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AT&T: Don't Want a Data Plan for That Smartphone? Too Bad.

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the we-enjoy-taking-your-money dept.

AT&T 798

An anonymous reader writes "Joel Runyon recounts a tale that will be familiar to many people who have bought secondhand smartphones. After his old dumbphone died a few months ago, Runyon picked up a used iPhone. He just needed it for basic phone capabilities, and used it as such, turning data off. However, AT&T eventually figured out he was making calls from a smartphone, and they decided he needed a data plan, even if he wasn't going to use it. They went ahead and opted him into a plan that cost an extra $30 a month. Quoting: 'According to AT&T: They can opt me into a contract that I didn't agree to because I was using a phone that I didn't buy from them because it had the ability to use data that I wasn't using (and was turned off). To top it all off, they got the privilege of charging me for it because I bought a differently categorized device – even though the actual usage of their network did not change at all and I never reconstituted a new agreement with them.'"

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798 comments

Too bad. (5, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about a year ago | (#42777085)

Yes, too bad, for the AT&T.

It is usually good business to do stuff that make customers want to continue using your services.

Re:Too bad. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777261)

Yes, too bad, for the AT&T.

It is usually good business to do stuff that make customers want to continue using your services.

You're delusional.

And I'll have proof of that in a month when not a fucking thing will change, including this policy or AT&Ts revenue.

Sorry, but there are always plenty of addic, er customers in the cellular arena. These companies' new sales pitch should simply be "FUCK YOU".

Don't like it? Get rid of your cell phone. All phones will be considered "smart" on every plan on every carrier very soon. Again, part of the "FUCK YOU" commitment to feed the addicts that refuse to quit.

Re:Too bad. (4, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year ago | (#42777329)

AT&Ts service is crap compared to Verizon.
In fact there are many places AT&T does not work, but Verizon does.
They are small places like a club, a restaurant, or even the grocery story, but people still stick with AT&T.
Again, choices are pretty much limited in this category, so... that is why they can pull this crap.

Welcome to... (3, Insightful)

OpenSourced (323149) | about a year ago | (#42777087)

...your new serfdom.

Re:Welcome to... (1)

Linktwo (2653953) | about a year ago | (#42777143)

...your new serfdom.

... this is your leigh, and you must do everything he say. bound to the company and not allowed to leave or marry without the corporate lord's permission

Re:Welcome to... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777165)

There's no doubt about it: women are made to be held down and raped. It's natural, it keeps the human species from going extinct, and it gives men pleasure. If you're a woman, instead of pressing that reply button, why not just go make yourself useful and pleasure a man?

It ought to be illegal (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#42777089)

Too bad the corporations own the government, needed laws restricting companies from screwing over customers no longer get passed here. More corporate rights, fewer human rights.

Re:It ought to be illegal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777181)

Herp derp, dumb people support a company who treats them like shit, so lets make the government ban the behavior. Fuck off and stop supporting them if you do. If you don't, it doesn't affect you, so shut the fuck up.

Re:It ought to be illegal (1)

Slicker (102588) | about a year ago | (#42777371)

Giving up cell phones will affect almost anyone in modern society. No--there is no realistic option of just not buying their service.

Re:It ought to be illegal (4, Interesting)

JWW (79176) | about a year ago | (#42777221)

Yep. It makes you think - Why do so many industries way of operating today look like organized crime?

Re:It ought to be illegal (4, Informative)

jbolden (176878) | about a year ago | (#42777233)

AT&T is regulated by the FCC. The contract has a termination clause which generally works out fairly close to a fair price for the subsidy he got on his original phone. The policies are regulated by the FCC and the FCC agrees.

First post! (1, Offtopic)

shine (1502) | about a year ago | (#42777095)

Finally got it!

Re:First post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777111)

Better luck next time. :)

Re:First post! (5, Funny)

tsadi (576706) | about a year ago | (#42777145)

Holy UID Batman! If you never got first post when you were just competing against 1,501 other users, I don't think you'll ever get it now.

Re:First post! (2, Funny)

Rick Zeman (15628) | about a year ago | (#42777373)

Holy UID Batman! If you never got first post when you were just competing against 1,501 other users, I don't think you'll ever get it now.

For all you know there are still only 1501 users!!

