AT&T Can Foist Its Data Plans On You, Whether You Use It Or Not

from the eff-the-customer dept

Our most recent posts on AT&T share something of a theme in that they're about what they won't enable you to do. For instance, you can't inform them of a security hole or you'll face years of prison time. Likewise, we learned recently of their plans to limit what you can do on the internet, or limit your access entirely via one flavor of the now infamous "Six Strikes" plans. Hell, sometimes AT&T doesn't even allow competitors, because logic based on lies is so much more gratifying. That said, we make a habit here of pointing out when companies manage to go the other way and enable rather than disable, so it's with that in mind that we congratulate AT&T for generously enabling (and charging) customers for data plans on used smart phones their customers bought, even when those customers disabled and refuse to use any data applications. (In case you're slow on the uptake: that's sarcasm.)

Joel Runyon has the heartfelt story of how AT&T looked out for his own best interests by charging him for a data plan he didn't want, never used, and specifically turned off on his phone.
4-5 months ago, the hardware on my old flip phone was dying (that happens when it's from 2008). I was out of contract with AT&T and so I could have chose to get a new subsidized phone & shiny new 2-year contract with them, but I simply bought a used out-of-contract iPhone 4 from my friend and swapped in my sim card (that whole commitment thing again). Again, no problems. America! Neat.

After using the iPhone as a dumb phone for all intents & purposes (call, text, no data) for the last 4-5 months or so, I get a text message out of the blue from AT&T that they've detected I'm using a smart phone and that all smart phones require a data plan - never mind that I actually had data turned off. That would be only a little annoying if it was just a notification message, but they went ahead, chose a data plan for me, and started billing me from then on.
Yes, AT&T unilaterally decided a data plan was needed for all of the data Joel didn't need and didn't use. This wasn't a new contract along with a subsidized phone. Simply by putting his existing sim card in a used phone he bought elsewhere, this automagically meant he was given a data plan and billed for it. No discussion, no contract, just instant data plan.

EARTHQUAKE Office!!!
"Welcome to AT&T customer service. Now, if you'd kindly go f@*# yourself..."
Image source: CC BY-SA 2.0

Offering customers choices is a good thing. Limiting them is not. Forcing a plan on someone who has no intention of using it and charging them for it is about the best way I can think of to lose a customer. When Runyon contacted AT&T about this, they apparently replied that this was "standard practice," in which case it should probably be "standard practice" to find another carrier.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 8:39am

    And this B.S. is why...

    I only use pay-as-you-go phones.

    Got suckered into that for 2 years, then when AT&T bought out Alltel, I gave them back their phones ASAP and they STILL charged me for the minutes I didn't use.

    And all because they said they never got the phones in the first place. =/

    BLARGH!

    I either use Tracfone or Straight Talk from here on out.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:27am

      Re: And this B.S. is why...

      I second this. Been using a Tracfone now for 5 months and love it for my 1 phone call per week for $20 a year. The only 'screw you over' point I'm having is being charged 30 seconds time for any in and out going text messages.

       

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        silverscarcat (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:58am

        Re: Re: And this B.S. is why...

        Actually, it's 3/10s of a minute, so more like 20 seconds a text.

        I'd LOVE to have a smart phone from tracfone tho.

        But there's none in my area. :(

         

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      Dementia (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 6:44am

      Re: And this B.S. is why...

      AT&T didn't buy out Alltel, at least not here. Verizon bought out Alltel.

       

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    Christopher Best (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    Standard Practice

    Unfortunately it's also "standard practice" that there is no other carrier he can take his iPhone to, really, since we have no competition in the wireless market.

    Though Straight Talk is an AT&T pre-paid MVNO, which means you *should* get the same coverage as an actual AT&T customer by going with them.

    This is, sadly, one of the few areas where Europe really kicks our ass in the US...

     

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      Dennis S. (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:42am

      Re: Standard Practice

      Yup, unfortunately standard practice in this case means standard practice for the industry in the US. I don't know about all US carriers but I know the two biggest ones, AT&T and Verizon, force you to have a data plan with a smartphone even if you don't use data at all or only use data via WiFi.

       

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      Derpwagon, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:44am

      Re: Standard Practice

      This is also standard practice on all major U.S. carriers. You want a smartphone, you're paying for a data plan. If you get one without a data plan, they'll add it for you.

