New consumers of Verizon Wireless may get locked into a longer marriage with the carrier starting next week.
Beginning April 17, the nation’s wireless service provider with the most subscribers is quietly ending its offering of one-year contracts.
Does this have to do with AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile? It’s what consumer groups have feared would result from a consolidated wireless industry. They say providers could jack up prices, limit choices and add more constraints.
Verizon Wireless has already eliminated flat-rate monthly data plans and has said it will begin charging for data speeds. Post Tech has written about how that spells confusion for users, who may face higher bills.
Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless, said in an e-mail that the company decided to stop offering one-year contracts because “the greater majority of customers sign up for a 2-year contract and take advantage of discounted (promotional) price for the device.”
She did not respond to a request for an internal memo detailing Verizon’s contract changes.
Raney said customers can choose month-to-month plans or prepaid services, and that existing one-year contracts will remain until they expire.
Smaller carriers such as Cellular South have complained that the exclusive handset agreements by Verizon and AT&T make it harder for them to compete against these titans of wireless. Verizon has 94 million subscribers, and AT&T with T-Mobile would have 130 million users.
Verizon is under increased scrutiny by federal regulators. It settled with the Federal Communications Commission over a false data charge that resulted in $77 million in federal fines and reimbursements to customers.