Non story here. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777097)

Every contract needs two parties to agree. If he didn't legally accept the terms of the current service then he can stop paying for it. Might also help to move to another service.

Re:Non story here. (4, Informative)

Slicker (102588) | about a year ago | (#42777161)

Every major carrier instituted this policy right about the same time. The first thing I did, was try to change carriers.... before filing an FCC complaint. I really want to fight those bastards.

Re:Non story here. (1)

Slicker (102588) | about a year ago | (#42777173)

Furthermore, the representatives of each carrier explicitly told me that the policy was instituted by them all at about the same time. They were clearly aware of this, collectively.. They clearly wanted to take aware our option of switching to another.

Re:Non story here. (1)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about a year ago | (#42777175)

But you will never win. There is now a corporate department tasked with finding out how far the company can rip off consumers and get away with it. It is part of the new profit centered business model.

Re:Non story here. (2)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#42777203)

Yeah, good luck when they charge your credit card and/or ruin your credit history. I guess you can try to sue them, but have fun with that.

In principle I agree with everything you said. In practice it is you vs the megacorp - enjoy the ride.

Re:Non story here. (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#42777359)

Ha, in these parts (Ireland) one clause of the contract used to be that they could change the contract whenever they liked without your agreement, so increase prices and add charges as it suited them. Yes, really, I took Vodafone to task over it with ComReg. I'm not sure if it's changed now though, crazy situation. They'll try anything if you let them.

AT&T alignment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777101)

Always chaotic evil

Mind boggling (4, Insightful)

AbRASiON (589899) | about a year ago | (#42777103)

I've heard stories as described in the subject previously from Americans and it's /fully completely mind boggingly insane/
I can't even contemplate how it's legal in any possible way. I know you guys get shafted on terrible policies / regulations and I guess 'social norms' of how things are meant to be with cell phone usage but err yeah this takes the cake.

In Australia what's described in the subject, simply wouldn't occur, at all.
I have a BlackBerry Bold 9000 as my spare phone and use it purely as a voice only 2g phone, no data at all. My provider has no issue with this at all. If I put that same SIM inside an iphone or my Galaxy S3 - I simply end up with no data, my tough luck - if I want it, I need to call them and add a data plan to my account.

You can also get phones unlocked here, you can buy phones outright and you get different priced plans - so purchasing an outright high end smartphone can be paired with a fairly minimal data and voice plan if you just use it for casual browsing / twitter / facebook and you're near wifi all the time.

I realise getting angry isn't really a solution for you guys - but based on the article? I would be angry, extremely goddamned angry. It simply shouldn't be legal.

Re:Mind boggling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777227)

I bought my iPhone outright, unlocked. I use data, but haven't gone over the limit. 5UKP a month, + calls and SMSs. So about 7UKP total. 30USD??? (I'm on GiffGaff, but O2 was only a bit more).

Re:Mind boggling (4, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#42777385)

It's in the service agreement, I think... smartphone = required data plan. Don't like it, don't buy a smartphone. If you want an idevice, then get an iPod. There are carriers in the US who don't act like this, or at least who won't charge that much for adding data, and it's his own damned fault for using ATT when he already had an unlocked phone he could use elsewhere. (and if it's about coverage on the ATT network, use one of the many MVNO's who use their network).

Here in Canada that wouldn't happen either... carriers will quite happily let you have a smartphone on a non-data plan, because if your device leaks and accidentally uses data they can charge you at $50/GB. ($0.05/MB is not uncommon for per-use data, and some carriers charge $1/MB for per-use data for the first few MB). But a few years ago, the big 3 did act exactly as described in TFS, before they realized that they could extract more money by not forcing you onto a data plan. (I think it says something that even though I work for one of the big 3 and get an employee discount, it's still cheaper for me to have a plan on a fight brand for one of the competitors).

I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (4, Interesting)

acidfast7 (551610) | about a year ago | (#42777105)

... from the Apple Store when I was in US (549 USD). I wanted to use it for a month while I was there and I was shocked that you guys STILL don't have reasonable prepaid-SIM options. I consider reasonable to be filling in an online form, having it mailed to an address with credit already on it, getting on SMS when it's low on credit and recharging online or at a kiosk with a scratch card&SMS solution.

