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AT&T Buries ToS Changes In 2500-Page Guide

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the if-you-can't-play-nice dept.

Communications 99

JagsLive points out a story from the business section of the L.A. Times which begins: "Judging from the phone company's voluminous new online customer manual, if you have a problem with your bill, too bad: AT&T has sent customers an 8,000-word service agreement that, among other things, says people will be given 30-day notice of price increases only when 'commercially reasonable' and that you can't sue the company. Oh, and if you don't like AT&T's terms — providing you can make your way through the company's 2,500-page 'guidebook' — your only recourse is to cancel service."

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lawyers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25038435)

on your marks, get set.....

I'm into cancelling service (2, Interesting)

2.7182 (819680) | about 6 years ago | (#25038671)

I don't use many minutes. I am tempted to cancel from evil AT&T and get a monthly phone that is real cheap and no contract. Any comments on whether I will get screwed ?

Re:I'm into cancelling service (2, Informative)

JBMcB (73720) | about 6 years ago | (#25038831)

I use a T-Mobile burner. Minutes are a little pricey, but get cheaper after you invest $100. It works fine, I spend maybe $5/month, there are no recurring fees. It doesn't do internet, I don't text (It's $0.10/message) It's a pretty barebones phone, but I used to have a fancy unlocked linux phone that worked fine with the SIM.

Re:I'm into cancelling service (1)

hazem (472289) | about 6 years ago | (#25039131)

You might check out Virgin Mobile. Inexpensive phones and a variety of plans... minute by minute or month-to-month... all without a contract. I've happily used them for about 4 years. The only hard part is picking one of their phones that don't make you look like you're trying to be a teenager... which is fine, I guess, if you're a teenager (I'm a couple decades past that...)

The piggyback on Sprint's network, so they work pretty well wherever Sprint works.

Re:I'm into cancelling service (2, Informative)

LordNimon (85072) | about 6 years ago | (#25039163)

I've never had any problem with Virgin Mobile. I bought a $50 phone, pay $5/month for cell phone service, never had any outages, and no contract either.

Re:I'm into cancelling service (1)

LearnToSpell (694184) | about 6 years ago | (#25041549)

+1 for Virgin. I bought a $20 phone (which is now TEN), pay $5/month for cell service, get 75 supplemental minutes/month through their silly ad service, and no contract. It's great for the 17 of us in the world who aren't on our phones 40 hours a month.

Re:I'm into cancelling service (1)

blakecraw (1235302) | about 6 years ago | (#25040401)

I got a tracfone for the same reason, and it works great. One rate, although text messages do get pricey (each message sent/read = .3 minutes), and when my old phone took a swim I just called them and I think came out of it with more minutes on my new phone than I had in the first place. So no, I don't think you'll get screwed.

Re:I'm into cancelling service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25041951)

I signed up for a month-to-month no long term contract DSL service with Verizon. When I decided to go online to view my Verizon 'portal' I see that it says my contract expires in a year from when I signed up.

I called up to complain and get it fixed. All they did was BS me saying that a month-to-month contract/service meant that send me a bill each month for a year. Future calls just ended with me being transfered into nothingness. I never recorded the first call when I signed up, so I have no tangible proof

I stopped calling but have been paying my bills. The year long term has slightly cheaper bills then the 'month-to-month'. My plan is to pay the early termination fee if it equals the difference between the monthly and year long rates. If not, then I won't pay it when I move back to school.

I'm not sure what else I can do (anyone have some tips? I'm in Rome, NY if local laws can help.)...

My point being: Yes, you are going to get screwed. If not this time, then the next time or the time after that.

Net 10 - .10 / minute (1)

Entropy98 (1340659) | about 6 years ago | (#25044087)

Net 10 (same company as tracfone) .10 cents a minute and .05 text messages. (compared to the .20 text messages I have through tmobile now)
 
Net 10 usually sells phones on their website with 300 minutes for $20 (plus taxes and shipping, buy more save more) which works out to less than $.10 a minute. Then when you get low on minutes, order a new phone, call them and transfer your number and minutes to the new phone + another 300 minutes. Takes about 10 - 15 minutes. Minutes last 60 days, and when you add new minutes you get to rollover the old ones.
 