       

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        Danny, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:17am

        Re: Re: Standard Practice

        I've heard the exact same thing about the carriers up here in Canada. I refuse to upgrade to a smartphone while I'm being forced into a 30 dollar a month data plan that I neither want or need.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:08am

      Re: Standard Practice

      They have to tax all those wireless hotspots somehow. This is the only way they know to do it.

      /s

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:53am

      Re: Standard Practice

      He should be able to use it on T-Mobil.
      They use the same channels, and you're allowed to have a Smart Phone with No Dataplan (As of December 2012 when I asked them about it)

       

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        ltlw0lf (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 11:48am

        Re: Re: Standard Practice

        He should be able to use it on T-Mobil.
        They use the same channels, and you're allowed to have a Smart Phone with No Dataplan (As of December 2012 when I asked them about it)


        I realize this discussion is about voice with no data, in which case, yes, T-Mobile uses GSM, which uses the same channels as AT&T.

        However, T-Mobile does use different channels, namely 1700 Mhz for data on 3G where AT&T uses 2100Mhz, so this would be the added advantage of going with T-Mobile...if you ever accidentaly the internet, apparently according to folks on the internet, you'd have unlimited access at 2G speeds without the data-plan (though I've never tried so I cannot verify this as I actually use the 3G data.) There was some discussion a while back on one of the mobile phone forums about buying a retired and unlocked AT&T iphone and using a T-Mobile chip in it, and getting 2G without a data plan, and apparently it was working for folks. Don't know if this has changed.

         

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      Robert A. Rosenberg (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

      Re: Standard Practice

      "Unfortunately it's also "standard practice" that there is no other carrier he can take his iPhone to, really, since we have no competition in the wireless market."

      Since he is using the iPhone as a Dumb Phone (ie: No Data) he has another company to go to - T-Mobile. They will be happy to give him a SIM for use on their network (the Phone Support is compatible) and I think will not require a Data Plan.

       

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Yup, happened here too...

    Months ago I popped my wife's dumb-phone sim card into an old, unused smart phone I had laying around (HTC Aria!) to see if it solved her complaints about the call volume. Not really. But it did automatically start up a data plan, which I was informed of via the next bill+$30.

    Easily fixed, if you call terse and uncomfortable phone calls, non-answers to questions (Q: why? A: smartphones must have a data plan), veiled threats if they didn't grant a credit, and a bunch of my time "easy."

    (Aside: This is the same company who doesn't seem to know that my ancient calling plan -- still roams outside of SoCal -- and newer data plan, means that when I'm in roaming-land, I just use my Google Phone to make calls across the data plan to avoid roaming charges. Good for them on that...)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:50am

    I would talk to an attorney...

    And look at the terms of the contract you had when you got the plan originally.

     

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      Spaceboy (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:25am

      Re: I would talk to an attorney...

      And you would find a clause that says if you put a SIM card in a data-capable device you will be charged for data.

      The only way to be consistent here is to charge all smartphones data. There are too many stupid people out there that have no clue how to operate a smartphone and giving people the ability to have a smartphone without a data plan is asking for trouble. As a result, all smartphones get charged data.

      Don't forget to blame the manufacturers too. How many Smartphones are available that can only access WiFi? None.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

        the Samsung GS2 can be setup to only access wifi

         

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        swut, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:46am

        Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

        Sorry, what? What do stupid people have to do with a smartphone without a data plan? What sort of trouble? Given the ubiquity of wi-fi I'd venture a guess that almost half of smartphone wielders could care less about 'ooh so super special carrier data'.

        It's fucking thievery. Plain and simple.

        AT&T are cunts on too many fronts and are just another knighted corporation given *way* too much leeway.

        It's not "your" phone. And it's definitely not "your" money. It's theirs.

        Given the power of phones today I should have just as much say so as any PC device including but not limited to locking out and down traffic, connection sources and destinations and disabling device capabilities as well as adding new ones in.

        Legalized thievery continues to gain momentum. All hail the knighted thieves.

         

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          William, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

          Your poor choice of language makes your entire point fall flat.

           

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            swut, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

            What the fuck's wrong with my language? Oh, so, other people and companies can fuck you but I can't type it? Fuck.

            It doesn't fall flat at all. Far be it from me to care whether or not you choose to interpret text based entirely upon the existence of uncomfortable to you text.

            As if clean text will change the point and ensure that AT&T will concede their theft and remedy their purse controls.

            Please.

             

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            John Fenderson (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 1:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

            Perhaps, but his point is still completely correct.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 5:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

            So what you are saying is you can't dispute the points made, so you'll just pick apart the choice of language. Yeah, that'll work.

