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AT&T To Pay $700,000 For Overcharging Consumers

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the two-thousandths-of-a-percent-of-quarterly-revenue dept.

AT&T 74

An anonymous reader writes "CNet reports on an agreement between AT&T and the FCC which will require the telecom company to pay $700,000 to the federal government to resolve overcharging complaints. AT&T will also refund charges to customers who were switched from pay-as-you-go data plans to monthly plans after AT&T said they could keep the old plans. 'AT&T has also agreed to an extensive compliance plan (PDF), which includes: consumer notification, training of customer care representatives, and periodic compliance reports to the FCC. AT&T must also conduct additional searches of its records to identify improperly switched consumers and ensure appropriate refunds.'"

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700,000 dollar (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906461)

an ink dot on himalayas, when compared to unjust profits of telecom vultures

Re:700,000 dollar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906683)

Unjust profits? So who gets to set the cost and value of something? It is quite interesting that you think you have the right, intelligence, and authority to limit lifestyle and income on anyone or anything. Since when was success so villianized?

Re:700,000 dollar (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#41906817)

Just success is never villianized.

Clearly some of AT&T profits were not just nor legal, or else they would not have had to pay this money back.

Re:700,000 dollar (3)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#41907645)

AT&T has a duty, as a huge, multinational cororation, to play by the rules, I agree. All such entities do. But this anti-business atmosphere in this country is not good for business. The free market doesn't work if you disallow the profit motive. Few people invest, which is the engine that drives the market, for completely altruistic reasons. If you remove all profit from the risky action of investment you stifle business. We're already seeing businesses flee from California, If you drive them out of the country all you get are a bunch of jobless altruists. Private investors DON'T HAVE to invest in you, there's where you're missing the picture. Unless you like the way China is doing business I guess. But then they really haven't been communist for 20 years...

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#41907933)

You say free market like there's ever actually been one here.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#41908341)

You're right; there really hasn't. Perhaps the short time period between the Civil War and the start of the Progressive Era in the 1890s.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 years ago | (#41912809)

AT&T has a duty, as a huge, multinational cororation, to play by the rules, I agree. All such entities do. But this anti-business atmosphere in this country is not good for business.

This is not anti-business, it is anti-AT&T. With good reason. I currently get broadband access from that cynical old monopolist. AT&T's service has the worst reliability I have ever experienced. They have some weird spyware DNS scheme that constantly fails. Their modem has to be rebooted on a regular basis when it slows to a crawl or fails completely. There are literally thousands of complaints out there on the web and AT&T has done nothing about it. To add insult to injury, they overcharge for their crappy modems which of course you have to throw away if you do the sensible thing and switch to the one other provider in the area (a major metropolitan area I might add). Oh yes, did I mention that there are only two noncommercial broadband providers in the area? Both descended from the Bell breakup. Choose which one to be screwed by. But that's another story.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | about 2 years ago | (#41912933)

A telco is not a free market.

Also, its interesting how "profits" come up in the discussion... it comes up *any time* there is any mention of e.g regulations, etc. I concluded long ago that the business leaders will always cry poor until there is zero taxes and zero regulations. Regardless of how obscenely profitable they are.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=child+labor+free+market&hl=en&tbo=d&biw=819&bih=462&tbm=isch&tbnid=4IaS29nQjmUk6M:&imgrefurl=http://transitionvoice.com/2011/11/how-tea-party-and-occupy-wall-street-differ/&docid=cze_TRnbQcOVYM&imgurl=http://transitionvoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Free%252BMarket.jpg&w=500&h=400&ei=muSaUK-OMsTs2QWu3YHoBw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=4&vpy=136&dur=2141&hovh=201&hovw=251&tx=184&ty=116&sig=100218895460955643136&page=1&tbnh=143&tbnw=196&start=0&ndsp=9&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0,i:71 [google.com]

Too bad for them.

Re:700,000 dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41918097)

No one's talking about "disallowing the profit motive".

We're talking about "controlling excessive, unreasonable GREED."