Re:I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (4, Informative)

blahbooboo (839709) | about a year ago | (#42777155)

There are several ways you just didn't know where or how to get them. To name a few options, T mobile sells prepaid sims in their stores and online, eBay has prepaid pre carded t mobile sims, straight talk sells pre paid sims.

Re:I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (5, Informative)

acidfast7 (551610) | about a year ago | (#42777219)

T-mobile is horrible because the minutes expire after a year and it costs roughly 20 cents/min. Straight talk is a monthly plan for at least 30USD/mo.

Both options are terrible, at best.

Here (Germany), I can walk into a store, show ID, get a prepaid SIM put it into the phone, buy a recharge card for as little as €5, scratch the foil, send as SMS and have €5 immediately (at .05€/min or .€.05/MB).

Another way to think about it is that, I can walk into almost any third-party store and for €30 walk out in 15 mins with a new functioning Nokia candy-bar phone with credit. Can't really get that in the US?

Re:I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42777321)

Your german experience is basically the USA "virgin mobile" experience, although there's a bunch of microscopically more expensive competitors. A couple years back I paid $20 for my new dumbphone and then used, on a long term average, around $8/month of minutes. Which was something like 80 minutes per month, which is a lot of talking. I believe the prices have risen somewhat to something like 25 cents per minute, but the phones are still about the cost of a restaurant lunch.

I got into the republic wireless beta over a year ago, its open to the public now I believe. I think I paid $200 for my phone and its been $20/month since then. So far no problems at all. That's why my dumbphone non-contract price data might be a little obsolete.

It is, however, impossible to get a phone heavily advertised on TV in the US or from a retail "cell phone store" for less than $100/mo or whatever. Those TV commercials and $2000/month storefront rentals cost a lot of money. In the old days people used to describe USA as the place where 1/2 the TV commercials were car commercials, but in the future we'll probably describe USA TV commercials as 1/3 or so cell phone ads. Endless self promotion costs a lot of money, mostly paid for at a rate of $120/month.

Re:I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#42777377)

Too bad people have to show ID to get a damn SIM. Bunch of goddamn saps, letting the government run all over 'em like that.

T Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777207)

T-Mobile has many reasonable Pay by the Month or Pay as you Go (by the day or by the call) options. They will mail you a SIM for 0.99 with $6 of credit already on it. You can have auto refills, refill online, or use refill cards. They even have pay as you go plans with no data.

Re:I picked up an unlocked iPhone4s last month... (1)

jbolden (176878) | about a year ago | (#42777269)

You can get pure minute plans in the United States. Page Plus which is essentially Verizon has them. There is no physical SIM because the network is CDMA but close enough. There are some networks like that on GSM. As for the minutes expiring, I've had that happen in Europe as well.

As far as prices their are geographic concentration issues which make it much more expensive to provide service in the United States than Europe.

Obligatory. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777109)

" I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further. " - AT&T

AT&T logo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777281)

Anyone notice it looks vaguely similar to the Death Star?

Old news: Verizon (3, Interesting)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year ago | (#42777113)

Verizon was pulling the same trick years ago. They were even trying to include LG env3 phones in the data phone category which is a joke of course.
The current crop of non-data phones available from the carriers is a joke. Want a full qwerty keyboard for texting? Forget it, that's only on a data phone.
It's basically a plot to get everyone on board with the more expensive data plans.

Re:Old news: Verizon (1)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year ago | (#42777163)

> a plot I think it's more due to market research than anything. Most people want data.

Re:Old news: Verizon (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | about a year ago | (#42777205)

That's fine, but why put handcuffs on those who don't want it?

Re:Old news: Verizon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777289)

That's fine, but why put handcuffs on those who don't want it?

Is it really handcuffs, or the fact that manufacturing companies don't want to keep that production line going for the whopping 3 orders they got that month for non-data phones?

Sometimes the answer is a bit simpler when basic economics is taken into account.

Re:Old news: Verizon (1)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year ago | (#42777317)

I agree that opting people in so abruptly is a bit much, but if the "default" for them is a data-inclusive plan that 99% of people take, and its an actual logistical effort for them, then there's nothing inherently evil about not offering an opt-out. I can't ask for my phone to not receive SMS (maybe I can?)

