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:
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 .]