The landscape of the mobile industry is changing. As the biggest players in the market close the gap on the longtime industry leader, each brand is looking for a way to bring customers over from Those Guys to Us.
One of the most common levers is, of course, money. Lower rates, fewer fees, bonuses, free equipment, even offers to pay early termination fees. Anything to convince customers they will get a better deal with Us instead of Them.
Once again, though, Verizon has announced plans to buck that trend. This is not really anything new. The big dog in that market has a long history of just charging what it wants and trusting in its inherent superiority to keep the customers rolling in. But those days may be coming to an end…and the death knell may start this coming spring.
CNN is reporting Verizon plans to start charging upgrade fees every time a customer opts to upgrade to a new handset. They’ve already jettisoned deep discounts on their phones, opting to make customers pay full freight through a one-time fee or a monthly payment plan. Now they will reportedly begin charging a $20 upgrade fee.
The fee will be charged even if the customer is a longstanding Verizon customer and they are not changing their plan when they upgrade.
There might be some customers cheered by this news, as they know the fee for upgrading while still under contract is twice as much … but they may want to read the fine print. That $40 fee will remain in place. Verizon isn’t replacing it with a lower fee; they’ve just decided to charge everyone, regardless of where they are on their contract.
This isn’t to say there aren’t ways around the fee. Customers can avoid the $20 (or for that matter, the $40) fee if they buy the phone from another source, like Amazon.com, Walmart, the Apple Store or Best Buy.
Verizon is calling the fee a necessary charge to cover the costs of processing the increased device turnover. In other words, people are buying new phones more often. Industry watchers and aggravated customers are already saying this is just Verizon trying to find a new way to stick their customers for more money. It’s a narrative customers, especially those considering a switch to another carrier, are apt to listen to attentively.