I doubt that it's the case here though.

Re:Old news: Verizon (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42777275)

While it may be true that most people want data, that is no reason for a carrier to just add it to your contract without asking.

A carrier sells mobile service. The customer decides which services they want to buy: voice, data, SMS, or other services. The customer decides which model phone they use to tap into those services. End of story.

Re:Old news: Verizon (1)

Dasuraga (1147871) | about a year ago | (#42777341)

Considering the current state of affairs I agree with you completely.

When I got my ADSL package, I was "forced" into getting TV and a home phone number as well. Granted, the price was reasonable (as in it was a price I was willing to pay for my internet), but I couldn't opt out of the other two services. This is probably what we're going towards.

An iPhone just to make calls? (1, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#42777115)

Yeah, I believe that one. That's about the last thing anybody does with an iPhone anymore. I'm always a bit surprised it still has the ability to make calls each time Apple announces a new version.

Re:An iPhone just to make calls? (5, Informative)

Simply Curious (1002051) | about a year ago | (#42777167)

I have wifi available everywhere except in transit. I have no need of a data plan whatsoever. It would be nice, however, to have my phone be more user-friendly, able to notify me of mail, and have a few games on it for passing the time.

Of course I would be doing more with it than just making calls. However, I would not be doing more on the network than making calls. The requirement of a data plan prevents that.

Re:An iPhone just to make calls? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42777213)

I used to carry around a palm pilot and later a Sony Clie'. It couldn't make phone calls. Unbelievable right?

What is wrong with using your phone for the same purpose but not needing email or browsing while not at home or at the office or depending only on WiFi? Just because it's mobile doesn't mean we need to suckle from the teat of carrier provided data plans. I do fine without it. That style of usage is precisely my plan.

But I get what you're saying. Is it a phone (primarily) or is it a computer? And are the phone functions as good as they could be or should be?

Yep theyre assholes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777119)

which as I see it should get this modded up as insightful

Crap like this makes me want to write an app that purposefully wastes all the "left over" bandwidth I have on my contract at the end of the month. If we all did it, we'd break this farce of a "contract" they have with us.

Like every other sales organization since the beginning of time they over commit and under deliver, And they rely on their size and their bullying tactics and fleet of lawyers to maintain their position.

signed

A loyal AT&T customer

The Smartphone Bubble (4, Interesting)

Compaqt (1758360) | about a year ago | (#42777121)

Sure, the carrier's are the spawn of the devil.

But all this (having to get your phones from a carrier instead of buying a phone outright and then buying service) isn't just their fault. It's also the fault of users, who like the ability to get a "free" phone, which is really being payed for by their monthly payments.

But, beyond that, it's the fault of the government (the Fed, specifically), for lending out free money, basically. 0 or (in a sense, even negative) interest rates. Think about what percent you get for your savings account. The price signals being given out are simply to consume, consume, consume.

The same loose money policy which was responsible for the housing bubble is also responsible for the smartphone bubble (though it's possible that's about to burst [wsj.com] ).

Re:The Smartphone Bubble (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42777185)

Unlocked phones are becoming more available than they were before. I fell for the discount gag a few too many times myself. No longer.

Re:The Smartphone Bubble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777195)

So, here we go, let's blame the victims, sure.

It's now my fault when I go out of my way *not* so subsidize the carriers by buying an unlocked phone.
It is ALSO my fault when I buy a subsidized phone.
It is also my fault BY PROXY by participating in the government (through taxex, etc.) since they are also faulted in your mind.

Wonderful logic you have there.

The companies bear no responsibility, we are simply beating up on a childlike entity.
Consumers are bad people.

Re:The Smartphone Bubble (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#42777295)

The companies bear no responsibility

He didn't say that. He placed blame on companies, consumers, and the government.

Re:The Smartphone Bubble (1)

drjzzz (150299) | about a year ago | (#42777307)

partly true -- the bits about subsidized phones -- and mostly silly -- the bulk comparing the housing bubble to an oversupply of smartphones and criticizing a stimulatory fiscal policy during a deep recession. And all off topic (raging against AT&T, c'mon now)

Consumer Cellular (5, Informative)

msk (6205) | about a year ago | (#42777125)

Since you have a phone that can use AT&T data (even though you don't want), switch to Consumer Cellular, which uses the AT&T network but doesn't force you into a data plan.

