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August 29, 2007

Short Fall Charges – Verizon Style

We generally make our landline long distance calls on Vonage. As a backup and partly out of lethargy, I left Verizon in Stowe as the LD carrier on the one Verizon line we have there. Carefully chose the Verizon plan which says it has no monthly fees but has high rates because didn’t intend to use it anyway - the plan that’s meant for impoverished and friendless hermits.

This was actually a good deal for Verizon both because we did occasionally use it on purpose and, more often, because we dialed out on the wrong line and ended up paying ten cents/minute for domestic LD and astronomical amounts for international.

But we haven’t been in Stowe for the last months so I was very surprised top see that we still had a $2.18 charge for LD. It’s all itemized on my bill: this is a shortfall charge:

“Your Long Distance qualifying charges this month are 0.00. When Long Distance charges are less than $2.00, the shortfall charge is the difference between those charges and $2.00.” Of course there’s an eighteen cent Federal Universal Service charge on top of the two buck charge for NOT making any calls.

Why Verizon can’t just say there’s a two dollar minimum is a mystery. Shortfall charge? come on. Am I being punished?

This is the residual culture of a politically well-connected monopoly. They can charge me for NOT being listed in the directory. They can charge me for NOT making long distance calls. This is rent-collecting in spades. It’s like the fee John D. Rockefeller got the railroads to “agree” to pay to Standard Oil for every barrel of oil they hauled for Standard Oil’s competitors.

But they’re not a fully-protected monopoly any more. I’d already abandoned them for LD and all but one local line. The short fall charge reminded me to simply cancel the LD service from them. Slowly – painfully slowly – competition will win out.

BTW, I can no longer find the plan I signed up for on Verizon’s website. I’m sure I saw it the other day listed as “no monthly charge”. I was looking to see whether “shortfall charges” were properly disclosed.

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