Mignon Clyburn to Verizon: Are You ETFing With Consumers?

I wouldn’t mess with Mignon Clyburn.

During the run-up to the net neutrality NPRM, the phone and cable companies threw everything they had at the FCC. The Commissioner called out those who “seem to prefer radioactive rhetoric and unseemly and unbecoming tactics.”  Radioactive, unseemly, unbecoming.  That’s about as close as an FCC Commissioner comes to telling lobbyists they’re acting like spoiled children and should grow up.

Now, Verizon is trying to defend what the NYT’s David Pogue calls two “particularly nasty” practices.  The FCC asked Verizon to explain two practices–early termination fees shooting up to $350 on smartphones and phantom charges for accidental data use.  Verizon responded with what Pogue called an “outrageous” document, also criticized by consumer groups.

Commissioner Clyburn was also unimpressed.  She issued a statement questioning Verizon’s response on both fronts.

It’s good to see Commissioner Clyburn think in terms of public interest rather than the mindset of carrier-profits:

So when [consumers] are assessed excessive penalties, especially when they are near the end of their contract term, it is hard for me to believe that the public interest is being well served.

And she alludes to a bigger point–phone companies, too often, try to lock in consumers through huge fees rather than through innovation and great service (a mindset recently described as an MBA mentality by the Google folks). Rather, to keep consumers, phone companies should focus on giving consumers what they want (usually a competitive necessity).

The bottom line is that wireless companies can truly earn their desired long-term commitments from consumers by focusing primarily on developing innovative products, maintaining affordable prices, and providing excellent customer service.

And this promised not to be just a pretty written statement:

I look forward to exploring this issue in greater depth with my colleagues in the New Year.

All in all, great news for consumers.

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