             

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        Berenerd (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:21am

        Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

        I have an HTC Droid Incredible 2 and a motorola (not sure the model) that I can turn off the data plan if I want to keep from going over.

         

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        John Fenderson (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re: I would talk to an attorney...

        There are too many stupid people out there that have no clue how to operate a smartphone and giving people the ability to have a smartphone without a data plan is asking for trouble. As a result, all smartphones get charged data.


        So, because stupid people exist and it's an occasional bother to cell providers that they exist, this makes outright gouging acceptable? I don't follow the logic.

        Don't forget to blame the manufacturers too. How many Smartphones are available that can only access WiFi? None


        Umm, what? What should we remember to blame the manufacturers for? The existence of stupid people or the greed of service providers?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 9:57am

    THAT'S THE DUMBEST THING I'VE EVER HEARD IN MY LIFE!!

     

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    Michael Becker (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:01am

    ATT has actually been doing this for several years. The only way around it I've found is using an unlocked phone. I have an unlocked Samsung Focus I gave my daughter, and they didn't add a data plan to it. If you use a phone that is still ATT locked and branded, they'll definitely get ya.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    wow... I'd first change carrier and second sue them. Last time I checked 95% of the phones being offered would fit in the "smartphone" category and yet quite a few people I know are happy with just using wi-fi to connect their smarties to the intertubes.

    In any case, can I say "class lawsuit imminent"?

    Hopefully they lose shitloads of customers because of this idiocy (considering other carriers and the complete lack of competition don't help them).

     

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      jilocasin, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:15am

      NO 'class lawsuit' for you sonny.....

      That would be nice, if the Supreme Court hadn't recently ruled (in a case involving AT&T no less), that companies are perfectly within their rights to contractually forbid class action lawsuits.

      California thought that was unconscionable, but the Supreme Court apparently found that to be just fine by them.

      Shortly there after, company after company started adding the 'no class action lawsuits' language to their contracts. Most required you to mail (as in a piece of paper) to a physical address, on magic fairy paper to be delivered on a Feb. 29th that happened to fall on a Sunday, during a full moon (O.K. I made that last part up).

      They 'notify you of the change' via email, phone call, click through, etc, but you can _only_ not accept via snail mail.

      Remember contracts are only binding on __you__. The company gets to change the terms and condition at their sole discretion _without_ notice to you.

      Welcome to the corporatocracy.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:57am

        Re: NO 'class lawsuit' for you sonny.....

        This is a common misconception surrounding the AT&T vs Concepcion. It does not allow companies to contractually forbid class action lawsuits it allows them to contractually forbid class action arbitration. In practice this makes it harder to get a class action lawsuit rolling but not impossible and they certainly cannot contractually forbid it.

         

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          jilocasin, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:25pm

          Re: Re: NO 'class lawsuit' for you sonny.....

          True, it didn't outlaw class action lawsuits, just class action arbitration. Hence the mad rush for every company you do business with to force arbitration on their customers, whether they wanted it or not (see previous example of onerous process to 'opt-out' of arbitration in current contracts).

          The end result is the same, companies relying on the "AT&T vs Concepcion" decision effectively preempted class action lawsuits from their customers.

          Personally I think that arbitration is a perfectly valid option between two companies that negotiate a contract between then, but they should be categorically forbidden in consumer contracts, especially contracts of adhesion.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      That's my biggest issue with this whole thing. "Smartphone" is simply a label. Or at best a set of features. If you turn off those features, you no longer have a "smartphone" even if it was meant to be one.


      Doesn't seem right that they can charge you for something you aren't using. I mean I can understand if you're using the features, but you should have the right to refuse the service.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      They really only want everyone to switch back to land lines and long distance plans.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    The correct response after that is to report AT&T for fraud, hacking and cyber terrorism.

    Although that would probably get the person who thought this up a raise and a promotion.

     

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    RamenJunkie, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:11am

    I had the same problem months ago. My wife's flip phone broke. We were still in contract and didn't want to pay for a new phone so I pulled out my old Blackjack 2, wiped it out, disabled anything data relayed, stuck her sim in.

    Instantly, I got a data plan enabled. I called immediately and had it disabled but now my wife has been months without any phone of her own on a contract I am stuck with.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    No more att...ever!

    Att or sprint or verizon...They're all the same. They will tell you you must have a data plan on a smart phone, even though you don't want a data plan. So you tell them you already have a data plan(wifi).
    What they mean is that you must have THEIR data plan.