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41907157)

Is Mitt Romney so bored now that he has to post this shit on slashdot?

Re:700,000 dollar (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#41906821)

an ink dot on himalayas, when compared to unjust profits of telecom vultures

I assume they get to write off 700K as losses when filing federal taxes? Plus another 2-3 million as a cost of locating and refunding the affected customers, so that the penalty is fully offset by a decreased tax liability.

Re:700,000 dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907729)

They have to refund the customers as well.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

operagost (62405) | about 2 years ago | (#41908313)

No, they cannot write off a federal court judgement against them as a loss. They might be able to write off the actual refunds.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41909861)

The court judgement of 700,000 is less than 1/20th of the hourly intake of AT&T.

They had revenue of 126,723,000,000 in 2011.
The number of customers affected by this is also very small in relation to their regular customers.

So this was a nothing issue, and still is. They have no need to write off any of this, they spend more on advertising every day of the week.

Re:700,000 dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41910551)

You obviously have never filed taxes, since you don't know they work. A "write off" of $700,000 does NOT mean you subtract $700,000 from your taxes. It means that you deduct $700,000 from your TAXABLE INCOME, reducing your tax liability by the applicable tax rate multiplied by $700k.

Re:700,000 dollar (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | about 2 years ago | (#41913175)

I assure you AT&T does not pay a tax rate of 100%, and hence writing things off as costs does not "fully offset" anything.

Re:700,000 dollar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41908877)

What if companies were fined a min. of double of the unjust profits caused by their actions?

wow... (3, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41906469)

They'll make enough by lunch time to cover it.

Big penalty, that...

Re:wow... (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#41906787)

They'll make enough by lunch time to cover it.

Quoth TFA -- "He added that AT&T had already discovered and corrected the issue by Nov. 2010, and had given refunds to customers who contacted AT&T."

Whatever their fine is, it should be increase by 100-fold because AT&T discovered the issue 2 years ago, but only refunded customers who contacted them and complained. You'd think that if they discovered unfair customer overcharging, they would refund every affected customer?

Re:wow... (5, Funny)

jd2112 (1535857) | about 2 years ago | (#41907253)

That would be a violation of the Ferengi rules of acquisition: Once you have their money never give out back.
AT&T is run by Ferengi right?

Re:wow... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41908067)

AT&T is run by Ferengi right?

Isn't the US government and every corporation, as well?

Re:wow... (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 2 years ago | (#41909541)

no the Government is run by Vogons with a charismatic but ultimately useless and retarded figurehead.

Re:wow... (1)

Walterk (124748) | about 2 years ago | (#41908655)

Judging from AT&T reception, that's certainly where their mobile masts are placed.

Zing!

Re:wow... (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 2 years ago | (#41910751)

AT&T is run by Ferengi right?

They use those humongous ears to better listen in on your communications.

Re:wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41908063)

att / Cingular / Pacific Bell -- have been overcharging forever. It is their business plan.

I had a Pac Bell Cell in the mid 90s where I would _every_ month get charged $50-$150 in bogus charges. It was a business plan phone, so maybe they assumed nobody was watching carefully. They would charge for long distance, cell 2 cell minutes, etc that were included in the plan. Every month I would call them, and they would reverse the charges, but every month they would try to get away with it again.

I then got a personal Pac Bell phone (that became a Cingular phone while my plan was active) assuming they could not pull this shit on personal accounts (and I wanted to continue using my GSM phone). Same Crap. But, occasionally, there would be a bill without overcharges, and the overcharges were usually in the $50 or less per month range.

When I moved to Northern California, I got a new account + new number-- no trace of my San Diego account with Cingular. Same overcharge pattern.

Many years later, my cell company (small local company) was acquired by att. My first month (and last month) bill with ATT was initially $150. A phone call later, and they agreed that it should have been $90 (still insanely high, but at least not overcharges per their plan language).

I now have T-mobile pre-paid, and my bill is always $30/mo, no weird fees or additional taxes, and no overcharges.