This is the absolute cheapest pre-paid phone plan there is. Others are .20 to .25 a minute. The only reason I switched to tmobile was because I could get email ($10 a month), and internet (slooow and another $10). Then they want another $10 month for text messaging (using the built in yahoo or msn text messengers is billed as text messaging, not internet use, surprise!). I assume in the future they will charge $10 a month for FTP, https, and every other protocol, individually. After taxes and fees, unused minutes, overage minutes, and those damn viral text messages it's clear I'm getting screwed, and would probably be better off with pre-paid. The only problem is the $150 penalty if I cancel, and I like to have the backup email and internet access.
 
--
  black shot [blacshotfps.com]

Re:lawyers (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 6 years ago | (#25038701)

Well, I suppose only a lawyer could manage to stretch a mere 8,000 words over 2500 pages. And no, I didn't read TFA, since the summary was so nonsensical.

Re:lawyers (2, Informative)

Lostlander (1219708) | about 6 years ago | (#25038733)

It's an 8,000 word service agreement buried in a 2,500 page 'guidebook'.

Re:lawyers (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 6 years ago | (#25038805)

Hmmm, my bad. Another case, then, where one might not want to examine the old metaphor of "having you over a barrel" too closely.

Re:lawyers (3, Informative)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | about 6 years ago | (#25038829)

even worse, it's an 8000 word service agreement "referencing" an online-only guidebook. And it still has clauses in it that e. g. CA courts have found unenforceable, but if your local courts haven't done so you're still stuck with them.

Re:lawyers (2, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | about 6 years ago | (#25039487)

Well, you can always sue. AFAIK, you can never really waive your right to sue, and clauses stating such are trivially easy to throw out.

Re:lawyers (4, Informative)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#25040969)

Yes and no. You can ALWAYS file suit. period fucking dot.

However immediately following the companies lawyers will file a motion to dismiss based on the binding arb clause. YMMV at that point but a judge CAN order binding arbitration.

AT&T (5, Funny)

Erie Ed (1254426) | about 6 years ago | (#25038463)

Whats this...a major telephone company screw over it's customers...why that's unheard of.

Re:AT&T (5, Insightful)

adpsimpson (956630) | about 6 years ago | (#25038507)

Certainly in the UK, a contract which refuses legal recourse (ie "You can't take us to court") is illegal and, therefore, that clause is automatically null and void.

On top of that, courts don't look too kindly on companies attempting to enforce illegal contractual clauses.

Do Americans not have this same protection?

Re:AT&T (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 6 years ago | (#25038641)

Do Americans not have this same protection?

Yes.

Note, though, that "I agree not to sue you" is sometimes legal in the US, but I'm sure that in this case it would be found illegal.

Re:AT&T (3, Insightful)

gentimjs (930934) | about 6 years ago | (#25038675)

Do Americans not have this same protection?

No.

Fixed it for you. Maybe 20 years ago we did, not so much these days.

Re:AT&T (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25039343)

Wow, not only are you wrong, but you chose to be wrong in, to paraphrase the Daily Show, the douchiest way possible.

Illegal contracts are unenforcable. Period. End of story.

Waivers are only legal if they meet certain conditions. They must be clear, they can only waive neglegence (IE: not intentional harm), they must be unambiguous and clear, they must be between two parties with equal bargaining power, and they can not be applied to essential services.

It's entirely possible to argue that this clause is overly broad, between two parties with unequal bargaining power, and it for an essential service, thus making it null and void.

Re:AT&T (1)

gentimjs (930934) | about 6 years ago | (#25039975)

So enlighten us, when was the last time you heard about Joe Q. RepresentingHimselfInCourtCuzHesMiddleclass successfully winning a court case against megalocorp's army of high-priced lawyers? The current implementation of the US Legal system serves the purpose (in cases like this) of furthering economic interests, rarely does it actually uphold the criminal code with this kind of thing.

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25040053)

You realize many lawyers work on commission, right? Considering that clause is completely undefendable, any suit which has decent damages would be easily taken by a lawyer, and any lawsuit which didn't have decent damages, they would settle out of court simply because it's cheaper than paying the lawyers to deal with.

Re:AT&T (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | about 6 years ago | (#25040341)

Since the type of clause in question is here is about the right to sue, rather than the right to win a lawsuit, that's a meaningless question. You may (albeit futilely) sue the phone company, and your case will likely NOT be dismissed based on a clause purporting to remove your right to sue. Whether you win or not is an entirely different matter.