    I solved the problem by going to t-mobile pay as you go plan.
    They have one plan that gives you 1500 minutes but only 30mb of data for $30, no contract.

    you still have to have a data plan no matter how you do it but this one is the lesser of the evils.

    We need a sopa style uprising directed at the FCC and the white house and then maybe something will be done about this type of extortion.

    It's your phone, you paid for it, you should be able to use it as you wish.

    Maybe the world needs more smart consumers instead of more smart phones!

     

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      $30 for a 30mb data plan, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 9:58pm

      Re: No more att...ever!

      Holy crap that is the most idiotic thing I have heard. So you'll spend $30-$40 a month for 1500 mins and $30 for a data pkg (30mb) that if you upload 2 pictures it's gone and on T-Mobile who's next to worst in the nation with sprint instead of going to Verizon and getting unlimited talk and text anywhere in the USA and TWO GIGS OF DATA FOR $100. I DON'T KNOW about you, but you get what you pay for and with T-Mobile that is getting crap.

       

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    Ed C., Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    I had similar issues with Verizon. The only difference was that they started charging me for a data plan I never had on a phone I was already using! I never used the data connection in the year or so I had the phone. But then I noticed the bill had suddenly gone up. I went into the store and argued with one of their reps for a good half-hour before she finally caved and had the plan removed and charges reversed.

     

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    indolent (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:23am

    nothing new

    As annoying as it is, this is nothing new. I know Verizon has been doing it for pretty much as long as smart phones have existed.

     

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    scote, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:47am

    ...and ATT is charging a subsidy for a phone they didn't subsidize

    ATT locks you into 2 year contracts with ETFs to pay for the subsidy on your phone. You pay $200 for your iPhone through them, and they charge you for the additional, say, $400 over the course of the two year contract. Only this guy paid cash for his iPhone, and ATT still expects him to pay for the subsidy and, presumably, and ETF. Heck, even T-Mobile, which says it is getting rid of phone subsidies, still has an ETF for their contract plans even if you pay full price for the phone.

    I'm not sure how ATT or T-mobile justify ETFs in contracts where there is no subsidy. California law prohibits punitive charges in contracts. The ETF for a phone subsidy is legit if pro-rated because that is an actual damage, but the ETF where no actual damages exist, is not.

     

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      Michael, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:04am

      Re: ...and ATT is charging a subsidy for a phone they didn't subsidize

      The gentleman in the article did not get locked into a contract or an early termination fee.

      He did (quite underhandedly) get his monthly bill modified without consent to include a data plan he does not want and did not use simply because he changed handsets. He can leave AT&T any time he wants (which would be right now if it were me).

       

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      Lance (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:56pm

      Re: ...and ATT is charging a subsidy for a phone they didn't subsidize

      While I can't speak to the case of ATT contracts, I can tell you that the T-Mobile ETF is brought about by the fact that they will essentially finance your phone purchase.

      You put $100 down on the purchase of that new phone and then the rest is paid off through an additional charge on your bill. When you've paid off the pseudo-financed amount the "ETF" goes away. Until then, you still owe the rest of the amount that they loaned you.

       

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      LVDave (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 1:27pm

      Re: ...and ATT is charging a subsidy for a phone they didn't subsidize

      Sprint does this too.. I bought an LG smartphone on eBay that I intended to use on Virginmobile. Unfortuantly, I was unaware that a Sprint-branded LG phone will not work (without tricks of dubious "legality") on VM's network, despite the fact that VM's "network" IS Sprint's network... I figured I'd see if what Sprint had for non-subsidized phones. At a Sprint store, I asked about non-contract plans.. Droid sez there ARE none.. Ok, you're not subsidizing any handset, why do you think you're entitled to lock me in for two years? droid just looked at me funny... I wound up reselling the Sprint-branded phone on eBay for more than I paid for it, and bought a VM-branded phone of the EXACT same model... Got in on the last of the VM $25/mo 300 min/text/data plan... Still getting it too despite the price increase..

       

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    bob, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:49am

    that's no different from

    I usually hate crossover into politics, but...
    that's no different from the govt charging you for health care coverage you aren't using.
    you can change your carrier, but can you change your govt?
    as we see from switching from AT&T to verizon, there actually is no change. same thing in switching from democrats to republicans.
    just one of those things you have to suck up, or switch to dumb phones. not sure what the govt equivalent would be.

