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AT&T vs. Verizon Wireless: Would You Rather Get One Big Ripoff or Lots of Tiny Ripoffs?

So the dueling mobile-phone service pitches— AT&T: we have the fastest network! Verizon: we have the most coverage! —also apply to the companies’ choices of scams. With AT&T, what’s impressive is the power of the individual charges :

I went to the Toronto Film Festival for 5 days and 4 hours and received a $1524 AT&T bill for data charges on top of the $199 paid for the first 200 MB. A total of $1723.

[…]

I was told that the AT&T iPhone app worked in Canada by an AT&T operator. The application had a line graph that tracked international usage. But as AT&T cannot finish their accounting for international charges until 90 days after the data is used, it’s impossible for them to display charges they haven’t received yet.

Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has focused on ripping off small amounts of money from the

greatest possible number of customers

:

In the last three years, the F.C.C. has received hundreds of complaints from Verizon Wireless customers who said they were charged for data use or Web access at times when their phones were not in use or when they mistakenly pushed a button that activated the phone’s Web browser.

Beginning in 2009, The New York Times and The Plain Dealer of Cleveland, among other publications, reported that customers had been complaining of the charges but had often been ignored by Verizon Wireless. On certain flip phones sold by Verizon, a directional arrow, when pushed, automatically would initiate the phone’s Web browser.

Even if customer immediately canceled the action, they were often charged $1.99 for Internet access, according to the complaints

In all, the Times reported, the company is supposed to be giving refunds to 15 million customers.