Re:AT&T (4, Informative)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 6 years ago | (#25040425)

Here you go:
Little Guy vs. MegaCorp [groklaw.net]

And who in this case is the MC? Oh, I see it's AT&T. Well what do you know.

Douchiest indeed.

Re:AT&T (2, Insightful)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 6 years ago | (#25042775)

It's actually not unheard of for Joe Q. LittleGuy to sue MegaCorp and win. The problem is there's a fairly high barrier to entry: you have to retain a lawyer (or find one to work on contingency), then you have to go through months and even years of legal wrangling to prove your case. Is it worth it do go through all that trouble and expense because your phone company raised your rates, or is it easier to just deal with it, and go to another carrier when your contract expires? (Or just tell them to fuck off, cancel service without paying the cancellation fee, let them put a bad mark on your credit report, and get service somewhere else?)

For most things, it simply isn't worth it to go through the legal system. The legal system in America is a total farce for this reason. The problem is that there's no real disincentive to MegaCorp to pull these shenanigans. So what if Joe Q. LittleGuy wins some court case against them? It's not like they're going to get some huge punitive judgment for being complete assholes and trying to enforce illegal contracts. If there were severe punishments for large companies doing these things, then we'd see a lot less such behavior.

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25043593)

Verizon.

Re:AT&T (1)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25043163)

"Waivers are only legal if they meet certain conditions. They must be clear, they can only waive neglegence (IE: not intentional harm), they must be unambiguous and clear, they must be between two parties with equal bargaining power, and they can not be applied to essential services."

You forgot another category - statutorily protected activities. There are some rights you CANNOT waive, because there is state law stating that it is unwaiveable. And it can really be random. For instance, in the construction industry it is customary to require that subcontractors waive the ability to place a lien on the property. Under the common law, this is perfectly acceptable; however, some states have decided that such waivers are against the public interest, so they CAN'T waive that avenue of redress, and any contract clause that specifies it is null and void. And you can't pull a "Notwithstanding NY State Law Section XXX.YYY" either.

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25049051)

> Illegal contracts are unenforcable.

Perhaps, but they don't need to be enforced to be effective. How many people will see it and give up? Why are people quick to settle with the RIAA? Can you afford the time and short-term expense? AT&T isn't looking for 100%, just to tilt the field.

Re:AT&T (1)

Bovarchist (782773) | about 6 years ago | (#25041151)

If I remember my business law correctly, it is legal for a contract to waive the right to sue in civil court in favor of binding arbitration. The arbitration process is similar to a court suit but the person bringing the suit has to foot the bill up front - around $10,000 USD is what we were told in class 10 years ago. This is a standard part of nearly all construction and new car sale contracts. IANAL, so I may definitely have some details wrong here, but that is the gist of it.

Re:AT&T (1)

SengirV (203400) | about 6 years ago | (#25039259)

This country is run by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. So the answer is no. Of course, if a LAWYER sees the financial benefit of contesting the inclusion of such terms, then it will go to a class action lawsuit and said lawyers would rake in millions as the customers get a check for $0.15 each.

Re:AT&T (1)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#25040755)

And from each check they will subtract the cost of a stamp...

Re:AT&T (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | about 6 years ago | (#25039509)

It is completely legal in the US to draft a contract that requires each party to submit to binding arbitration.

There have been cases where such a term was found unconscionable because the expenses for the arbitration itself were substantially higher than the price of the product at issue (it was a Gateway PC in the case I remember). Still, a term about binding arbitration is generally considered pretty solid.

American courts, just the same as English, don't look kindly on companies enforcing illegal contractual clauses. Whether or not it's worth the money to take such a contract to court is another issue entirely. I certainly wouldn't fight AT&T over a $5 monthly difference in the bill when I'm going to need to lay out a few thousand to an attorney just to get the process started.

Re:AT&T (1)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#25040827)

What I find funny is some companies not only have/had a binding arbitration contract clause, but state what jurisdiction you must sue^^^start binding arbitration in AND that if you DO choose to sue them you agree to pay them a 'penalty' of xyz dollars and then drop the case for binding arb.

They may have changed it since but I remember reading that and it was pretty much when I stopped using PP. Also didn't help with their douchy poaching money from accounts or other practices...