The market defines its behaviors. (3, Interesting)

hessian (467078) | about a year ago | (#42777129)

The problem with the cell phone carrier market is that there are relatively few providers, and worse, consumers do not demonstrate loyalty to any one, but switch when better deals are offered on the others.

This means the only factor that matters is price and availability of features the market wants.

As a result, this news story will have zero effect. Every few months another atrocity comes out about some cellular carrier or another, but the audience just doesn't care.

Re:The market defines its behaviors. (1)

Njovich (553857) | about a year ago | (#42777183)

Where I live the government decides or limits a lot of the behaviors for carriers... but I guess that is too much communism for the US?

Re:The market defines its behaviors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777273)

Where I live the government decides or limits a lot of the behaviors for carriers... but I guess that is too much communism for the US?

Where you live, the government looks out for its constituents, the people.

Here in the U.S., the government looks out for its constituents, the corporations.

Re:The market (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777279)

As we all know, "The Free Market" is the best way to maximize choice and value for the consumer, and government regulation invariably makes things worse. /sarcasm

Choice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777131)

T Mobile just informed me that they were increasing my 4G data cap from 100MB to 500MB at no charge (I pay $50/month, no contract). Point is, even if all the companies are asshats, there are better deals out there. Vote with your money and flee AT&T.

Re:Choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777389)

WOW! A whole 500MB/month? So at 4G speeds, you can blow through it in 5 minutes now, as opposed to the 1 minute it would have taken before? And for only $50 a month? How incredibly generous of them!

Signed, a European.

Over a year ago, I complained to the FCC (5, Interesting)

Slicker (102588) | about a year ago | (#42777147)

My contact was over and I wanted a smartphone but not a data plan. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon all said that if I used any kind of smartphone, I must have a data plan. My brother bought a Nexus One outright and his carrier discovered this and added a $30 charge per month for data against his will. My plan was to use WiFi only for data...

Each carrier responded by calling me and telling me that that is their policy and therefore I was not wronged. I responded that I think law trumps company policy. As far as the FCC was concerned, that was it... they had done their due diligence, I suppose..

I send an email to one law firm that specializes in class action suites but never got a response.

If a lawyer anywhere on this planet would be willing to take up this as a class action suite, I will strongly support it. I am a web developer, I can build an excellent web site to begin the process of finding the many, many other victims.

Re:Over a year ago, I complained to the FCC (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42777285)

How does your carrier find out which phone you use?

It sounds like they're spying on their customers. Privacy breach?

Re:Over a year ago, I complained to the FCC (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777345)

It's actually very easy. Every phone comes with what's called IMEISV which is a code that relates to phone model and software version.

Re:Over a year ago, I complained to the FCC (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777287)

You're a web developer but can't afford a smartphone plan?

Yeah the behavior sucks, but the amount of people who want to do what you and the story describes (use a smartphone w/o a data plan) are negligible.

Re: I wanted a smartphone but not a data plan (5, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a year ago | (#42777369)

Maybe the answer is to use their own sales processes against them in the opposite direction.

I have an iPhone. On AT&T. With no data plan. That's the spec required here, right?

So let's go play a little. Go to the "stores" aka those mall outlets, rather than someone in corporate. Just like we/they/someone says about Greater ______ ****wad, the workers in those stores have to earn their living doing real work rather than being a faceless voice of policy. So my example is from AT&T. It could be different on those other carriers.

1. Go to AT&T Store. "Hi. I want to end my contract. What if any fees do I need to pay to get out of it?" (Sometimes/often you'll have a minimum left on the "subsidy".) End your contract. Or, if this was that "second hand phone" you might just go to step 2.
2. "I want a Go-Phone plan on this phone. $100, so that the minutes last all year." By making a purchase, you are directing the discussion. There's nowhere for them to wiggle you.

Put facetiously for slashdot humor effect, you can go all baby-steps on this.
"Go-Phone plan. You still sell those, right? I like the Meatloaf ad on TV. He's my hero."
"Yay. Now I can be just like Meatloaf. Or something. Here's $100. In the $100 option the minutes last a whole year right? Good."
GoPhone *doesn't have* data. Since we all know companies don't like giving away stuff for free, and you handed them five $20's, "of course you can't get free data". Which is ... wait for it ... what we wanted. There's nowhere for them to charge anything else because you handed cash to the sales person at an AT&T store.

