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Verizon says data input error led to 133,000 customers' late fees

A week after Verizon pledged to refund bogus late fees applied to the bills of 133,000 customers in west-central Florida, people are still stewing about the mistake. And they're asking questions about what the telecommunications giant did and didn't do in the aftermath. Here are a few frequently asked questions.

How did the phony late fees happen?

Someone in a Durham, N.C., billing center entered the wrong instructions into a computer that generated the bills for customers in Florida, California and Texas, said Bob Elek, a Verizon spokesman. Verizon says customers should get a credit for the fee on one of their next two bills.

So, how much in extra fees is Verizon holding? Will customers receive interest on that money?

The fee is $7 or 1.5 percent of the bill, whichever was greater. That's at least $931,000 from Florida customers, and Verizon doesn't plan to give back the interest. "We typically don't do bill adjustments with interest," Elek said.

Can't the Florida Public Service Commission do anything to make Verizon pay interest?

Verizon is making refunds without an order from the PSC. If the commission ordered a refund, it also could require bill credits for interest. In this case, one month of interest would come to less than 2 cents per customer; two months would be about 3.5 cents.

I'm on auto bill pay. My paper bill arrived several days before Verizon charged my credit card. Why wasn't the $7 taken off my bill before the account was charged?

Once the billing process starts, Verizon can't adjust individual accounts, Elek said.

Is there anything else Verizon will do to make this right?

Officially, no. But at least one customer got some satisfaction. Andy Harris of Tampa spotted the fee on his bill and called customer service. On his third call, a supervisor at a contracted call center gave him a $7.79 credit She made a mistake, Elek said. Both Verizon and contract customer service agents have been reminded of Verizon's policy ''not to adjust a bill with any compensation," Elek said.

Verizon says data input error led to 133,000 customers' late fees 03/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 8:17pm]
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