Re:wow... (1)

cyberfunkr (591238) | about 2 years ago | (#41909591)

But then how could they make a profit on the interest of all the money they skimmed.. I mean, accidentally overcharged?

That UK judge gives me an idea (4, Insightful)

Andrio (2580551) | about 2 years ago | (#41906485)

A much simpler and far more effective punishment would be if they were forced to run ads (on TV, magazines, online) to let the public know they were overcharging their customers.

Fines don't mean crap to billion dollar companies. They need punishments that actually punish them.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906543)

Like percentage fines. 1% of gross revenue would be $1.1 billion.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41906603)

A much simpler and far more effective punishment would be if they were forced to run ads (on TV, magazines, online) to let the public know they were overcharging their customers.

Actually, I have an even better idea. What if every advertisement they published had to carry a disclaimer about the things they'd got caught doing? The text would have to both be legible and no smaller than the smallest informative text that appears elsewhere on the sign. If they get busted enough times, they get like 10% of the board for their actual ad content.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

Tough Love (215404) | about 2 years ago | (#41912843)

The text would have to both be legible and no smaller than the smallest informative text that appears elsewhere on the sign.

I think you meant "no smaller than the biggeset informative text", otherwise they would certainly game that. And don't forget to specify a contrasting color, and prominent placement otherwise they will pull an Apple on that too.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41913067)

Well, there should be a legibility standard, where the text has to appear bigger than a certain size at the intended viewing distance at that print size...

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41906651)

But that would result in actual punishment, instead of an illusion to pacify the public, which is what these have always been. Forcing them to run ads would be of no use. You would have to scroll down the screen to see it. I say we should apply RICO and asset forfeiture, including their corporate charter privileges and tax breaks. Subject the decision makers to personal liability. Now that would be effective punishment to anybody who wants to stay in business.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41907285)

The normal guy in the U.S. has forgotten that Corporations even have charters and need the government to exist (as they are "legal fictions"). For too many people the corporation was handed down to us from God... no idea of the history or how it came to be or the downright deception that led to them having the same rights of individuals. They complain about "JOB KILLING REGULATIONS!!11!!" out of one side of their mouth while, at the same time, the government is winking at them and saying "you don't have to follow these rules and if you get caught we'll slap your wrist to save face for everyone."

It's a total joke. The only people hurt by regulations in the U.S. are the people who are actually trying to follow the rules and be good citizens.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#41908323)

The only people hurt by regulations in the U.S. are the people who are actually trying to follow the rules and be good citizens.

That applies to every law written; from drug laws to road traffic laws to bank robbery to environmental regs to gun laws. Sociopaths don't give a damn about your laws!

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

jitterman (987991) | about 2 years ago | (#41906743)

That's a great idea. Another plus - it would likely cost much more to run than the "fine" that was imposed (though admittedly, still a pittance).

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (4, Interesting)

Xelios (822510) | about 2 years ago | (#41906779)

Fines would mean crap to companies and individuals alike if they were levied as a percentage of income instead of a flat amount. Is there any good reason why it isn't done this way?

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (3, Informative)

GNious (953874) | about 2 years ago | (#41906819)

I understand that the EU does it that way - which is why everyone is whining that they are being too cruel to companies with the billion-dollars fines.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (3, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about 2 years ago | (#41907141)

Fines would mean crap to companies and individuals alike if they were levied as a percentage of income instead of a flat amount. Is there any good reason why it isn't done this way?

Yes! Yes, there is [stopthecap.com] . According to this article, AT&T paid zero taxes (received subsidies, even) in 2011, which means they probably had near zero official income in 2011.
Maybe you can't pull such crap in UK, but in US percentage of corporation income is not the way to go.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41907197)

It is easy for a U.S. corporation to have very good official income and not pay taxes or even have a negative tax rate. This is most prevalent when you look at the property tax debacles that happen in just about every state (but, oddly, are NEVER talked about in the media).