Sleepy day, huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777151)

Try activating a phone running a "smartphone" OS* on ANY of the four (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) networks. They all pull the same trick of adding automatic data plan.

*
iOS
Android
webOS
S60 (runs on Nokia's E Series phones)

Now, wake up and do some actual editor work.

Welcome to America (5, Informative)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | about a year ago | (#42777153)

That sort of shit doesn't happen anywhere else in the world.

You can use any kind of phone you want, and get whatever kind of plan you want. You aren't forced to use a dataplan just because you have a smartphone.

Re:Welcome to America (3, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#42777247)

I whole heartedly agree. Trouble is, most Americans think the [mighty] USA is the best place to be.

They view themselves as being superior to others nations, after all they have the strongest, the best of everything, including democracy.

No wonder companies like At&T treat them that way.

Car analogy please! (4, Funny)

rvw (755107) | about a year ago | (#42777157)

I don't understand this. Can someone explain this to me using a car analogy?

Re:Car analogy please! (5, Informative)

zm (257549) | about a year ago | (#42777189)

They charged him highway toll because he has a car capable of doing highway speed, even though he never drives on a highway.

Re:Car analogy please! (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42777223)

You drive one of the rare cars that actually requires high octane gas (turbo'd sportcar or whatever)
Your lawnmower works fine with low octane gas.
So you drive to the gas station, fill your little one gallon lawnmower gas can with the cheaper low octane gas. See on the bill that you are being charged for high octane gas. "Its company policy that if you have a car requiring high octane gas, we will charge you for high octane gas, no matter what you actually use or want". Finally, you can't go to an alternative gas station provider because you were dumb enough to sign a 2-year gasoline contract and there's only a handful of gas stations who collude WRT prices and services anyway.

Re:Car analogy please! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about a year ago | (#42777387)

"Its company policy that if you have a car requiring high octane gas, we will charge you for high octane gas, no matter what you actually use or want". Finally, you can't go to an alternative gas station provider because you were dumb enough to sign a 2-year gasoline contract and there's only a handful of gas stations who collude WRT prices and services anyway.

(emphasis mine...)

Not exactly...It's better explained this way: -

"Its company policy that if you have a car that would satisfy you with low octane gas, we will charge you for high octane gas, no matter what you actually use or want". Finally, you can't go to an alternative gas station provider because you were dumb enough to sign a 2-year gasoline contract and there's only a handful of gas stations who collude WRT prices and services anyway.

Toll Road (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777235)

You're forced to buy premium gasoline when all your car needs is regular because you happen to drive on one particular toll road during your commute.

Captcha: Falsify

Re:Car analogy please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777277)

I don't understand this. Can someone explain this to me using a car analogy?

The man is being charged for both gas and diesel, even though he does not use any diesel.

Re:Car analogy please! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777297)

I don't understand this. Can someone explain this to me using a car analogy?

Well, yes, but be forewarned. I'm going to shove this crowbar halfway up your ass to try and describe the screwing you're getting from your cell company.

Chances are it will be painful.

small claims court (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777159)

This seems to be a pretty open and shut case. Take them to small claims court, or if you have enough time get a lawyer and try organizing a class action suit....

Re:small claims court (2)

Spiked_Three (626260) | about a year ago | (#42777193)

Seriously? Don't you know you were forced to sign an agreement to not sue them, especially in a class action suite when you were born, err I mean started using their service. You agreed to arbitration, which in short means they always win, no matter what.

Re:small claims court (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777323)

You have 30 days from the start of service to decline the arbitration clause - they are required to inform you of that in their terms of service. Just because you did not read them and refused to retain your right to sue them is not my problem.

This is why (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42777171)

This is the reason why I am moving to pre-paid service at the end of this month. I have been waiting for my early termination fee to drop low enough to leave. I have my Nexus 4 because it is unlocked and not branded with any carrier, easily (and already rooted) and is completely under my control. Going prepaid, I am in control of the deal. They can decide not to do business with me each month, but that's the freedom of choice I need.

