Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. mobile carrier, canceled a planned $2 "convenience fee" for online and phone bill payments Friday after a backlash from consumers and scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission.
The company made the decision in response to customer feedback, according to a statement on its website. On Thursday, Verizon Wireless announced that it planned to impose the fee on users who make single bill payments month to month online or by phone.
Customers quickly began criticizing the move on Twitter and in online discussion forums, with some setting up online petitions and calling for a boycott of the carrier. On Friday, the FCC said 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, consumer backlash prompted Bank of America Corp. to cancel a $5-per-month fee for users of debit cards.
"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 consumers-rights group.
"Verizon responding as soon as they did is a point in their favor," Ridout said. "It prevented people from actually being charged, and it showed they were listening."
In the company's statement, Dan Mead, chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless, said: "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."
Earlier, Verizon Wireless had said it would add the fee to address the costs it incurs for processing the single payments. The charge would not 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 their online-banking website.
Stock for Verizon Communications Inc., which co-owns the wireless business with Vodafone Group P.L.C., rose 0.2 percent to $40.12 at Friday's close in New York. The stock advanced 12 percent this year.
Verizon Wireless is driving up profit at parent Verizon Communications as it gains users for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Google Inc. Android devices, which allow users to browse the Web, watch video, and stream music.
Third-quarter net income at New York-based Verizon Communications doubled to $1.38 billion from $659 million a year earlier.