That's why people who have actually read books see the arguments about "high corporate tax rate" and laugh their asses off.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#41907267)

an easy fix is to set things to GROSS income that is the company took in XBillion dollars in total (before any corrections) so That number is what you set the fines to.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#41907687)

I'm skeptical that there isn't a metric you could use that would be better than taxable income. Net worth of the company for instance.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41908013)

And that is why you base the fine on revenue, not profit.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906783)

Great idea. Just wouldn't work in this context as the FCC has no authority to require AT&T or anybody to run ads.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41907203)

In the U.S. the government has the least authority over the "people" that can do the most harm to everyone else.

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (3, Informative)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#41906847)

The best punishment ever handed down was to a lady who used the sidewalk to pass a bus, the judge is making her wear a sign which has on it “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid the school bus.”. Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4630315/Woman-to-wear-idiot-sign.html#ixzz2BXro0Llo [thesun.co.uk]

Re:That UK judge gives me an idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906929)

Make sure to have a video of the FCC rubbing the AT&T CEO's nose in it saying "Look at what you did! Bad CEO! Bad!"

Funny how these sorts of lawsuits pay to... (4, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | about 2 years ago | (#41906499)

...not those who were damaged....

Re:Funny how these sorts of lawsuits pay to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41906911)

It's a total scam. The "fine" covers the legal costs of the action, nothing more.

If the government was truly interested in trying to stop this behavior they could, immediately, by applying RICO-like damages and complete disgorgement of profits.

Re:Funny how these sorts of lawsuits pay to... (1)

Insightfill (554828) | about 2 years ago | (#41906961)

Funny how these sorts of lawsuits pay to...not those who were damaged....

It could be worse. The usual penalty in similar cases (at least class action suits and settlements) is that current customers are all sent a coupon worth a discount on some future purchase, one that they likely wouldn't make anyway.

Pay-as-you-go data plans. And ???? (2)

schwit1 (797399) | about 2 years ago | (#41906643)

"AT&T will also refund charges to customers who were switched from pay-as-you-go data plans to monthly plans after AT&T said they could keep the old plans."

Will these customers be able to get back on the pay-as-you-go data plans?

They'd reimburse the consumers! (1)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#41906735)

Not pay the federals! Ah!

It'll be a tough hour, maybe? (3, Informative)

ceriphim (1530579) | about 2 years ago | (#41906765)

With their 2011 revenue (http://www.att.com/gen/general?pid=22537), they generate roughly $697,615/hour in revenue.

I take it the FCC isn't familiar with "Old Testament" -style justice...

Did they refund it? (0)

gelfling (6534) | about 2 years ago | (#41906771)

Or just pay it to Mother Government.

Don't Believe it (3, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#41906833)

training of customer care representatives

No company has trained customer care, I said it and I stand by it! If AT&T succeeds with this, they will be the first company to ever have trained ( not necessarily qualified ) customer care representatives.

On a side note and unrelated, I once had an issue with a router where it wouldn't get an IP address from the modem, I called Dlink and the lady on the other end kept saying "I need the IP address of the router sir", I kept telling her it didn't have one and that was the issue, she had NO idea what I was saying and kept repeating the same phrase. Got to love trained customer care! Thats not even my best story!

Re:Don't Believe it (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#41907097)

Since it is in their best interest to scam the system any way they can (thanks to the ubiquitous "shareholder value" excuse) and there is virtually no deterrence to doing so (they'll get what equates to a $5 fine for us working stiffs) then there is virtually no chance that they will stand by the agreement.

In the U.S. there is no incentive to do the right thing EVER.

Re:Don't Believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907195)

Woah, great anecdote! You have GOT to invite me to one of your parties!

Believe it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41908269)

My own company has trained "customer care". They don't work from scripts. Presented with a problem, they try to solve it, and if they find they can't, the come to engineering and get help. They even try to solve problems caused by third party products.

Re:Don't Believe it (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | about 2 years ago | (#41909243)

Perhaps she mean MAC address. I can imagine that happening to anyone in the middle of a long dreary shift.