And yes. No need for data plans here.

The big carriers will come around eventually, but only after large numbers have jumped ship.

Re:This is why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777225)

When large numbers of people have jumped ship to prepaid phones on these same carriers networks? Nope, there are only big carriers, and "little" carriers that resell service on these same big networks.

Re:This is why (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42777253)

I've been prepaid / non-contract since the early 00s when I got sick of paying $80 for two dumbphones and switched to about $8/month/phone prepay. I think the business logic "big cell providers" use, is anyone dumb enough to sign a contract is dumb enough to be taken advantage of in pretty much any technically possible way. I mean how dumb do you have to be, to pay $120/month for two years for a $300 phone? Thats $3180. I'm getting the same service for a grand total of $780 over the two years (24*20+300). I'm sure I'll find some way to spend the $2400 I'll save merely by selecting an alternative billing method.

Re:This is why (1)

vlm (69642) | about a year ago | (#42777267)

Whoops that would be $2880 for two years because you get a "free" phone. I keep forgetting about what a great deal you're getting with that "free" phone. It only cost you $2100 more than paying for it yourself. Kind of the ultimate subprime loan.

Re:This is why (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42777293)

What will stop you from changing prepaid all the time is the need to keep your number. Unless no-one ever calls you or so, and it doesn't matter that your number changes all the time.

Hold on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777191)

I have a smartphone (Nexus S) on a tariff which does not include a data bundle and my carrier doesn't charge me more for the privilege of such?

Oh right, I don't reside in the Corporate States of America...

Not the entire story... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777197)

As much as the blog poster would like us to believe that is the entire story. It's obviously not.

Here's why.

AT&T has mass data entry (or as CSR's refer to it "Massive Destruction of Effort") which does various things like add missing promotions/features and deleting invalid service plan/feature/promo combinations placed on it by sleezy first and third party sales agents.

In the case of the blog writer, what obviously happened is that the iPhone started using mobile data. In the billing system, there are three classes of devices which I'll just refer to as "dumbphones", "smartphones" and "data devices." A "dumbphone" has a voice plan, and can only opt into optional small data plans. A Data device meanwhile is only a data device and the voice part is optional (since a tablet or usb stick has no voice system.) The Smartphones (previously Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices) require a data plan to work, and the Mass Data Entry system probably detected data use (eg signaling data) without a data plan and forced it onto one to prevent the user from using data for free.

So what the blog writer should have done escalated the problem nicely and told the agent to restore the voice plan to what it was, or cancel the service.

Re:Not the entire story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777337)

If a phone without a data plan accessed the internet the phone company would charge you based on how much data you used. In fact, this was a major nuisance not too long ago, since many dumb phones would have a easy to accidentally push button that'd access the internet and end up billing the user a few cents each time.

Even if you are correct and a data plan disabled iPhone still accesses the internet, AT&T could've simply charged the person for it. Course I'd imagine that would've only made them a few bucks per month at most.

I love the EU (4, Insightful)

drolli (522659) | about a year ago | (#42777199)

Euro problems or not, but for the customers its great here in Europe.

I never had the situation here that a mobile provider tried to force me onto a certain mobile phone. The reason for this is that the European union has a lot of laws regarding the availability of services everywhere and that no competitor may have a disadvantage by closed markets. In the same way the mobility of the cititzens should not be limited.

Soemthing like: "If you use the phone which we did not sell you, we charge extra" would bring you into an overkill of lawsuits. Its not accidentally that MS needs to show the "browser choice" screen in Europe. Its not accidentally that Apple and other ebook publisher got got into trouble here. it not accigentally that Apples warranty conditions clashed here. It is not accidentally that the "one mobile provider sell the iphone" idea broke down in the EU more quickly than elsewhere.

Re:I love the EU (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#42777309)

These situations are US-only. Really. All the rest of the world is as good or better than the EU when it comes to mobile service. Even a country like China is lightyears ahead in that respect.

Re:I love the EU (2)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about a year ago | (#42777319)

Euro problems or not, but for the customers its great here in Europe.

I never had the situation here that a mobile provider tried to force me onto a certain mobile phone. The reason for this is that the European union has a lot of laws regarding the availability of services everywhere and that no competitor may have a disadvantage by closed markets. In the same way the mobility of the cititzens should not be limited.

