It used to be that companies could quietly bury costs in a contract, secure in the knowledge that few would notice - and that the only pressure they would face would be a few cranky (snail) mails.
Those days are gone, thanks to the net - blogs and podcasts in particular. I heard about Verizon and BellSouth deciding to keep bozo charges on their DSL bills after a regulatory change - and there was plenty of other noise about it - Engadget fills us in:
In case you haven't been following the exciting world of telecom regulation lately (and really, why would you?), the FCC recently mandated that DSL providers no longer have to pay into the Universal Service Fund that's meant to subsidize rural and low-income phone service (and that may induce all kinds of pork-barrel spending, but that's a whole other story right there). Anyway, the elimination of this surcharge was supposed to be passed along to consumers in the form of lower monthly bills -- and many companies, including AT&T and Qwest, did just that -- but the sneaky suits over at Verizon and BellSouth decided to keep charging customers almost the exact same fee, though for different reasons. Verizon claimed that it had "developed new operating costs" in the previous year, justifying this so-called "supplier surcharge," while BellSouth began calling theirs a "regulatory cost recovery fee" -- even though the USF contribution regulation no longer existed.
These are the kinds of stupid vendor tricks that used to work, and don't work any longer. There are still plenty of suits out there that haven't caught up yet though.