I worked for a few years as one of the senior network operations guys at a company that provides customer support on behalf of various regional ISPs. This was in Canada, where the expectation when calling tech support is that you will find a fellow human being on the other end of the line, not a weary, disinterested or passive-aggressive drone.

We didn't run a sweatshop. Most of our senior people had come up through the ranks. We didn't impose scripts on people. What we did do was hold sessions every few months to find out what questions and issues the staff were hitting, discuss what were the probable causes and what could be done about them, and then work with the staff to get that information into their wiki. It was a good place to work.

And still there's a certain percentage of staff who come into work after a night of partying, or who have newborns at home, or who just broke up with the love of their life, or who are going to school part-time. So, yeah, sometimes they space out and say dumb things. Other times, they'd blow your mind with how perceptive they are.

I think the main difference between that and what you experienced would be found in attitude. It's really hard to like talking to support when they make you feel like a worm that got squashed on the bottom of their shoe. That's not a very concrete thing to file a complaint about, but in my opinion when you see that then the rest inevitably follows. And let me tell you, it does not have to be that way. I appreciate that often you don't have much choice, but try switching to a smaller provider if you can.

Re:Don't Believe it (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#41909445)

Well she kept saying IP address but that's beside the point. I still don't believe in having under qualified / trained people on customer care. A lot of the time when you call customer care your not even calling a person in the country you live in. I can't count how many times I've called customer care and I speak to someone in India or China who can barely talk English. If I need to call customer care in the first place then I should at least talk to someone who knows the product inside out and upside down. More then 1/2 to 2/3 of the time on the phone the person on the other end is guessing based of vague sheets of information what could be wrong.

I once had a case where a wireless router was dying in a place I lived because the electrical lines in the wall where generating to much magnetic noise and killing the low quality router / modem. When I called rogers to tell them that I was pretty sure that was the issue the person on the phone was lost. I kept asking for specs on the router I was forced to buy and they had none, they couldn't offer an explanation and they didn't have the slightest clue what the hell I was talking about. I kept calling back and about the 5th call I ended up with a man on the other end who not only know what I was talking about but actually gave me the fix for the issue. It turned out that Rogers had just bought and handed out a series of routers which were complete garbage and couldn't take magnetic hits in the slightest, he provided me a free upgrade to the next modem model which solved the issue. Again this is the stuff you have to deal with in customer care.

Re:Don't Believe it (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | about 2 years ago | (#41916079)

I sympathize, but your answer tells me that you're determined to repeat the same failed approach to problem resolution.

I've told you one way to get out of that. Switch providers, if you can. Switch to a smaller outfit, one in your community, if you can.

Here's another way. If you're not making reasonable progress, escalate. To do this most effectively, you should proactively record your conversations with the provider and make sure it's accurately timestamped. If you hit someone intelligent and knowledgeable at Tier 1, congratulations. If not, waste no further time. Politely request an escalation. If they push back, politely repeat the request and mention that you are recording the conversation. If they drop the call, hit redial. Anyone at Tier 2 is about 10x as likely to know what you're talking about. And if that doesn't work, request a further escalation and again explain that you're recording the call "for quality assurance purposes." They all do it, so don't be shy.

How far can you take this? Well, the senior network engineers are about as technically proficient as you're going to find anywhere. I used to reserve about 10% of my time for designing test frameworks so that we'd have hard evidence when calling bullshit on the modem vendors. If you manage to get to me, I'll back you up. Though honestly, any Tier 2 or Tier 3 you get should be more than sufficiently experienced. They've taught me a few things I didn't know.

If the problem is not technical but a result of policy, then you can skip the Director of Operations and go straight to the executive level. But you have to have laid the previous groundwork or you won't be taken seriously. I was once spammed for about a year by a large telco. Not only did I keep meticulous records of my polite requests to desist (web forms, emails, phone calls) but at about month 3 I said, "Hey, I get it now. The reason you're not acting on my requests is because you think this is something other than a violation of your own Acceptable Use Policy. You must be requesting services from me. You want me to process these spams in exchange for a fee. No problem! For $100 per unsolicited email, I will read and evaluate the content and send a concise written summary to you at the end of each month. I will take further unsolicited email from you as constituting acceptance of these terms."