     

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      Michael, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:10am

      Re: that's no different from

      you can change your carrier, but can you change your govt

      Considering the lack of competition in cellular service in the US these days, you need to move out of the country to change either.


      no different from the govt charging you for health care coverage you aren't using

      Perhaps you are in a different country, but the US does not charge you for healthcare that you aren't using. They actually only charge you for health care for coverage you CANNOT use. If you have money, you pay taxes that cover government-funded health care that can only be used by the people without money. If you do not have money - well, you don't pay any taxes. I'm not saying we should not have taxes going to medical care for the people that cannot afford it, I just wanted to clarify.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:19am

      Re: that's no different from

      The fundamental flaw in this is that the government is public. AT&T is NOT public, and it is NOT elected.

      And health insurance in the US is a JOKE. "let's give private entities FREE MONEY!!!"

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    What they aren't saying: we'd have to upgrade our system to prevent you from using data so we're going to charge you for data instead.

     

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      Michael, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      Minor correction:

      Our system can totally tell if you have data or not - because we have tiered pricing and data caps, so we must have the appropriate monitoring and systems in place to throttle data used, but we saw an opportunity to increase your bill and, well, f*** you.

       

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    Mr. Applegate, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    Nothing new here. AT&T has been doing this for years. They did it to me a couple of years when my Aunt's phone dies (she is on my plan) and I gave her an old Blackberry (Data turned off) They didn't even bother to notify me, they just added it to my plan. Well I guess they got what they wanted another 2 year contract signed and new phone bought, though that did end the new data plan they signed me up for.

    AT&T are the scum of the earth. The government broke them up and then, in their infinite wisdom, let them reassemble into an even worse company than they were before. Good job!!!

    I say if your too big to fail, you are to big to exist and break all the huge banks and other companies like AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, apart and DON'T let them merge again.

     

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    printing724 (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 11:21am

    Thievery but still legal, unfortunately

    Underwent the same scenario with VZW. Want to give my wife my old smartphone minus data for the convenience of having a camera, synchronized contacts, etc. but found out it couldn't be activated without a data plan which she has no interest in. So she's still got her flip phone.

    Pisses me off that a device I paid for is now junk unless I accept services not needed, but VZW has the only decent coverage in my area.

    Plain wrong but we're stuck until the FCC enforces a BYOD requirement on the carriers.

     

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    Jake, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:02pm

    This is why I refuse to use any cellphone or mobile internet plan that isn't pre-pay.

     

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    Mikael (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    This has happened to me a few times

    I use data on my phone which I have an unlimited plan, but my wife does not. She is a stay at home mom and told me she didn't need a data plan. When I upgraded my xperia x10 to a galaxy s 2 I gave her the x10. I disabled the mobile data when I gave it to her so there could be no accidental data usage.

    About three months after she had been using it she found she couldn't send any MMS messages. I saw that the APN wasn't setup correctly so I fixed it and about an hour later I get an email from AT&T stating they noticed her line was using a smartphone and didn't have a data plan so they went ahead and added the 3GB plan. It is worded like they are doing you a favor by adding something that isn't wanted or needed.

    I called them and told them to take it off. The woman I talked to insisted that because my wife was using a smartphone that it had to have a data plan. I told her that I had a smartphone exclusion on the line as it was a phone I replaced her old phone with and the data was disabled. She again told me it needed to have a data plan and said that if I didn't want it added again I would have to have data disabled on the line. I had to explain how I disabled the mobile data connection on the phone and even why disabling it on the account wasn't an option. If you disable data on the account itself you cannot send / receive MMS messages.

    You don't notice it and it doesn't count against your usage, but MMS uses data. One of times after this that they added data automatically and I had to get it removed was because of the MMS. Through a fault on the side of AT&T I was getting a $2 charge on my wife's line almost every month for less than 500k of data transmitted by MMS. They refused to believe it was their fault and insisted that my wife was using mobile data despite the fact that I had it disabled. It wasn't until the third time THAT happened that I told them to open an internal investigation, and if it happened again I was going to take legal action. I also told them that if they added data to my wife's line again without my consent that I would take action on that too.

    I got a call about a week after the last incident with a "technician" telling me it was an issue on their end. Neither issue has happened since. I still check my bill each month to make sure they aren't slipping anything extra in hoping I won't notice.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:35pm

    I see you are ordering a burger. In accordance with our company policy, you are required to get fries with that. We will now automatically add fries to your bill. Thank you for choosing (insert burger establishment here).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    They are doing this by detecting the IMEI #. If this IMEI # is from an old ATT phone on record they can determine that the phone was a smartphone and will bill you. But if your IMEI # is not from an ATT phone they will have no idea what you are using and will not turn on your data.

