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AT&T Quietly Adds Charges To All Contract Cell Plans

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the fee-added-because-reasons dept.

AT&T 338

guttentag writes "The Wall Street Journal is reporting that AT&T Mobility, the second-largest wireless carrier in the U.S., has added a new monthly administrative fee of 61 cents to the bills of all of its contract wireless lines as of May 1, a move that could bring in more than a half-billion dollars in annual revenue to the telecom giant. An AT&T spokeswoman said the fee covers 'certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance.' The increased cost to consumers comes even though AT&T's growth in wireless revenue last year outpaced the costs to operate and support its wireless business. The company has talked of continuing to improve wireless profitability. Citigroup analyst Michael Rollins noted that the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year. He said the fee should add 0.30 of a percentage point to AT&T's 2013 revenue growth; he predicts total top-line growth of about 1.5%. Normally, consumers could vote with their wallets by taking their business elsewhere. AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge,' effectively forcing millions of people to either pay more money per month or pay the ETF."

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Surcharge (5, Insightful)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#43811383)

AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge'

I love the way there's always a loophole!

Re:Surcharge (5, Funny)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about a year ago | (#43811409)

AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge'

I love the way there's always a loophole!

It's the American way!!!

Re:Surcharge (5, Funny)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#43811433)

Hey, ATT, I'm calling this paper bag full of shit, a "payment."

Re:Surcharge (5, Interesting)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43811435)

AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge'

I love the way there's always a loophole!

There's not. This is blatantly illegal and a breach of contract.

Re:Surcharge (5, Insightful)

Lithdren (605362) | about a year ago | (#43811473)

While true in theory, what ends up happening is you call to cancle because of the breach of contract, and you get yelled at and treated badly by their 'customer service' for 3-4 hours as you escilate up the chain trying to terminate your now null and void contract without paying the ETF, over 61 cents a month.

Most people will just cave and either switch once the plan is over, or not bother switching at all, because the hassel of getting these jerks to do what is legal and right will end up costing you half a days wage when you take them to small-claims court to get it overturned by a judge because they dont even bother showing up in court.

Oh but dont worry, if you DONT pay the ETF and ignore it, they'll send you to collections, where when you dispute the charge, will get added to your credit rating and affect you for the next 10 years or 7 years or whatever the hell it is, even after you get them to agree that the charges were wrong, unless you spend even more time writing letters and sending lawsuit judgement letters to the credit agencies to get it cleaned up. Even then, might not work.

Companies need to get slapped across the face when they pull this crud, individuals are unable to fight this kind of stuff without sacrificing more than what its going to end up costing them if they just put with it, which is of course excatly why AT&T and their kin do this kind of thing.

Re:Surcharge (5, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43811513)

While true in theory, what ends up happening is you call to cancle because of the breach of contract, and you get yelled at and treated badly by their 'customer service' for 3-4 hours as you escilate up the chain trying to terminate your now null and void contract without paying the ETF, over 61 cents a month.

The only time I've ever been in dispute with a phone company, I made the choice to deal with it entirely via snail mail.

It's much quicker, since there's no frustrating wait in long queues, being put on hold, cut off or escalating to a supervisor. You can write a letter in 10 minutes, print it and mail it for a very small cost and then not worry about it until you get a reply again.

Also, letters get the attention of other parts of the company and generally yield a much better response, in that they bother to respond in a coherent manner rather than leave the onus on you. This is because snail mail is often used (still, amazingly) for important things for which they have to respond.

Re:Surcharge (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43811615)

I absolutely agree although I do get the impression you've been reading "How to win friends and influence people" :)

Re:Surcharge (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43811687)

I do get the impression you've been reading "How to win friends and influence people"

Nope, 'fraid not.

Re:Surcharge (5, Interesting)

jittles (1613415) | about a year ago | (#43811825)

This is because snail mail is often used (still, amazingly) for important things for which they have to respond.