So it went. I sent in regular summaries and invoices to their legal address, until they had racked up about $10K in unpaid debt. As it happened, just then their VP of Operations went on national radio to allay some of the many customer service concerns being raised by the public. I called in and identified myself, explaining that they owed me $10K in unpaid fees for reading their spam, and would the VP be able to help me or should I take the matter to court?

I never got paid, and I never took them to court. But the spam stopped two days later and hasn't been back since. My point is, you have to get serious, and you also have some fun with this stuff or you'll just end up whining about it on Slashdot. And what kind of a life is that? You decide.

Re:Don't Believe it (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#41917571)

Well these were two different situtations. I agree the right course of action is to escalate up the ladder, how ever it still doesn't solve my frustration of having Tier 1 workers who don't know / understand the product. Well in most cases I do end up escalating the issues up ladder myself, I do believe the customer care specialist should know enough to do it themselves. From my experience the first person you talk with is clueless, they read a script and besides what they're reading they can only really ask "Do you want fries with that". Tier 2 you start getting into people who may know what you want to do but again generally they're just the Mcdonalds supervisor. By Tier 3 you generally hit engineers or technologists who can actually help you out. Of course by this point I've spent hours on the phone so I'm just pissed off, I should of talked to one of these people in the first place.

As racists as this will sound and I'm very sorry to who this offends, I NEVER accept speaking to non caucasians on the phone or at least people I can tell aren't caucasian. If I have even the slightest bit of trouble hearing through your accent then I ask to be switched. This is for several reasons but the number one reason is my worst experiences have always been when my language barrier needs to be crossed. Facts get mis-interrpted, mis-recieved and sometimes I have to seriously try and think about what the person on the other end of the phone is saying. For the overall record I have never got good service from someone who didn't a) speak English and b) Live in north america, that might be just me and again if that offends anyone I'm sorry but from my experience it's the way it is.

I'm nice to a point on the phone, until you try and talk down to me or tell me a manager / supervisor isn't available. If I want me call to be handled by your manager then either give me a time when they are in the office and there personal phone number or call them into work, I bought the product and I want the support that comes with it regardless of your work schedule and in most cases the issue is wrong documentation or faulty software / hardware, All things which should be detected by a good QA team making my call just an annoyance factor more then anything else.

Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907105)

They started refunds after a year. That means that a handful of people, mainly those willing to spend at least 10 hours on the phone with "customer service" arguing, pleading and begging, got a refund. I would estimate the actual number refunded in 2010 to be a single digit number. If you've ever dealt with AT&T customer service, you will know that 10 hours is not anywhere near enough time to get them to acknowledge you are even a customer, let alone get anything done. I personally, spent 6 hours over 2 days trying to get them to connect a friend's DSL service that was ordered, billed, and paid for before they told me that DSL wasn't available in my area. This was after she spent hours trying to get them to hook it up, and more to get them to stop billing for this non-existent service. They sent her to collections anyway.

Using their low estimate for amount overpaid and assuming they stopped billing everyone after the year (they didn't): .03% * 105,000,000customers * $25/month * 12 months = $9.45 million

At 4% interest over 2 years, they would have broken even on this deal after refunding everybody, essentially committing no-risk fraud. If they got away with it, they make ~$10 million, if not, it didn't cost them anything.

But the estimates I used were WAY lower than reality. They're still overcharging some of those people, so 12 months is actually over 36 months in some (probably the vast majority of) cases. So it's more likely that they made well over $10 million on this fraud.

This is about as effective a deterrent as punishing bank robbers solely by making they repay half the money if they get caught.

Re:Math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907139)

Half? Maybe 1% at most... :P

Re:Math (1)

ceriphim (1530579) | about 2 years ago | (#41907319)

As I noted in my earlier post, it's as effective as making a bank robber pay back an hour's earnings from their day job. Great work, FCC!

