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Verizon deal ends inquiry over unauthorized data fees

WASHINGTON — Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest mobile phone carrier, will pay $25 million to end an investigation into complaints that it had charged 15 million cell phone customers unauthorized data fees over the last three years, the Federal Communications Commission announced Thursday.

Verizon announced this month that it intended to refund money to its customers for the unauthorized charges. Under a consent decree with the FCC announced Thursday, the company also will pay a minimum of $52.8 million in refunds.

The $25 million settlement is the largest payment under a consent decree in the FCC’s history, said Michele Ellison, chief of the agency’s enforcement bureau.

In a statement, Verizon said: “We are a company that listens to its customers and in this case we got to the bottom of a problem and resolved the errors. We have taken this action because it is the right thing to do.”

Verizon has begun notifying customers eligible for refunds, and it will apply credits or, in the case of former customers, mail checks for the refund amounts in October and November. Most of the credits range from $2 to $6, Verizon said. About 77 million of its customers, or roughly five out of six, are unaffected, the company said.

A region fouled by garbage loses faith in its leader

TERZIGNO, Italy — In 2008, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won the national elections in large part by promising to clean up the garbage that had been piling up on the streets of Naples. With much fanfare, he called in the army, opened new dumping sites, built a waste treatment plant and declared victory.

Today, that victory is coming undone. Garbage is once again piling up in Naples. The treatment plant does not operate at capacity. And here in Terzigno, in the foothills of Mount Vesuvius, residents who live downwind of a dump’s overpowering stench are in revolt. In recent days, hundreds have taken to the streets, blocking garbage trucks and violently skirmishing with the police.

Once again, Berlusconi has said he will solve the problem. But this time around, something is different: Few believe him.

For years, Berlusconi has been able to survive with jokes and grandiose promises. But now, as he struggles to keep a grip on his unruly center-right coalition.

Over the weekend, a radical handful tossed Molotov cocktails, burning a row of garbage trucks whose carcasses were being cleared from the main road this week. But most of the protesters appeared to be peaceful, middle-class citizens fed up with the stench and significant health problems that they believe come from living next to a garbage dump.