet through cell phones. Note, these things are happening in Europe, the Middle-East, India and China. But not in ‘free-market’ America. No, here, cell phone providers are squeezing as much money out of their customers for as little service as possible.

    Don’t believe me? Just compare the pricing. In the Netherland and other Europeans contries, T-Mobile offers truly unlimited internet for €9,95 (about $14) a month. Unlimited text messaging is virtually free. In the US, you pay about $40 for limited internet, and about $20 more is you want to have unlimited text messaging.

    Comment by Jasper — October 30, 2007 @ 7:20 am
  8. I knew it would never last!

    Jasper – the last time I checked, I had more than several choices when it came to providers of cell phone/wireless services. Sure sounds like real competition to me!

    I suppose they are all conspiring against us? Damn The Man!

    Comment by shawn — October 30, 2007 @ 1:25 pm
  9. Note to Shawn and Jasper,

    You two are the most active posters here, and I appreciate your interest in Mouse Print*. But please, this is NOT a message forum where people debate a topic back and forth.

    This area is meant to allow comments exclusively about the fine print issue in question, and not for discussing larger issues that might come to mind related to the company or general topic raised.

    I hope you both understand my desire to keep these comments narrowly focused on the fine print issues raised.

    Comment by Edgar — October 30, 2007 @ 1:40 pm
  10. How about Verizon’s sneaky extention of your 2 year contract
    if you activate a phone you already own onto an existing plan?
    Then if you want a new phone on this plan they act as though
    you have a contract already on an existing phone and “don’t qualify” for
    the discount.. Only with confrontation do they relent and still
    act as though they have done nothing wrong. I hope to go unlocked
    soon with an N95 once the price drops (will have to use tmobile)
    though). Verizon has a good product but they make it difficult \
    for a user to really enjoy it, I for one don’t appreciate the
    the feeling of control this company creates with it’s products.

    Comment by Bob — October 30, 2007 @ 6:52 pm
  11. Bob – Please try sticking to the topic at hand please! Unlimited should mean unlimited!!!

    Comment by shawn — October 31, 2007 @ 9:58 am
  12. The decisions I make on a product will definately be made be reading the fine print- not by product.Know it will be difficult to make that decision,at that time, but guess that’s the lesson to be learned for this topic.

    Thanks!!

    Comment by Wanda — November 26, 2007 @ 11:48 am
  13. This just shows how wireless is strepping up their game. Just imagine when they start billing through the online marketing stage. That’s gonna be big!

    Comment by Rocky Pacley — July 12, 2008 @ 7:49 pm
  14. constrain rankness!iterative.rupture dislocating,etymology – Tons of interesdting stuff!!!

    Comment by secure online casino gambling zone — July 14, 2008 @ 10:45 pm

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