    Unfortunately, IMEI spoofing is a crime :(

     

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    Random Troll, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 6:29pm

    Smartphone Contract

    Yeah?... so does Verizon, so what's your point?

    My flip-phone started dying and I had dumpster-dived a Windows smart-phone. Verizon REQUIRED a data-plan just to swap the ph.# to it.

    No exceptions.

     

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      Robert A. Rosenberg (profile), Feb 5th, 2013 @ 8:00pm

      Re: Smartphone Contract

      This is because Verizon is CDMA not GSM. To use a phone on a CDMA network you have to register the phone's serial number with them (which is where they get you). With a GSM phone you just swap in your SIM and use the new phone (unless it is a smart phone and AT&T which can trigger a Data Plan - The point of this thread).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2013 @ 10:32pm

    VZ & Sprint do the same..

    So where does that leave anyone? I actually had assumed this absurdity is so that they can recapitalize the costs of the discounted smartphone which they sold in the 1st place..That was bad enough - Doing this on an old smartphone obtained via non-carrier channels falls into the "must be illegal."

     

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    relghuar, Feb 6th, 2013 @ 12:01am

    "Welcome to AT&T customer service. Now, if you'd kindly go f@*# yourself..."

    Well, that's so condescending :-/ I like this one much better:

    "Welcome to Dogbert's tech support. How may I abuse you?"
    ;-)

     

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    FlyBoyMark (profile), Feb 6th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Plans

    This is easy folks. First you send a certified letter to corporate headquarters that you reject thier TOS in whole or in part.(they will NOT disconnect you, this is a legal loop hole for you). You then file a small claims suit in your local county court for a filing fee of $35.00(here in Florida). It will cost them gobs of money to send an attorney and they will want to settle with you out of court. Win lose or draw it will only cost you $35.00 and you could reap many additional benifits from this fun confrontation.

     

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    Chris Hammel, Feb 7th, 2013 @ 10:31am

    There are choices out there now.

    Ting.com is a MVNO reselling Sprint they include Voice, SMS, Data but you can disable the feature and are only charged for what you use. I have been a Ting customer for 6 months now and I have been very please by their service and philosophy they are very root and unlock friendly see this blog post. https://ting.com/blog/unlocking-smartphones-becomes-illegal-kinda-sorta-and-not-for-ting-customers/

    This phone company is not for everyone you pay for what you use. If you do not use a lot of Data then I think that plan is for you. With three phones I save on average $65 a month over AT&T. With AT&T I had only 1 smart phone and 2 feature phones now I have 3 smart phones.

     

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    jg83, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:25am

    I know if you're using any non-Iphone device on AT&T they don't allow you to turn off LTE AT ALL. Which is ridiculous since simply browsing a few web pages, sending a bad quality cellphone cam photo over email or checking you're email a few times really eats a lot of you're data cap.

    I'm still on a 3G cellphone. I refuse to give into AT&T's crappy shared data plans sine you're paying so much for so little. Its ridiculous even with a family to have to monitor something that was never issue before on 3G.

    Someone needs to start a petition on Change.org to stop the data caps. And let it be a serious and sustained movement like SOPA. Yet, somehow we let 6 Strikes get through. For each and every win, there is always a worse failure

     

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    Tmobile User, Apr 27th, 2013 @ 4:49pm

    Smart phone without a data plan at t-mobile plus a few free gigs every month!!!!!

    I am stuck in a two year contract with t-mobile. I talked to customer service about wanting a smart phone without a data plan and they told how. Buy a phone out right "retail cost", don't use your plan for a discount. You can buy the phone thats t-mobile compatible or an unlocked GSM phone. I bought the LG Optimus L9 P769 for 200 bucks at best buy. I bought the prepaid version since the plan version cost $250 but is the exact same phone, except it doesn't come with a contract version sim card. You can get a sim for free by calling t-mobile or buy the sim on the spot for $20 bucks at a t-mobile store. When I purchased the sim the customer rep told me that I can get a few gigs of free data every month without renewing my contract, so that's what I did. I have had the phone for 2 plus months now and I have been using the phone on wifi and the free gigs, I haven't been charged anything additional. I must admit I was waiting for my contract with t-mobile to expire so I could switch to walmarts plan but the free data has me second guessing that idea.

