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Verizon Wireless drops $2 bill payment fee

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Verizon Wireless, under fire from consumers and federal regulators, scrapped plans to charge a $2 “convenience fee” for those who pay their phone bills online or by phone with their credit or debit cards.

The decision to cancel the fee was made “in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions,” Verizon said in the statement.

“At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers,” said Dan Mead, Verizon Wireless’ president and chief executive. “Based on their input, we believe 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.”

The $2 fee was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 15 and be charged to customers each time they paid their bills with a credit or debit card — unless that customer was enrolled in automatic bill-paying options that can charge credit and debit cards or withdraw money directly from bank accounts on a recurring basis.

Verizon, which has more than 90 million customers, had said it was imposing the levy to help make up for the fees that credit card companies charge Verizon when they process payments.

But the $2 fee immediately drew the ire of consumers, and on Friday the Federal Communications Commission said it would look into whether the charge was necessary.

“On behalf of American consumers, we’re concerned about Verizon’s actions and are looking into the matter,” the FCC said in a statement Friday.

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 on Google+.

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

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

The Bank of America fee prompted a national outcry, and eventually the bank abandoned the fee before it went into effect.

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