Sue or Arbitration? (3, Interesting)

OpenYourEyes (563714) | about 6 years ago | (#25039737)

I haven't looked at the TOS in question, but its very very VERY common for there to be a clause stating, roughly, "Instead of suing us, you agree that we will settle all issues through arbitration." With the packed and underfunded court systems around the country, arbitration is often an attractive alternative to both sides (at least in theory).

Re:Sue or Arbitration? (1)

xigxag (167441) | about 6 years ago | (#25039921)

True but in addition many arbitration clauses also allow the aggrieved party to present its claim in the local Small Claims court if desired.

Re:AT&T (2, Informative)

OhHellWithIt (756826) | about 6 years ago | (#25039865)

Certainly in the UK, a contract which refuses legal recourse (ie "You can't take us to court") is illegal and, therefore, that clause is automatically null and void.

I haven't read The Fine ToS (I'm not an AT&T customer), but the trend in the U.S. for a number of years now is to put a binding arbitration clause in the contract. There are arbitration firms that provide a venue in lieu of the courts to settle disputes between parties. The effect, as I understand it, is to shift more of the cost of initiating litigation onto the plaintiff and to reduce the risk of exorbitant awards against the defendant. There are plenty of other benefits, but I think they accrue mostly to the benefit of the party writing the contract. (Not that this is much different from the way contracts were written before this trend.)

Re:AT&T (1)

Jaazaniah (894694) | about 6 years ago | (#25058875)

The others have answered well to this question, but I would add that the protection is not written in. Dubbing clauses unconscionable was used in the last AT&T case I recall (linked above), but that did not mean that the clause itself was illegal. And, unfortunately, the rest of the business world in the US takes that fact and writes all their contracts with it. I haven't seen an agreement that doesn't defer to arbitration as the sole option in at least 5 years. They basically write in that there is no higher authority than our chosen arbiter. Also, contracts that were fought in court were sometimes dismissed in American courts because the arbitration clause was not specifically targeted, and was ruled, therefore, that the signing parties were obligated to pursue that avenue first.

Re:AT&T (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | about 6 years ago | (#25039111)

AT&T or Verizon? It's a hard pick...
Also From TFA:

"You also agree to pay for all charges for services provided under this agreement even if such calls were not authorized by you."

So you have no ability to dispute any charges on your bill? The problem here is this: I've never been an AT&T customer, but I am a wireless customer of Verizon, and I haven't received a single bill from verizon that has been correct yet. I have the very strong suspicion that they either expect most people not to notice billing errors, or hope that people give up disputes, because it'd take too much time.

I regularly make phone calls to verizon to fix my bill. I certainly wouldn't trust a company who puts this in their TOS. I rely on fixing my phone bill.

As a side note, anybody know a company that doesn't do this?

Re:AT&T (1)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 years ago | (#25039161)

Why the hell can a phone company get away with that (charging you for unauthorized calls)? My credit card has given me protection against unauthorized charges as long as credit cards have been around....

Re:AT&T (1)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#25040923)

That's because federal laws were passed requiring that protection. Since then, credit cards have reduced most liability from the mandated $50max to zero as part of competing with other CC companies.

They can get away with it because 1) they're huge 2) they have lots of lawyers 3) they generally don't actually enforce that clause 4) no one normally reads these fucking things (who can at 2500 pages?) and 5) no one has made a point to stand up to big business and say 'fuck off' - people are generally lazy

Re:AT&T (1)

KGIII (973947) | about 6 years ago | (#25046667)

It probably isn't illegal and I'm not a huge fan of big government or more laws but a contract that is that long for phone service should see if it passes the straight face test and, if it doesn't, it should be rendered null and void entirely. That's just my opinion though.

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25040573)

Whats this...a major (snip) company screw over it's customers...why that's unheard of.

There, fixed that for ya!

anyone suprised (3)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | about 6 years ago | (#25038479)

Coming from AT&T I can't say I am to suprised. Only that maybe comcast didn't beat them to the punch.

They know that no one will sift through that 2500 page pile of garbage just to find that information.

Here is my brick. (5, Insightful)

Shikaku (1129753) | about 6 years ago | (#25038491)

Upon receipt of said brick through your building, you accept, without any consent to agreement:

1. That the brick thrower shall not be held accountable for any damage, whether
accidental or purposeful, or any other damage caused at any point in time, espec
ially before the brick was thrown.