     

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    Paula, May 8th, 2013 @ 3:00am

    Unwanted Data Plans

    They did that to me too. I don't use my phone for anything but calling and occasional texting. I told them that I didn't want the plan and they offered me a "pay as you go" option. I do not use data, I don't pay for data. It was the only way I could keep my new phone. :-/ If I had not asked them if there were any other options--because enforcing this would cause me to return their expensive phone and ultimately not reup on my contract, they obliged. You have to ask, though.

     

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    Austin, May 12th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Thats redic!! buuutttt i have a solution.

    You see i have a smartphone with out a contract or data. Every month i pay for my 50 for unlimted calls n text, through att'a gophone. No smartphonedata. I have never recieved any of these text alerts.
    I bought my smartphone, the zte avail, off amazon for cheap and just stuck in my sim from my old non smart phone. And there it is, this should work with all of att go phone plans, just make sure u dont have a contract. My mother did the same thing, she and i use our phones all the time without extra billing, maybe this is because we aren't in a contract? Either way i dont know or care, but for once after reading this article, im glad we didn'tget a contract.

     

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    Mike McDonald, Jun 12th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    AT&T fined over unsolicited data plans

    You should have done more homework. AT&T was spanked by the FCC in Nov 2012 because of this.

    http://www.fcc.gov/document/eb-enters-700k-consent-decree-att-inc-regarding-data-charges-0

    At first they honored the terms of the decree. When they stopped and then ignored its existence, I ended my long term customer status with them and went elsewhere.

     

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    Rock (profile), Jul 18th, 2013 @ 10:20pm

    I filed an FCC complaint against AT&T for this practice

    I bought a used iPhone for my kid whom I did *not* want to have a data plan. AT&T confirmed I could have a data block. Yet, they arbitrarily determine a phone to be a "smart phone" based on a wholly arbitrary (and unpublished) list of imei numbers! So, based on that arbitrary list of IMEI numbers, I must have a data plan. When I asked why they told me "so I have a consistent price". But wait. I have data turned off. The price can't possibly be any more consistent with a data plan and data blocked than without a data plan and data blocked. I filed an FCC complaint. Deceptive marketing. I got a call from an AT&T VP. No change in policy. I switched to T-Mobile and have used the iPhone ever since. No problems. No data except WiFi at home for my kid. And that's how I want it, as a parent.

     

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    Craig Conrad, Aug 10th, 2013 @ 11:32am

    Filing an FCC complaint

    I filed an FCC complaint also -- takes only 5 minutes. I suggest that *everyone* go to the FCC site and do the same. Here is the site:
    https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form2000.action?form_type=2000B

    If you want to save additional time, feel free to use this text:

    "AT&T is charging $30 additional monthly fees for connecting a smart phone, even if I am not using *any* more AT&T services than a dumb phone would use. Even if I have data blocked, they force a data usage fee on me. This seems to be the same issue which existed when AT&T was forced to cease charging additional fees when customers added their own equipment to their home phone service. In addition, it discriminates against the underprivileged, unemployed, etc, who could otherwise stay freely "connected" on a smart phone via the ubiquitous public WiFi services -- all without using any AT&T services.

    In addition, you can call Tom Burke at AT&T (405-302-2774) to let him know (he is the one that called me in response to my complaint). He told me that "AT&T made an investment in working with the phone manufacturers to get the advanced features to work, so we have a right to charge even if the phone isn't using our services".

    Finally, contact your representatives. See
    http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

    If many people do this, we might see change.

    Thanks!!

     

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    Jon, Sep 5th, 2013 @ 6:44pm

    Waiting for somebody who can SUE att

    We are forced to take data plan. I bought iphone myself and want to use the older sim, but I was forced to take data plan. How can they force us for their profit? This is crime. This is really against costumer right. I am waiting for some body who is able to SUE att for this enforcement. I would help and support him.

    I guess.....if lots of people make a single voice. We will win.

    Please, anybody, SUE att. Please sue att for forcing us to use data plan.

    Why to pay for something that we don't use?

     

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    Ross, Feb 2nd, 2014 @ 4:45am

    I filed a complaint to AT&T for exactly this reason (and left for T-Mobile)

    This happened to me!

    My ten year old received a smartphone from his grandmother, in order for him to play games on it.

    I called AT&T to add his SIM card, and, at the same time, I asked AT&T to put a data block on the phone, which they duly did.

