Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011: 3 Top Online Rallies That Changed Corporate Policies

Bank of America: In October 2011, BofA announced its plan to charge customers $5 a month to use their debit cards, sparking a huge consumer uproar. (Even President Obama weighed in, using the BofA fee as evidence of the need for a strong consumer watchdog.) Online activists designated November 5 as "Bank Transfer Day," urging consumers with accounts at BofA and other big banks to switch to a small bank or credit union. On November 1st — after Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and SunTrust rolled back their debit card fees — BofA did too, citing customer concerns and a "changing competitive marketplace.”

Netflix: In July 2011, Netflix announced that it would be eliminating its popular $9.99-a-month DVD rental/unlimited streaming plan and introducing two new options: Netflix for streaming movies and Qwikster for DVDs (1). Customers of both services would now have two bills to pay, instead of one. Outraged, 30% of Netflix subscribers canceled, planned to cancel or said they were likely to cancel their subscriptions. Netflix stock lost almost two-thirds of its value in the three months following the announcement. On October 11, Neflix reversed itself, announcing that Netflix would be the single source for both streaming and DVDs. Goodbye, Qwikster!

Verizon Wireless: On December 29, Verizon Wireless announced it planned to institute a $2 fee for one-time bill payments using a debit or credit card, either online or by telephone, effective January 15. Outraged again at being charged a fee to pay their bills, consumers rallied their friends online, collecting nearly 162,000 signatures on a Change.org petition. That apparently provoked a promise from the FCC to look into the matter — which was followed, almost immediately, by Verizon’s announcement that it was scrapping the so-called “convenience charge.”

(1) A plan that lets you rent one DVD at a time is now $7.99 a month, while unlimited streaming will also cost you $7.99 a month. If you want both one DVD at a time and unlimited streaming simultaneously, you will have to shell out $15.98 per month.

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