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.
“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.