Soemthing like: "If you use the phone which we did not sell you, we charge extra" would bring you into an overkill of lawsuits.

Actually, US carriers don't charge extra - they just don't offer a discount and non-contract plans as you go plans are often targeted to people who are total price sensitive (i.e. is it $10 or 430 per card) rather than to the actual cost per minute. There is some movement to offering cheaper no contract plans - Walmart is starting to advertise unsubsidized iPhones with lower per month rates; although their "unlimited" data is really "use more than 2GB per months for a few months and we may not let you renew..." according to the sales rep I talked to when considering it for a second phone.

OTOH, the EU is still in the dark ages when it comes to roaming - why can't my UK SIM work the same way throughout the EU - no charge for incoming calls, same low per minute or text rate everywhere? Roaming fees may be capped but why should there be any? After all, in the US you can roam virtually anywhere; at least with the big 4, for one flat rate.

Miss Tomlin from the telephone company says (1)

JazzHarper (745403) | about a year ago | (#42777239)

"I want you to understand something: we are not subject to city, state or federal regulation. We are omnEEpotent... OmnEEpotent. That's 'potent' with an 'omnee' in front of it. Now, then, Mr. VEEdal, when may we expect payment?"

Old news by couple of 5 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777241)

One should read the contracts, and talk with At&t before purchasing a highly data-intensive phone even if it is used.

When the iphone 3g was first released, At&t put in the rule that you must have a data place attacked to plan with an iphone. If they detect an iphone and no data plan, they would automatically add it. Why? To eliminate the $1000 data charges that many people were getting. Even if you turn off the data on the phone, data usage will still happen. All he had to do was contact at&t to ask for a data block, and they would have told him outright that he needed a data plan..

Do i agree with At&t adding a data plan when not needed no, but at the same time, I'm sick of hearing the stories on the news of parents giving there children phones and getting $1000+ data charges.

What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777313)

if you don't have a data plan how can you still use data on the phone? that's the carrier's fault, not the user's fault, if they are providing a service you didn't ask for.

Had the same problem, use an MVNO (1)

mcorner (168581) | about a year ago | (#42777257)

It was a frustrating experience for sure, but there is an easy solution: switch to any one of the MVNOs or a prepaid plan from the carrier. Figure out what network they are riding on top of that matches your preference, then switch.

I picked GoPhone (from ATT), but straighttalk wireless, or others will work just fine for you and are likely cheaper.

Good luck, but this is an easy one to solve.

How did they find out ? (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | about a year ago | (#42777283)

I assume that they did so by looking at some kind of signature from the 'phone when it connects to their network. Can anyone tell us what that is ?

Re:How did they find out ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777367)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mobile_Station_Equipment_Identity

Contracting law (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42777343)

Is contracting law so much different in the US from the rest of the world?
As far as I know, both parties must agree on a contract for it to become effective (this is why you need to sign contracts, or click "I agree" on the EULA screens etc.)
So what did your contract with AT&T say? Does it (or the general Terms & Conditions) mention anything about you only being allowed to use non-smartphones and needing a Data Plan if you use a smartphone? Then, as much as it sucks and as much as I hate to say it, they are in the right.

No mention of Data Plans and Smartphones? Get a lawyer - they are not Darth Vader, they cannot just "change the deal".

Want a Smartphone with no data plan? Use Ting. (2)

SuperBeaker (604944) | about a year ago | (#42777349)

Seriously, go to Ting's web site and check out the pricing. You pick how many minutes, texts, and data you want. If you plan on only using data on your smartphone when you're on wifi, you can do that. We joined Ting about a month ago and couldn't be happier. Our monthly phone bill has plummeted even though we upgraded from feature phones to smartphones (dumping Verizon along the way). You can see the pricing options at https://ting.com/plans [ting.com]

get a burner phone (1)

jsprenkle (2009592) | about a year ago | (#42777361)

What they did isn't within the contract he agreed to. That's what lawyers are for.

That said, if that's all this guy wants then a burner phone is probably about 1/4th the cost of his AT&T plan, and it's 1/10th the cost of what most of my colleagues at work pay for their plan.

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