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Verizon's $2 'convenience fee' sparks online petition, FCC interest

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless' new $2 "payment convenience fee" for online credit and debit payments is sparking a consumer backlash and a some scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission.

Since the fee was announced Thursday, customers of the nation's largest wireless carrier have complained about the charge on Twitter, in Facebook groups and pages and Google+ too. The $2 charge is set to go into effect starting Jan. 15 for Verizon users not enrolled in automatic bill pay options who pay their bills online with a credit or debit card.

On Friday morning, the FCC said in a statement that, "On behalf of American consumers, we're concerned about Verizon's actions and are looking into the matter."

Molly Katchpole, a Washington activist and Verizon subscriber, started a petition at the online activism site Change.org calling for Verizon to scrap the $2 fee.

The Change.org petition, launched late Thursday, is a tactic Katchpole used earlier this year when Bank of America attempted to institute a similar $5 fee for those who use its debit cards for purchases.

The Bank of America fee promoted a national outcry and eventually the bank abandoned the fee before it could go into effect.

Time magazine identified Katchpole's petition as one of the many instrumental actions that defeated the Bank of America fee and the activist is hoping to have similar success this time around with Verizon. As of the middle of the day on Friday, the petition had more than 37,000 signatures.

"Verizon just announced a new $2 fee for paying your bills online. Really. Even though paying via internet is fully automated," Katchpole's petition reads. "It's not just about the money (though if you're like me, you don't have extra cash to be sending to a giant phone company in order to pay your own bills.) It's that Verizon thinks it can do anything to its customers, and that we're powerless to stop it. (Spoiler alert: We're not.)"

Verizon, which has more than 90 million customers, said it was introducing the fee to help make up for the frees credit card companies take when they process payments.

In 2010, Verizon Communications, Verizon Wireless' parent company, reported a profit of $10.2 billion, down from $11.6 billion in 2009. Last quarter, Verizon doubled its profit from a year earlier to $1.38 billion.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles and Jim Puzzanghera

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A sign at a Verizon store in New York. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

 
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