According to Fortune, the Federal Communications Commission has recently confirmed it is investigating complaints from Verizon Wireless customers about strange data billing. Among those complaints are upticks in customers’ mobile usage when they’re asleep, data usage surging from single digits into hundreds of gigabytes, and even a case of a deceased man’s phone suddenly triggering overages on his widow’s account.
The billing issues were first uncovered by financial reporter and columnist for The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Teresa Dixon Murray. She also revealed an error in 2010 that led to a substantial fine for Verizon. Murray wrote that her family received extra charges for usage that apparently happened while the family slept, leading to a series of replies from Verizon customers across the country who had experienced the same or a similar problem.
Now, six years later, the stories are not only still flooding in, but being taken seriously. One woman was charged for using wireless data on a flip phone that was not data-compatible. In another story, a woman named Joyce Shinn was surprised to find that her husband’s bill started showing data charges a year after his death.
Perhaps the most significant of all is the story of Valerie Gerbus, whose reported data usage skyrocketed from 4GB one month to 596GB the next. Gerbus was charged a whopping $8,535, plus a $600 fee when she decided to cancel her plan. Although Verizon eventually waived the bill and claimed that they resolved the situation, the company refused to provide details about the initial problem.
Various Verizon representatives have responded to Murray’s probing on these billing errors, attributing them to consumer error or popular, automatic smartphone features that prioritize using data over Wi-Fi.
The FCC hopes their investigation will determine whether these issues are a coincidental collection of consumer errors or rather something more nefarious, or simply ignorant, by Verizon Wireless.