Verizon Wireless customers took to their complaints online yesterday after the company announced a $2 “convenience fee” that will be charged, starting January 15, 2012, to people making one-time bill payments over the phone or its website. To be clear, this does not affect anybody who makes their payment through automatic bank deductions, automatic charges to a credit or debit card, or good old fashioned checks.
It’s strange, as the New York Times points out, that Verizon is charging for Internet transactions, since there is, ostensibly, just the customer and a computer involved. Phone transactions make more sense, because there’s someone on the other end of the call who needs to get paid too. The Times spoke to Gerry Purdy, an analyst with MobileTrax, who speculates that “Verizon may be imposing a $2 fee on one-time online payments to pressure customers to enroll in an automatic payment option, Mr. Purdy said, because it creates a higher probability that the payments will come in on time.”
Chalk it up to bad timing. People are on vacation and thinking about the bills they just amassed over the holidays and maybe about economic hardships over the past year. Then Verizon drops the news like a big lump of coal into their empty stockings. I know you have to get paid, Verizon, but if you would have waited a few weeks to make this announcement, you might have saved yourself a big PR headache.