Saturday, December 3, 2016

Unethical Behavior by Verizon (August 2015)

For years now, Verizon has been providing cell phone service to many people across the world.  For the most part, the company has done things that have seemed fair to its customers.  However, there was one issue in 2015 that may have changed the way people think about Verizon.  On August 7, 2015, Verizon brought to life a somewhat unfair data plan.  This plan would make mandatory that customers pay for their smartphone downright, or with smaller monthly payments.  This plan went into effect six days later.  According to cnet news, “It’s a radical change in how Verizon operates and signals a broader shift away from smartphone subsidies and service contracts.” Verizon is crossing its norm when it comes to this data plan, and this is not only a major change for the customers, but also the company itself.  There is a lot of question regarding how people feel about this new plan.  There are four data plans in this new system, that have numbers of monthly GB ranging from one to twelve.  All of these plans offer unlimited talk and text.

Verizon Wireless headquarters in New Jersey
Individualism focuses on human independence and self-reliance more than anything. This particular case can be viewed from both parties. For Verizon, if their customers are willing to go aboard with this plan and end up paying more, than that will make Verizon much more independent as a company. Also, the company will be able to be more reliable due to the bigger profit that it will be making. However, if customers do not go along with this new plan, the view will be turned around. Verizon will be less reliable due to a decrease in profit, because they as a company would be losing customers and not getting paid as much. But, the individualism for the customers will get better in this particular scenario because they would be saving their own money by not adhering to Verizon's new plan. When it comes to individualism, there is a lot to consider. Customers decisions to stand with or against the plan will have an impact for both sides of the party.

The negative effect that goes along with this plan is that customers who are enrolled in family plans would pay five dollars more than usual, which really would add up with a large household family. According to cnet news, “Verizon also eliminated its low-end 500-megabyte plan, priced at $20, which was an attractive option for customers who weren’t heavy data users but still wanted to be on its network-typically order individuals who didn’t need all the bells and whistles of the latest smartphone.” This quote basically says that customers who are not totally hip to the new smartphones and are not on them constantly will still pay equally as much as those who basically live on their phones. It is the same idea as something such as going to a restaurant and ordering something small for lunch, like soup and a sandwich, but paying the same price as someone who ordered a four-course meal. This would be a very quick way for a restaurant to lose business and profit. The same applies with the Verizon case. People who are not as cell-phone active as others will likely extricate themselves from Verizon and Verizon would lose business very quickly as well.

According to DesJardins, “Kant tells us that we should act only according to those maxims that could be universally accepted and acted on” (38). It also provides the maxim answer to the question, “what am I doing?”. A Kantian might review this case as a poor action displayed by Verizon. The maxim answer to that question in this case could potentially be something as extreme as losing big-time business. That is, if enough people are unhappy with this new plan and decide to take their business elsewhere. Another maxim answer to this question is that Verizon’s competitors such as Sprint, T-Mobile, etc would see increases in business as Verizon is losing business. It is safe to say that these types of cell phone companies are major competitors and would not want to give big business away for free.

Verizon Wireless smartphones

Utilitarianism also has a good number of views. Another thing that DesJardin says is that, “Utilitarianism is an ethical tradition that directs us to make decisions based on the overall consequences of our acts” (24). It could be fair to say that Verizon may not have went along with this new plan if they knew that business could potentially be lost if there were unhappy customers. DesJardins then says, “A second tradition, one based on the importance of ethical principles and rights, directs us to decide on the basis of moral principles such as keeping your promises or giving people what they deserve” (24). One might ask himself, do these Verizon customers who barely use their phones deserve to paying the same amount as people who are on their phones constantly? Everybody has their own traditions and values in life, and those traditions should be paid for appropriately. One last tradition, according to DesJardins, is “Finally, virtue ethics directs us to consider the moral character of individuals and how various character traits can contribute to, or obstruct, a happy and meaningful human life” (24). It is somewhat difficult to connect that value to this specific case, but it can be said that cell phone users and non-cell phone users have different character in their personalities and those specific character traits should be treated equally. There are many different values associated with utilitarianism in general, and also this specific case.

Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon Wireless
Virtue Theory
According to an article called Virtue Ethics, "Virtue ethics is currently one of three major approaches in normative ethics. It may, initially, be identified as the one that emphasizes the virtues, or moral character, in contrast to the approach which emphasizes duties or rules (deontology) or that which emphasizes the consequences of actions (consequentialism)" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). As mentioned earlier, there are good consequences for this action by Verizon, as well as bad consequences. If customers decide to go with the plan, Verizon will make a bigger profit, but if customers back out of this plan, then Verizon will lose profit and the customer will save money. Either way, it is a win-lose situation. In this particular scenario, it is not possible for both parties to benefit from the action of the customers of Verizon. It could be said also that the moral character of Verizon could be questioned while bringing this new plan to life, because one might think that Verizon is looking only to increase profit, and not caring about how it affects the customers.

Action Plan
If this is a plan that is going to have a negative impact on the customers of Verizon, which obviously
does, then the option of keeping the old plan should be in place as well. As mentioned before, it is very unfair that customers who rarely use their cellphones pay equally as much as people who are on their phones constantly. According to a graph on trading economics, during the time that this new plan was being brought to life, the United States economy was decreasing very quickly, and continued to do so until early 2016 (United States GDP Growth Rate). It's bad enough that the economy was going downhill at this time, so customers really should not have to worry about having to pay more for something that really is a necessity in today's world. Another idea is that customers just pay for exactly what they use. For instance, at the end of the billing period for Verizon, the data used and the minutes and messages sent can be added up and placed on the customer's bill. That way it will be fair for each customer and everyone will pay exactly what they deserve to pay.

All in all, some will agree that Verizon’s new cell phone plan can be considered unethical or unfair. There are many different reasons of why this is, but some may think the new plan is fair, because they can be considered cell phone abusers. To sum it up, it is a plan that is going to take a lot of getting used to for all of Verizon’s customers.


By Roger Cheng August 7, 2015 9:01 AM PDT. "Verizon Kills off Service Contracts, Smartphone Subsidies." CNET.     

     N.p., 07 Aug. 2015. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.

DesJardins, Joseph R. An Introduction to Business Ethics. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2009. Print.

Hursthouse, Rosalind. "Virtue Ethics." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 18 July 2003. Web. 29 

     Nov. 2016. <>.

"United States GDP Growth Rate | 1947-2016 | Data | Chart | Calendar." United States GDP Growth Rate | 1947-2016 | 

     Data | Chart | Calendar. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. <>.

No comments:

Post a Comment