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When Will Companies Learn? How to Avoid a Verizon-Style Fee Frenzy

How can out-of-touch companies stop alienating customers with messy p.r. battles and embarrassing reversals?


Thanks to social media, consumers have a force multiplier to help them combat corporate policies they see as unfair, especially fees. In the last year, we’ve seen the defeat of a $5 debit card fee at Bank of America and the mass rejection of Netflix’s attempt (since cancelled) to split into two different services. The latest victim of this wave of minor consumer revolts was Verizon Wireless, which chose the week between Christmas and New Year's to announce a $2 fee for consumers who aren’t enrolled in an automatic payment plan. An avalanche of consumer complaints—and word of an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission—led the company to reverse its position. How can out-of-touch companies stop alienating customers with messy p.r. battles and embarrassing reversals?

Talk to users first. “Why not post it on your Facebook page?” Ron Shevlin, a business analyst, suggested to The New York Times. “Maybe the feedback would have been just as bad, but then you’re seen as heroes for listening to feedback ahead of time. These firms are not reading the mood or living in the real world.” It’s hard to believe that Verizon didn’t anticipate any backlash from this decision, but apparently they’re that out-of-touch. Their troubles are compounded by the reversal, which gives the impression that the wireless giant’s execs got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

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Glad Bank of America Dropped its Fee? Thank the Governmarket

When government makes the rules fair, everyone wins.


Yesterday, Bank of America announced it was dropping the $5 monthly fee on its debit card service for checking accounts. The fee had earned the ire of the bank’s customers and became a symbol of corporate excess.

Bank officials blamed the card fee on the government, saying that new rules limiting fees they charge stores to process card payments forced them to shift costs to consumers. We noted that a lot of other banks operating under the same rules don’t charge those kind of fees, and suggested you take advantage of your options: If you don’t like how Bank of America is treating you, take your money elsewhere. More and more people are doing just that.

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How New Bank Fees Drive Competition—and Where to Go for Savings

New bank fees raise consumer blood pressure, but they'll help create a better market for basic banking. Here are three places to find a better deal.

Bank of America’s recent decision to institute a $5 monthly fee for using a debit card has customers up in arms: Enough of the bank's nearly 40 million checking customers flooded Bank of America's website with complaints to temporarily shut it down. The single largest bank in the country is trying to deflect their ire onto the government: If financial regulators hadn’t limited what banks charge customers in overdraft fees and retailers for debit card swipes, they wouldn’t have to charge consumers for basic services.

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The Banks Most Responsible for Blasting Mountains and Ruining Appalachia

See which banks are still financing mountaintop removal coal mining and ensuring the destruction of the world's oldest mountains.

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