2. That you will only use your bare hands to pick up the damage caused by this brick.

3. That you accept these terms.

Re:Here is my brick. (1)

TheLink (130905) | about 6 years ago | (#25039433)

Maybe someone will send them a bomb one day.

A bomb that only blows up if they accept the terms and open it :).

Nostalgie (1)

mapkinase (958129) | about 6 years ago | (#25038505)

your only recourse is to cancel service."

That's how it used to be in the past, during the years of wild capitalism. They should put out an audio version of the manual w/ the digitized version of John Wayne's voice. Should come w/ oil snake and etc.

Re:Nostalgie (1)

DanielLC (1346013) | about 6 years ago | (#25039837)

your only recourse is to cancel service."

That's how it used to be in the past, during the years of wild capitalism.

Did you have to pay to cancel?

Contract (5, Interesting)

oahazmatt (868057) | about 6 years ago | (#25038509)

Sorry, but if I'm contracted to certain functions at certain price increments or allotments, I expect those to be honored. If one party decides to change the terms of the contract without discussing (let a lone receiving approval) from the other party, then the first party should be considered to be in breach of contract.

Or does this mean that I can send AT&T a "customer ToS" and say that I now get unlimited everything on my plan, and if they don't approve they can just walk away from the existing contract?

Re:Contract (1)

gentimjs (930934) | about 6 years ago | (#25038713)

No, they wiggle into the original TOS that they can modify the TOS at any time in the future, usually with some BS "30 day notice" clause, that they might even honor!

Re:Contract (4, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | about 6 years ago | (#25039095)

Or does this mean that I can send AT&T a "customer ToS" and say that I now get unlimited everything on my plan, and if they don't approve they can just walk away from the existing contract?

No, they wiggle into the original TOS that they can modify the TOS at any time in the future, usually with some BS "30 day notice" clause, that they might even honor!

And thus the game of Calvinball began...

Re:Contract (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25047689)

Hit where is hurts - money. Ask them to send you the contract by mail. One copy every day, everyone. I know it is not very ""green" ... but it'll cost them some good money.

and just to make it a little thicker (4, Funny)

Kligat (1244968) | about 6 years ago | (#25038527)

Throughout the book, they added random chapters from War and Peace, the Bible, the Harry Potter books, and John McCain's medical records. Afterward, they intertwined them with the actual guidebook by referring to the passages in the text.

"To find customer support, tap the number of times Hermione knocked on Hagrid's door before he answered, in the chapter we copied into this guidebook fifteen pages ago, then the first two digits in the square root in the number of members in the Fellowship of the Ring, then the first name of the narrator in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde translated into ROT13 and then from letters into numbers."

Re:and just to make it a little thicker (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | about 6 years ago | (#25040715)

by some strange cosmic coincidence the answer is "42"!

I have a Cinco Phone! I press 500 times for Hagred (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25043019)

Sadly, I think I am receiving technical difficulties
with my Cinco Phone [youtube.com] due to some copyright tard in The Cartoon Network.

Re:and just to make it a little thicker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25044219)

and John McCain's medical records.

So after they added John McCain's medical records to the 2500-Page guide, how did they manage to fit the ToS on the remaining 1 page?

Thank you folks, I'll be here all night - for better or for worse.

Great.... (1)

su2ge (713552) | about 6 years ago | (#25038537)

I was actually starting to get used to them having reacquired Bellsouth, now they are right back to their old ways. Maybe they should be split AGAIN.

Re:Great.... (1)

tekiegreg (674773) | about 6 years ago | (#25038721)

For what it's worth, it was more like BellSouth acquiring them. BellSouth was the big humongous company then and AT&T was this withered old hag of a battered long distance company. But they figured everyone knew the AT&T brand name better, so Ma Bell surfaced again out of that merger...

Re:Great.... (4, Informative)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 6 years ago | (#25038801)

At the time AT&T bought BellSouth, AT&T was certainly not the old long distance company. That had been bought by SBC a year or two previously. SBC renamed itself to AT&T, and that corporation swallowed BellSouth.

All of which is a shame, because BellSouth was actually a fairly decent company - well, fairly decent as monopolistic local telcos can be.

Re:Great.... (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 6 years ago | (#25039097)

SBC wasn't just SouthWestern Bell anymore, either. They were already SWB, PacBell, and Ameritech combined. SBC and BellSouth were partners in Cingular, too.

