updated 11:00 am EDT, Wed April 11, 2012
Verizon upgrade fee arrives April 22
Verizon underscored competitive problems in the US cellular marketplace on Wednesday by instituting a $30 device upgrade fee. Starting April 22, customers will have to pay the premium as existing subscribers if they want to get a device subsidized on a two-year plan. Spokeswoman Brenda Raney claimed the fee was needed to keep providing "level of service and support they have come to expect."
Already anticipating a hostile reaction, Raney added that the fee was "not unique" to Verizon and offered a device trade-in program as potential compensation.
The hike follows just two months after AT&T doubled upgrade fees and puts Verizon's new fee just $6 lower than that of its main challenger. In February, AT&T argued that the emphasis on smartphones meant device prices were going up and that it needed the higher fees to compensate. Verizon's own internal reasoning may be similar.
Its practice nonetheless has illustrated mounting concerns of carriers often raising prices or reducing features in closely timed patterns while rarely if ever lowering prices. AT&T and Verizon instituted caps on cellular data within several months of each other last year, with T-Mobile incorporating 'soft' caps soon after.