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Verizon drops $2 'convenience' fee

Less than 24 hours after it announced it would charge a $2 "convenience fee" for every one-time online or phone payment customers make, Verizon Wireless reversed course after consumer outrage spilled onto the Web. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Less than 24 hours after it announced it would charge a $2 "convenience fee" for every one-time online or phone payment customers make, Verizon Wireless reversed course after consumer outrage spilled onto the Web. The decision also came hours after it was made known that the FCC said it would investigate the new fee, which would have penalized those who make monthly payments via the Web or phone.

“At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe 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,” said Dan Mead, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless, in a statement.

"The statement speaks for itself," said a Verizon Wireless spokesman to msnbc.com, when asked for more details about the carrier's decision.

The company planned to put the $2 fee into effect Jan. 15. That news also coincided with another PR nightmare for Verizon: the third outage this month of its new 4G wireless network. The problem, the carrier said, was tied to the "growing pains" of being a "pioneer" in offering the most extensive fourth-generation wireless service in the nation at this point.

In the past day, Change.org and other consumer groups organized online protests about the new fee; as of Friday morning, the petition at Change.org had more than 64,000 signatures from those upset about the charge.

Verizon had said the $2 fee was needed to "address costs incurred" because of "those customers who choose to make single bill payments in alternate payment channels (online, mobile, telephone)," and that the charge would be waived for those "who pay by electronic check or enroll in AutoPay" (or pay by snail mail).

Last month, Bank of America also reversed course after public upset over its plan to charge a $5 monthly fee to customers who used their debit cards to make purchases.

Ben Rattray, CEO of Change.org, said the decision was a huge victory for customers: "The era of corporations walking roughshod over consumers without consequence is officially over. Social media sites like Change.org are fundamentally shifting the balance of power from companies to consumers. Companies must now deal with an unprecedented new force: millions of customers hyper-connected and easily able to mobilize together in response to their actions.”

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