Re:Great.... (2, Interesting)

Rtech (647652) | about 6 years ago | (#25039193)

No kidding. For what it's worth I really enjoyed my Bellsouth account and have been worried about the quality of service I'd get from AT&T ever since it switched over... didn't we break up that company for a reason??

Re:Great.... (2, Funny)

jonaskoelker (922170) | about 6 years ago | (#25039527)

Colbert explains it best. You can watch him on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6nuwQmhrZ8 [youtube.com] .

Re:Great.... (1)

TheReaperD (937405) | about 6 years ago | (#25044259)

Text synopsis for those of use who can't watch YouTube videos at work? (I can bypass the web filter but, it's not worth risking my job to watch a YouTube video linked to by Slashdot.)

Re:Great.... (2, Insightful)

jonaskoelker (922170) | about 6 years ago | (#25045307)

Colbert explains how AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular, SBC, Ohio Bell, Indiana Bell, ${Other} Bell each bought one another and each others' subdivisions and rebranded the bought parts (with a hilariously confusing arrow diagram), then concludes that:

Due to American anti-trust regulations, we have gone from this
[map of USA, parts of Canada and Mexico are showing; a caption says "1980:", there the AT&T logo and name, USA is blue to indicate that it's all pwned by AT&T] ... to this ...
[the same map, with AT&T's now logo and their name in a new font]

He then refers to Terminator 2; no matter how many pieces you split AT&T into, it'll always come back together again.

Re:Great.... (1)

TheReaperD (937405) | about 6 years ago | (#25047355)

Thank you. :)

Reminds me of great Cthulhu: You nuke him, he regenerates, is now radioactive and pissed as hell.

i like poo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25038585)

i like poo

Re:i like poo (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25038673)

Then you'll love AT&T!

Re:i like poo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25043669)

Pokey is my favorite Earthbound character personally, but to each his own

Re:i like poo (1)

Khisanth Magus (1090101) | about 6 years ago | (#25045333)

Jeff all the way. Fear the bottle rockets!

Sucks to have an iPhone (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25038953)

Sucks to have an iPhone and be under contract.

Re:Sucks to have an iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25045053)

Does it? What happens if you cancel your contract because of the changes? I'm pretty sure that AT&T can't enforce any of the penalties for canceling the contract. So can you legally walk away and keep/unlock the phone?

*sigh* (4, Insightful)

rock56501 (1301287) | about 6 years ago | (#25038995)

It's sad to hear about things like this. No reasonable person with a life is going to read that. I guess I actually appreciate the press bringing this to light so some kind of action can be taken on it.

It also makes me glad that I don't live in CA and that I am on Vonage.

Unconscionability? (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 6 years ago | (#25039601)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't a Stateside judge just quash something like this a few weeks ago?

Re:Unconscionability? (1)

Corbets (169101) | about 6 years ago | (#25039953)

Yup, but my answer is going to be pretty much worthless, because I don't have a link available for you. Try searching Slash stories from a couple weeks ago.

Re:Unconscionability? (4, Informative)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 6 years ago | (#25040473)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't a Stateside judge just quash something like this a few weeks ago?

Yup, but my answer is going to be pretty much worthless, because I don't have a link available for you. Try searching Slash stories from a couple weeks ago.

Groklaw still has it: McKee vs. AT&T [groklaw.net]

I'm AT&T FREE! (2, Informative)

TheDarkener (198348) | about 6 years ago | (#25039637)

I used to have 3 separate AT&T accounts, with a total of 5 services...

- Home phone line
- Upgraded DSL

- Business phone line

- Cell phone (mine)
- Cell phone (wife's)

I canceled them ALL because of the AT&T/NSA wiretapping fiasco, and haven't looked back yet. I can't tell you all how good it feels to shed AT&T from my life. Seriously. I have T-Mobile for cellphones (they have great customer service AND coverage!), Comcast for Internet, and Vonage for business phone.

I have to tell you all again - it feels GOOD to be free from the telco giant. :) I would advise any sane person to do the same.

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25039735)

SBC cancelled me - for some reason they stopped offering 6 Mbps DSL and would only offer me, at most, 3 Mbps. Now I have a 32 Mbps Comcast connection, 1.5 Mbps speakeasy OneLink DSL line which I use to host services and as backup, and I get VoIP for basically free as part of that package, and I'm paying LESS than I was paying with SBC.

