Verizon ruffled plenty of feathers in the mobile content and financial space earlier this month when RCR Wireless News reported the carrier was planning a new three-cent surcharge for text messages sent to its subscribers through major SMS aggregators like VeriSign and MBlox. That roiled content providers, mobile couponers and text-search engine players like Google and 4Info, who found themselves facing an immediate tripling of marketing costs. Bank-related firms were none too happy themselves. “What that would essentially do is increase price that Verizon would be getting from its aggregators, and SMS aggregators would pass that along to content providers, which are our clients, the banks,” says David Thompson, marketing vp with text-banking platform vendor Clairmail. A bank would have to pay three to four times the current cost of issuing text messages for balance inquiries or fraud alerts, says Thompson. “This is a really crummy time to do something that might curtail the information that gets to the consumer.” Many see it as a shortsighted grab for revenue which might choke off burgeoning activity in mobile banking, where 75 percent of the business currently is delivered via SMS. The proposal also heightened the controversy from recent decisions by Verizon and other major carriers to double charges on text recipients from 10 cents to 20 cents per message, a move which itself has drawn Congressional scrutiny. The resulting furor had Verizon backtracking on the plan last week, with the company now claiming this was a “draft” proposal “to stimulate internal business discussions and in no way should have been been released to the public and represented as a final document,” in a released statement.
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