Verizon increases SMS rates -- customers now free of their contracts

It looks like Verizon Wireless is following in Sprint's SMS footsteps, announcing a planned hike in text messaging rates for those not currently subscribed to a messaging package. The hike, which will take effect March 1st, will bump the cost of sending a text message to the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico from $0.10 to $0.15 per message, with the price for international text messages remaining at $0.25 per message. The cost of receiving a message from customers of foreign wireless carriers, however, will increase to $0.15 whether you subscribe to a messaging package or not. If this all sounds a little familiar, it's because when Sprint did the same thing late last year, it didn't take long for people to figure out that the rate hikes amounted to a so-called "material change" to their contracts, meaning they could bail on it without paying an Early Termination Fee (EFT). So if you've been sticking to Verizon but secretly fancying another carrier, this looks like it may be your only chance to take the plunge without also taking a hit. In related news, Sprint looks to be planning a price hike of another sort, with a pair of tipsters relaying the news to us that the cost for Sprint's directory assistance service will be going up from $1.49 to $1.79 on February 1st, although whether that's enough to constitute a material change to the contract or not remains to be seen.

[Thanks, Max, Tina, and Jonathan]