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (1)

DinDaddy (1168147) | about 6 years ago | (#25040595)

They are trying to get people to move off their regular DSL services in favor of the new U-verse4 stuff. Best way to do that is make the old DSL unattractive. They did the same thing with dialaup several years back. My dialup became mysteriously slower. Ordered their DSL, and a couple of days before they shipped me my DSL equipment, my dialup speed suddenly doubled to about 50K. My friend down the street's experience mirrored mine a few weeks later. They were deliberately slowing the dialup lines.

DSL is now mysteriously slowing down, especially in the early evening hours. And U-verse pushers are coming to our door every couple of months, and saying the new service doesn't suffer from that slowdown. Hmmmm.

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25041657)

T-Mobile is a part of Deutsche Telekom - a monopoly carrier from Germany.

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (1)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | about 6 years ago | (#25042275)

I had the exact opposite experience with T-Mobile, crappy service, terrible coverage, and worthless customer support... Even had trouble with them trying to charge me the month after I transferred my phone off their network.

But that was two years ago, maybe they've improved since... But I'm not willing to go back.

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25043093)

Because Comcast has never violated the privacy of its users or network neutrality, right?

Re:I'm AT&T FREE! (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | about 6 years ago | (#25043387)

Because Comcast has never violated the privacy of its users or network neutrality, right?

Comcast is the lesser of the 2 evils...if you try to find the perfect "foo", you will die before figuring out how to completely avoid "bar". Then you're foobar. :p

Comcast is the worst (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 6 years ago | (#25048025)

God I can't believe I'm defending AT&T but frankly Comcast sucks way more. Horrible throttling of DLs and some of the worst practices. T-Mobile is great, but you are crazy about the reception, they are GSM like AT&T but don't have access to large EDGE networks and forget 3G! Also AT&T has far better roaming agreements. T-Mo is great for urban non data heavy phones.

The only recourse (3, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | about 6 years ago | (#25040131)

It seems like the only recourse to lawyers honestly trying to do their best by dishonestly doing something that they know will benefit the company more than hurt it is to add weight to the honesty side of the calculus.

A class action lawsuit, with every single one of their customers as a participant, aimed at a punitive charge for violating known laws (their legal team knew that this was an unenforceable contract, and also knowingly tried to bury the contract so that customer would not see it) would add up to real money.

We wouldn't see it, of course (we'd get $10? each, total 100 million dollars?), but it would be large enough to make corporate lawyers put more weight on the "what if we get caught" side of the equation. This would benefit every consumer in a large number of industries.

Say Whatever They Want (3, Informative)

immcintosh (1089551) | about 6 years ago | (#25040417)

As far as I'm aware, AT&T can say whatever the hell they want in a notice like that. Whether any of it is legally enforceable is another matter entirely. I mean, contracts require certain niceties like, you know, both sides actually agreeing to them. I imagine this will be treated as a contract of adhesion in the worst possible light if it ever actually comes to court.

Re:Say Whatever They Want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25045365)

That won't stop the whining! Bitching about unenforceable contracts has been the leitmotif of this site in the past few weeks.

ATT's web page is garbage as well. (2, Informative)

rnturn (11092) | about 6 years ago | (#25041797)

I tried searching for text in the Guidebook and, for a long time, found I was more likely than not to receive an HTTP 500 error. Eventually I did get results returned though all returned hits (that I got, anyway) were links to individual PDFs. There were often dozens of linked PDFs with no real way of knowing which ones were really going to be helpful at all to you. The search function is, in a word: useless

Nice site. (For sufficiently small values of nice, that is.)

I was going to switch my internet access at home from Covad to ATT. Until now.

Re: And the links aren't links. (2, Informative)

rnturn (11092) | about 6 years ago | (#25041861)

Heck, I should have tried this before but the search results I get show symbols denoting that the information is in a PDF but the PDF images aren't links to anything. They're just pictures. The site is even less than worthless.

Re:ATT's web page is garbage as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25050657)

Nice site. (For sufficiently small values of nice, that is.)

NERD-BURN!!!

Re:ATT's web page is garbage as well. (1)

ShadowsHawk (916454) | about 6 years ago | (#25077331)

I switched from At&t to DSLExtreme. $7.00 cheaper and it's faster.

