The Federal Communications Commission has been notified by an independent telecommunications lawyer that Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) understated the amount it collected from erroneous data charges on customer bills when the company agreed to refund the charges after the story broke back in 2010.
Telecom lawyer Arthur V. Belendiuk obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act that revealed Verizon may have charged up to $240 million in false data-use charges. The company refunded $53 million to its customers after the case broke.
In 2009, thousands of Verizon customers started complaining about a mysterious $1.99 data charge that appeared on their phone bills even if they hadn’t been using the Internet or data. Some of the charges accrued when phones were shut off, or on phones without Internet capabilities.
The FCC investigation revealed the false charges had affected 15 million Verizon customers. The wireless provider was forced to pay $52.8 million in customer refunds and $25 million to the U.S. Treasury to end the investigation.
“Today’s consent decree sends a clear message to American consumers: the FCC has your back,” Julius Genachowski, then the FCC chairman, said on Oct. 28, 2010. “Today’s settlement also includes strong FCC oversight and accountability to ensure that Verizon Wireless fully repays what they owe to their customers and puts new measures in place to improve customer service.”
Apparently, though, the FCC didn’t have Verizon customers’ backs completely, according to allegations from Belendiuk. The lawyer claims Verizon not only lied repeatedly about the true amount of money it was overcharging its customers but also that the FCC knew Verizon’s estimates were completely off. Belendiuk is accusing the FCC of actively choosing not to audit the numbers Verizon provided and accepting Verizon’s inaccurate estimates without question.
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