700k?! (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | about 2 years ago | (#41907231)

What a black swath this will leave on their balance sheets. I'll bet their wrists are still stinging.

Re:700k?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907757)

Actually, it would be red :) Usually income (positive) is written down in black ink, whereas expenses (negatives) are written in red.

Memo: (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#41907725)

From: AT&T lobbying weasels
To: Federal telecom regulators (whores)

Sorry about that, guys. We know this was a little embarrassing for everyone, and it certainly resulted in some extra work for you. Still, the penalties are chump change, so let us make it up to you by buying lunch. Say, for a week or so, in Monte Carlo?

And jail time for the board members (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41907961)

Over the top? Maybe. But these people need a higher exposure to risk for the kind of money they make. They also need to pay punitive damages in terms of jail time or money or both for all the wasted time in government and per individual that has not been quantified.

You start putting a few of them in jail or taking their fucking heads, and this kind of nonsense will stop very quickly.

slightly OT but related: AT&T is an abusive c (1)

tatman (1076111) | about 2 years ago | (#41907997)

AT&T is an abusive company. I guess they can afford to be that way when new customers are always pouring in with the allure of something new and better. When I moved, I went to the AT&T office to have my DSL service terminated. Their systems were down but I was promised by the rep he would take care of it. After I moved, I went to a different AT&T office to confirm and they said they couldn't help me because the account was set up in another state. I went online. After navigating through what felt like a John LeCar novel, I finally called someone. I was told it was take care of. A year later, I have debt collection agencies calling me for 3 months of service because it AT&T 3 months to terminate the service (they probably got their act together when the account was 3 months late). I refused to pay the bill. I have letters I have written, along with fax reports proving they received my letters. Yet on my credit report is a delinquent account that is no fault of my own. I have gone out of my way to try to resolve the issue. AT&T will not do anything. The credit collection agencies quickly hang up the phone once I tell them I got documentation of my efforts to resolve the bill. Yet, here I am stuck and screwed. AT&T is under no penalty or harm for their tactics. In the end, I'll probably end up paying it to get it off my credit report. I out a couple hundred bucks. Not a lot. What stings is the most is I have no recourse.

Re:slightly OT but related: AT&T is an abusive (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 2 years ago | (#41910531)

You do have recourse - tell the collection agencies they're actively engaging in fraud and if they continue to pursue such a baseless claim they'd better be prepared to pay out of the ass in court. Then you ask directly for their law firm's number.

They will almost universally stop. Only medical debt collectors are tenacious enough to stand up to a fraud claim.

Re:slightly OT but related: AT&T is an abusive (1)

vovin (12759) | about 2 years ago | (#41910577)

IF it's already on your credit report. You can NOT remove the mark by paying now.

If you pay now you are admitting guilt and enriching the collection company that bought the junk paper. AT&T already got paid by the collection agency when they sold the junk paper (your debt, aka the bill).

Your best recourse is to contact the credit agencies and have the disputed bill noted (for any agency that has it on their credit report).

For future reference, the only way to keep such crap off your report is to pay *before* it goes to collections and then demand the money be reimbursed. You may have to file a suit in small claims court.

ha ha suckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41908213)

We at AT&T overcharged the customers lots more than just $700.000. So we win. This is just giving the Feds a little cut for letting us get away with it.

Its a joke (1)

CimmerianX (2478270) | about 2 years ago | (#41908657)

I'm sure the CEO and COO spend more than that on Coke and Whores last weekend.

We object to only one provision (2)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#41909041)

training of customer care representatives

We at AT&T cannot accept this requirement. Only by not-training our customer care representatives can we ensure the profits that will meet the expectations of our shareholders. By training our customer care representatives we can no longer avoid responsibility and pretend that we didn't know what was going on. Consumers will no doubt mercilessly take advantage of this and pay only the amount(s) they originally agreed to. This penalty, to make us train our customer care representatives, is particularly harsh, and will make us uncompetitive. It is bad for business, bad for the economy, and bad for America.

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