Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay $64.2 million to settle a class action lawsuit that accused the company of overcharging customers on its Family SharePlan. The proposed settlement was filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey last week in response to a lawsuit which was filed in 2006 stating Verizon charged for calls made in-network on its Family SharePlan when the calls were contracted to be free to members who opted for that plan. The charges in question were billed between 2002 and 2006.
The lawsuit also accused the wireless company of billing more than the rate advertised for any minutes used over their plan’s monthly allotment. Verizon has not admitted to any wrongdoing but is opting to pay $36.7 million in cash to affected Family SharePlan customers and $27.5 million in free minutes. The balance of $19.26 million will cover the legal fees of the attorneys who represented the plaintiffs in the suit.
The settlement has not been approved yet, but the portion of the lawsuit awarding customers free minutes may never be used since texting and email seems to have replaced phone calls as the preferred means of communication. Many people no longer have telephones in their home, other than their mobile phones. The number of text messages sent monthly in the United States alone is astronomical, especially among today’s youth.
Developmental psychologists are worried that many of this generation’s young people do not possess the interpersonal skills necessary for life because they have not fully formed them due to the lack of “true” communication. Sherry Turkle, MIT psychologist, is one of the leading researchers focused on the effects texting has on interpersonal development. Turkle said:
Having a conversation with another person teaches children how to have a conversation with themselves, how to reason, think and self-reflect. The complexity and messiness of human communication gets shortchanged with texting. This skill is a bedrock of development and those things are what lead to better relationships.
Users who habitually text cheat their existing relationships as well as hinder their ability to form new connections because they have short circuited their practice of interpreting nonverbal /visual cues. Far too many teenagers have expressed a lack of communication skills as it relates to a full conversation. This generation has learned the art of communicating in 140 characters and therefore failed to master the skill set necessary to read facial expressions or inflections.
Perhaps, the free minutes Verizon intends to hand out as compensation will help curve the lack of voice to voice communication. Although Verizon declined to comment, Peter Bezek, one of the attorneys who filed the class action suit, believed it was an oversight. He said:
I assume they legitimately believed in the billing practices they had. Ultimately, when they were shown there were, in fact, billing problems, they acted responsibly and settled the case.
On a large scale this problem is unlikely to occur again because many cell phone carriers offer plans with unlimited minutes. They have given people unlimited time to talk and yet they prefer text. Just because minutes are not as “sacred” as they once were does not mean that companies like Verizon cannot overcharge in other ways.
Verizon Wireless has agreed to correct their error by paying $64.2 million to settle a class action suit against the company. The proposed settlement will only apply to customers who were overcharged on Verizon’s Family SharePlan between 2002 and 2006.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)