This doesn't surprise me at all. Why I just used snail mail on Monday to send a letter informing a management company that they were in breach of contract and that they had 7 days (by state law) to rectify the situation or they would be legally responsible for all sorts of damages, blah blah blah. Anyway. I had been calling and complaining (and even showing up in person) to said management company for 20 days and they did nothing. It wasn't until I filled out a form to file in court and sent it certified mail that they did anything. And let me tell you, they did something to rectify the breach that very day. Why? Because I had a little stamped piece of paper from the post office saying that they most certainly hand delivered my notice of breach of contract and the court system absolutely loves signed receipts. You can take your piece of paper (the one you sent, and the one you received) in and show a judge. You can't take your tier one support call into court unless you recorded it. Even then a tier 1 support person is probably not likely to get the company into as much hot water as a letter.

Re:Surcharge (0)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about a year ago | (#43811923)

My impression of what will happen when they get your letter:

First Option:
-Receive letter
-Show to supervisor
-"HAHAHA this guy thinks we're going to let him out of our illegal charges! NOPE!"
-Send form letter, toss your letter, game over.

Second Option:
-Receive letter
-Toss letter in trash
-"What letter? We never got anything."

Anyway you go, good luck with getting that evil giant to do the right thing, for any amount of time or effort.

Re:Surcharge (1, Funny)

Monoman (8745) | about a year ago | (#43811555)

Oh yeah well if that happens then I will just let them know they are receiving a demerit each time my call is transferred. If I have to issue three demerits they will receive a citation. Four of those will result in a verbal warning and if they keep it up they will be looking at a written warning. Two of those and they will be in a world of hurt in the form of a disciplinary review, written up by me, and placed on the desk of their immediate supervisor.

Re:Surcharge (0)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#43811653)

call to cancle

How do you know my Sister-in-law?

Re:Surcharge (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#43811663)

get yelled at and treated badly by their 'customer service' for 3-4 hours as you escilate up the chain

The one and only time I ever dealt with AT&T was back in the days of Windows 95, and I signed up for their internet service via the convenient icon already on my desktop. I only needed the internet for a day, and the following day, I canceled it. A month later, my card got billed. I called them and they didn't care. I tried to escalate the situation, but I only got a single transfer and that person REFUSED to transfer me anywhere else. She said she was the last stop in the line and there is no way I am getting past her or getting my money back. I actually had to go to the bank and fill out paperwork to have the charges reversed and a new card issued

Re:Surcharge (4, Insightful)

tutufan (2857787) | about a year ago | (#43811665)

It's not as immediate, but I maintain a "shit list" of companies that I will never deal with again (dire circumstances excepted). AT&T is already on it, and for much worse shenanigans than this.

The important thing, though, is to have that list and follow through. Don't think that it doesn't matter. One less customer pulls cash straight off the bottom line, and there's absolutely nothing they can do to change that.

Re:Surcharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811701)

It's unsecured debt so it won't go on your credit report.

Re:Surcharge (1)

LiENUS (207736) | about a year ago | (#43811823)

So you're saying a credit card doesn't go on your credit report if you fail to pay it?

Re:Surcharge (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year ago | (#43811887)

No, but a cell phone bill in arrears/collections won't hurt your credit rating. (depending on jurisdiction, blah blah)

So if they charge automatically to your credit card, tell your credit card that you had terminated service because they breached the contract, and that the charge is fraudulent. When I did that with my credit card, the charges were reversed, and the cell phone company in question never bothered to even try the collections route, because the credit card company had sent them a registered letter informing them of the reason the charge was reversed.

Re:Surcharge (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811779)

This is the sort of thing that Class Action lawsuits were designed for. Individually, bringing a claim for .61 cents a month just isn't cost effective, but as a class, it can present a risk of loss sufficient to make corporations reconsider the 0.3% revenue increase it would obtain by cheating its customers. Thanks to Congress and SCOTUS; however, corporations no longer have to fear class action claims for such things. They just need to place an arbitration clause in their contracts of adhesion.

Re: Surcharge (2)

iamhassi (659463) | about a year ago | (#43811475)

Yes it's illegal, but they were hoping no one would notice. AT&T is not going to like what the FTC does to them when they finally get off their butts and do what taxpayers pay them to do. I'm sure the US Govt would love an extra half billion in "fines".

