Verizon has announced that it will live up to an agreement with eagle-eyed customers who took advantage of a loophole. A software bug on its website let people get a new phone while keeping an unlimited data plan.
Last year Verizon decided to scrap unlimited data deals not just for new customers, but for new handsets. The changes meant that if you already had an unlimited deal, you could keep it for as long as you like, but couldn’t transfer it to a new phone unless you paid full price, which can be $500 or more for a top-end handset.
A screw-up on the website this weekend meant it was possible for customers to order a new handset at a price subsidized by Verizon, but still transfer an old, unlimited contract. It seems to have been a relatively simple bug that meant selecting a new phone at the reduced pricing didn’t automatically filter out the option to transfer a contract.
Naturally word spread and what Verizon is only willing to describe as “a number of customers” took advantage before the bug was fixed yesterday.
The company has clearly decided it’s not worth the hassle of opening itself up to civil suits and says it will honor any orders that were approved over the weekend. It says customer will be able to “retain their unlimited plans for the duration of their contract and receive their new device.” That suggests that people who took advantage may find the unlimited data option disappears after two years.
Some users reported attempting to take advantage of the bug but having trouble completing the order. Verizon’s response to those folk can be summed up as “nice try, but tough luck.”
As always there are some great conspiracy theories floating about from people who don’t subscribe to the Hanlon’s Razor idea. One is that Verizon wanted to boost the number of people on ‘new’ two-year deals to help quarterly figures, though it’s hard to believe enough people will have seen and acted on the bug to make a meaningful difference.
Another is that Verizon wanted to carry out a controlled study of how many people would get new phones (and what handsets they’d opt for) if they were allowed unlimited data deals. That also seems unlikely given that Verizon chief Lowell McAdam argued last week that — contrary to the belief of some rival carriers —unlimited deals simply aren’t sustainable because “it’s the physics that breaks it.”