Quickly reversing course, Verizon Wireless canceled a planned $2 "convenience fee" for online and phone bill payments after a backlash from consumers and scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission.
The company canceled plans for the fee in response to customer feedback, according to a statement. Verizon Wireless announced the fee Thursday for users who make single monthly bill payments online or by phone.
Customers began criticizing Verizon Wireless on Twitter and Web forums after the company disclosed the fee, with some setting up online petitions and calling for consumers to boycott the carrier. The FCC said Friday that it was "concerned" about the plan and that it would investigate.
"Companies used to think they could get away with putting out unpopular policies," said Brianna Cayo Cotter, a spokeswoman for Change.org, a website that lets people start online campaigns. "Today, hundreds of thousands of people can mobilize and change policies in a matter of hours. That's what we're seeing with Verizon."
Verizon Wireless customers started more than 35 petitions on Change.org against the fee, including one that was joined by more than 95,000 people within hours.
Last month, a consumer backlash led Bank of America to cancel a $5 monthly fee for debit card users. In that case, too, consumers used online campaigns to pressure the company.
"When consumers speak against what they see as predatory practices, quite often they can help change them," said Joe Ridout, consumer services manager at Consumer Action, a consumer-rights group. "Verizon responding as soon as they did is a point in their favor. It prevented people from actually being charged and it showed they were listening."
Verizon Wireless said Thursday that it planned to add the fee to address costs for processing the single payments. The charge wouldn't have applied to customers who enroll in automatic payment plans, use electronic checks, pay at a Verizon Wireless store, send in checks or pay through online banking websites.
"The best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time," Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said in the statement.
Verizon Wireless is driving up profit at parent Verizon Communications as it gains users for Apple's iPhone and Google's Android devices, which let users browse the Web, watch video and stream music. Third-quarter net income at New York-based Verizon doubled to $1.38 billion from $659 million a year earlier.