How to get Verizon and AT&T data-cap fees waived during the pandemic
Verizon Wireless and AT&T say they’re both waiving mobile-data overage fees to help customers deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but the fees will not be waived automatically. Instead, Verizon and AT&T users have to contact the carriers’ customer service and say they’re experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship to get the fees dropped.
Unlike Verizon and AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are providing customers unlimited data during the pandemic without requiring them to contact customer service. T-Mobile announced on March 13 that it is upgrading all customers on limited plans to unlimited smartphone data (excluding roaming) for 60 days. Sprint, which is being acquired by T-Mobile, announced the same day that it is doing the same.
Verizon announced its overage-fee-waiver program in a press release Monday and offered details on how it will work in a FAQ:
When a Verizon customer is experiencing hardships because of COVID-19, Verizon will waive late fees and [data-cap] overage charges for 60 days from March 16 to May 13 for customers who let us know they are unable to pay as a result of economic hardship due to the pandemic, and we will not terminate service to those customers. If our customers are experiencing a hardship, they should call our customer service team to discuss their situation and available options.
We asked Verizon if customers will have to show any proof that they are unable to pay because of the pandemic, but we didn’t get an answer. Mobile-network support options are available at this page, and residential support is here.
Verizon does not impose data caps on its DSL and fiber home Internet services, so overage fees apply only to certain mobile plans with monthly data limits. Some of Verizon’s limited plans simply throttle customers’ Internet speeds after they use up their data, but other Verizon mobile plans charge overage fees of $10 per gigabyte after the customer’s limit is reached. Verizon says more than half of its mobile customers have unlimited plans.
Verizon is also adding 15GB of 4G LTE data to customer accounts for no extra charge, which could prevent some people from going over their caps. The extra data can be used from March 25 to April 30 and applies both to regular phone plans and hotspots. Through April 30, Verizon is providing unlimited domestic calling to customers on plans with limited voice minutes and “free international calling for consumer wireless and home voice customers to CDC level 3 countries.
AT&T: No proof is required
AT&T announced a data-cap fee waiver on Sunday, saying, “As of March 13, 2020, and for the next 60 days, we will waive domestic wireless plan overage charges for data, voice or text for residential or small business wireless customers incurred because of economic hardship related to the coronavirus pandemic.”
When contacted by Ars, AT&T said customers must contact customer service to get the fees waived. “Customers experiencing hardship can go online to att.com to chat with a rep to request relief,” AT&T said. The fee waivers will be available through May 13. Customers will not have to provide proof that they can’t pay due to the pandemic, AT&T told Ars.
As with Verizon, many AT&T mobile plans have unlimited data or throttle speeds once customers hit their limits, so the overage fees don’t apply to everyone. AT&T does impose data caps on its home Internet service, but the company previously said it is waiving those fees for all home-Internet customers. Unlike with AT&T mobile service, the home-Internet overage fees are waived automatically for all customers. “We are automatically halting all disconnections and waiving data overage caps on home Internet for all customers for those same 60 days [March 13 to May 13],” AT&T said.
The four major mobile carriers are among more than 500 home- and wireless-Internet providers that signed a pledge to the Federal Communications Commission. The pledge commits that ISPs won’t terminate service to residential or small business customers who can’t pay bills because of the pandemic, will waive late fees incurred because of the pandemic, and will open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them. The pledge doesn’t include anything about data caps.