I'll just switch companies... (1)

raijinsetsu (1148625) | about 6 years ago | (#25043109)

Oh wait... AT&T has a monopoly...

Re:I'll just switch companies... (1)

Underfoot (1344699) | about 6 years ago | (#25044969)

Yes...

When I first moved to Chicago, I purchased an AT&T package for home phone & DSL. Unfortunately, after I signed up and the phone line was installed, guess what? "No DSL is offered in your area?" THEN WHY DID YOU SELL IT TO ME? - As no one else in the area at that time (Comcast moved in later) offered high-speed internet, especially not over a line owned by AT&T, I was forced to pay $175 ransom to move my phone to SBC and their DSL. SBC was great, I had a $9 phone bill (other phone companies would call offering to cut my bill in half - and they'd laugh when I told them I was only paying $9), they repaid me half of my ransom to AT&T, and as a bonus wonderful customer service (I always got a human - at AT&T I got those horrid voice messaging systems.) Jump ahead two years - SBC buys AT&T, but keeps the AT&T brand (and apparently customer service mottos). Human no longer - hello voice menu loops.

I then moved down south, glad I could once again rid myself of AT&T, and got a contract with Bellsouth for home phone service... which then got bought by AT&T... which then bumped my bill by 50%, mostly due to "fees". I have a $14 line (metered line... not even the touch-tone dialing is included), after "taxes and fees" I pay $30. That's more than 100% of the cost of my service! But I'm stuck. There is no other provider in my area. Free market indeed.

I'd go VOIP - but the line is for emergency use, and I hate the thought of losing the phone if I lose internet/power.

Not what the agreement they sent me says (1)

assassinator42 (844848) | about 6 years ago | (#25043455)

Using U-Verse in Michigan. They sent me an email saying the ToS had changed, and listed a "few important changes":

For all Members:

* Arbitration Agreement. We have added language that requires customer disputes with AT&T regarding AT&T Internet Services to be submitted to binding arbitration or small claims court. Arbitration is less formal than a lawsuit in court and often faster. In addition, AT&T will pay for all costs of arbitration, no matter who wins, as long as your claim is not frivolous.

For AT&T High Speed Internet Members:

* AT&T High Speed Internet Service Description. We have added new language to the service description to more clearly describe how we provide your high speed Internet connection, and to explain what factors can affect the performance of your high speed Internet service.
* Termination of Voice Service. With AT&T High Speed Internet Direct service, we can deliver the benefits of broadband without a home phone connection. For customers who terminate their home phone service with AT&T -- but not their high speed Internet service -- we have added new language that will ultimately enable us to maintain a customer's broadband connection at the then current rates, terms, and conditions for AT&T High Speed Internet Direct service.

The email also included a link to this page [att.net] , which says "From time to time, we may change this Agreement, the Site, or Service, including the rates and charges. We will provide you with thirty (30) days notice of material changes via either your Member Account e-mail address or U.S. mail. It is your responsibility to check your e-mail address for any such notices. Your continued subscription to the Service after receipt of such notice constitutes your acceptance of such changes.".
However, that link clearly says August 2008 and I just received it yesterday.

Free SMS = $0.20 (4, Informative)

insanechemist (323218) | about 6 years ago | (#25044505)

Anyone else notice that AT&T sends you a notice of updated iPhone firmware that starts with "AT&T Free Msg: Apple has released ..." BUT when you get the bill - lo and behold you've been charged $0.20? I only notice this because I never use text messaging. I wonder if there is a way to disable this "feature" . . .

Re:Free SMS = $0.20 (1)

sr180 (700526) | about 6 years ago | (#25048277)

Something similar happened in Australia where Telstra sent out promotional messages (via voicemail??) that end users were charged for. They were taken to court very quickly and ordered to undo the charges.

Won't sombody... (1)

Puffy Director Pants (1242492) | about 6 years ago | (#25045935)

Think of the trees? The Trees!

A way out. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25048489)

Nice of AT&T to give people a way out of their contract w/o charging them a fee to terminate the contract. After all, if the only way out of a unilateral contract change is to terminate the contract and stop paying for service, it'd be a pretty bad business practice to charge customers who do it.

Sigh...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25051343)

I really miss Cingular.

Sanction the lawyers that write these TOS (1)

Tyrannicalposter (1347903) | about 6 years ago | (#25051825)

Sanction the lawyers that write these unenforcable TOS agreements.

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