    So now my bill would just be for the phone and text (which is a known amount), since the kid would only have Internet on the phone when at home connected to the wireless WiFi of my home broadband router, which I control.

    Do you know what AT&T did?

    Two months later, I find out that they ADDED data, without my (explicit) knowledge or permission, to my child's phone plan!

    Not only did they add data without asking me, but they also added the MOST EXPENSIVE data plan they had.

    After discussing this with AT&T, I found out that, in my contract, they can do that. OK. But why?

    I ask them why.

    They tell me many times 'to give the customer a consistent bill'. What? A consistent bill? I HAD a consistent bill with the data block.

    Now my bill is much higher, paying for a data plan I don't want, and didn't (explicitly) ask for (and, with the data block, I can't even use)!

    I then ask AT&T which phones they do that to, and they tell me "smartphones". I ask 'what's a smartphone', to get better clarification, and they couldn't tell me.

    Do you know how THEY figure out what a smartphone is?

    They maintain an ARBITRARY list of IMEI numbers, and if you put the SIM card in one of those phones, then they immediately add the most expensive data plan.
    Whether you want it or not.

    What's this list of IMEI numbers?
    AT&T won't tell you because, they say, "it's changing all the time". Yeah. I'll bet it is, since it has to be arbitrarily defined since there is no standard specific legal definition of a "smart phone" in the first place.

    So I complain to the FCC. The FCC forwards the complaint to AT&T. AT&T calls me. We go in loops with them saying the same thing.

    So I drop AT&T and switch the family plan to T-Mobile. Now all my (arbitrarily defined) smart phones and dumb phones work just fine, without data.

    Do you know what AT&T tells the FCC?

    They told the FCC that "the problem is resolved to the customer's satisfaction".

     

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      Michael, Feb 3rd, 2014 @ 1:37pm

      Re: I filed a complaint to AT&T for exactly this reason (and left for T-Mobile)

      AT&T will randomly add the $30 data plan to my wife's line when they detect data use. The thing is I have data disabled on the phone itself. If I put a data block on the line she couldn't use the unlimited mms that I also pay for. This data they are detecting being used is from the mms itself. Sometimes mms needs to use data, but it should not count against regular data use. I just call and have them remove the data each time and refund the per use data charge. It is only $2 each bill, but it opens the door for them to allow the automatic data plan addition.

      I have never ended a call without the data plan being removed.

       

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    Colin, Feb 10th, 2014 @ 2:51am

    ATT billing

    If you and every one else do think it is wrong it is wrong.
    Jurors would be very like minded as cell phones have replaced land lines, which replaced correspondence/stamps and we fought a war over the missuses/contortion of taxation on stamps.


    The bill of rights

    In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    Allot of this I feel correlates to the revolutionary war,
    What an English King (at&t) has no right to demand, an English ( American) subject has a right to refuse.

    It is the principles in which we founded our government.
    and revolutionized a country.

    Now a monopolizing cell phone company and its taxation of data unused in most cases' impedes us with charges to "use" a device that does "not" require it.

    I would love to litigate this in a court room as I am on a family plan and have no official contract however utilize there service TOS gives up your rights to sue I assume.

    I could talk them in circles for days.

    I will go up in law as.( use not, charge not ) might have duality with rental cars.

     

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    starletta, Mar 27th, 2014 @ 11:06am

    Mobile Data Issues

    I did the same thing as the story above and had two smartphones in the course of a year that I received as a gift. My mom's plan which I am on that we agreed to in 2002, pre smart phones was to give me unlimited everything. Since then I have always had internet on my phone wherever I am. For the year that I have had smartphones they never I guess detected it until last month. Now we are being charged $30 for mobile data and what's messed up is since they charged us for a data plan my data is not working. Today I finally talked to somebody about this who was willing to reduce this amount by putting us on a shared 2 gb of data however this would require a new contract and we are actually wanting to join Republic Wireless in April when they release the Moto G. While I do mostly use wifi to conserve battery life it is nice sometimes to be able to listen to pandora while walking around campus, studying, or over the fm transmitter in the car as the school's wifi is terrible and sometimes the radio just sucks.
    So i'm now charged for data I can't use and nobody can seem to fix it they just keep saying I should use my upgrade and get a better phone. Has anybody else ran into this situation that can maybe give me tips on how to fix the mobile data issue? The guy today said that it was probably a setting on my phone that was not activated, so basically it is a problem that I have to fix and no instructions on how to fix it. If it helps my phone is a Pantech Burst.
    Thank You

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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