The US network provider has been given a fine of $25 million by the FCC for spurious data charges, following a 10 month investigation. They will also have to refund over $50 million to 15 million customers who were overcharged. Much of the case focussed on the network’s pay as you go customers who were charged for activities such as accessing the Verizon home page (promoted as free) or for accessing web pages which failed to load.
It’s good to see the FCC acting against the operators, but ultimately these kinds of activities are bad for business for brands in mobile. In the UK many of the scandals have been around Premium SMS. In spite of some sterling work by the regulator, Phonepayplus, reducing the scams to almost zero, there is still a strong public perception that shortcodes can be dodgy. Similarly, operator charges on data, roaming and roaming data have made some of the public highly wary of accessing sites or apps. A recent DMA/IAB mobile messaging study found that the main concerns about mobile marketing were the costs – percieved as both high and unexpected. That is consistent with previous studies. So, the Verizon rip-off may have a lasting effect that could hold back consumer confidence in mobile marketing.