Re:Surcharge (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#43811509)

AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge'

I love the way there's always a loophole!

There's not. This is blatantly illegal and a breach of contract.

Perhaps our lawyers should have a talk with AT&T's legal office.

On second thought, a single lawyer would probably be hopelessly outgunned against a team of lawyers who themselves wrote the loophole for the law. And the legal costs just to recover $0.61/month would be prohibitive, to say the least.

No, a class action is the only way to go.

Except for the "no class action" clause in the AT&T's contract.

Well, we're screwed, then.

I guess the only remaining argument for getting a contract-plan for wireless service -- stable pricing for the duration of the contract -- just disappeared.

Now let's just hope that the no-contract month-to-month plans don't disappear.

Re:Surcharge (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | about a year ago | (#43811699)

This is what happens when companies are allowed to run rough shod over the populace. And then people on Slashdot piss and whinge when a government actually enforces the law the people want. You can't have it both ways.

Re:Surcharge (1)

faedle (114018) | about a year ago | (#43811905)

What if I told you that Slashdot (like anywhere else) is made up of people, some of whom have differing opinions than the others?

Re:Surcharge (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811577)

So sue them for breach of contract. I'm sure the binding arbiter of their choice will be more than fair in settling the disputes on a case by case basis....

Re:Surcharge (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43811639)

There's not. This is blatantly illegal and a breach of contract.

Sadly, that contract says they can make a lot of changes whenever they want to -- like all modern contracts, the company basically says "we can do anything and you can eat shit".

Terms of service for a web site or a product pretty much all nowadays put the power entirely in the hands of companies to do as they please. And since corporate profits are the highest principle in the land, the courts have upheld that as perfectly fine.

If AT&T has decided they need to pad their bottom line by tacking on a little extra surcharge .. there's not a hell of a lot you can do about it. How many of us have received letters from our cell phone companies which more or less say "in order to keep corporate profits at record levels we will be increasing your costs"?

Nothing is illegal when you're a large company these days. And, since they've all updated their TOS to say you can't sue them in a class action suit, you don't have any recourse.

Re:Surcharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811543)

How much did Randall get as a bonus for this stunt ??

http://www.att.com/gen/investor-relations?pid=7824

Bend over... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811673)

And this my friends is why business imposed rule (law for the average consumer since it's legally binding and generally not practical/worthwhile to fight for your average Joe) through contractual agreements that sign your rights away (including participating in class action suits [wikipedia.org] ) is a bad thing. I'd like to see consumers in mass refuse to sign agreements waiving all sorts of liabilities to businesses and rights of consumers. This will not happen and businesses are well aware of it. As such, businesses' legal teams can tuck away with all sorts of crap in contracts/agreements for product/services that makes me want to vomit.

"After all, why bother reading and comprehending that 14+ page document you're signing? Just initial these pages and sign here to get what you want, no one reads these things after all (except us--Good Corp.--and the courts) and this particular example you read about helps our consumers at a completely insignificant cost (it's only $0.63 here, $.53 there, ..., $6.56/mo tomorrow)! We Good Corp. sales associates verbally cross our hearts what we've told you is true (though statements are counter to the contract), even though it won't legally hold a candle to that contract you just signed symbolizing you: read, understood, and agreed to all terms expressed there in. It does make you feel better though, right?" Then average said consumer signs, agrees, and moves on.

Every time I see this happen I watch my options dwindle to: A) completely refusing a product/service (since all competitors have similar agreements) or B) am forced to buy in with everyone else. Please, stop being wreckless with your purchasing power people. Purchasing power is real, it's just being manipulated to the masses. When the bulk of consumers realize this, we'll all get screwed a little less, which means it's time to stock up on lube.

Re:Surcharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811767)

I don't. I hate this corporation.

Re:Surcharge (2)

jittles (1613415) | about a year ago | (#43811775)

AT&T would be required to let customers out of their contracts without an early termination fee if it raised prices, but it is avoiding this by simply calling the increase a 'surcharge'

I love the way there's always a loophole!

The only reason this loophole works is because most people are too lazy to go through the effort required to rectify this $0.61 a month issue. Honestly, I don't blame them. If I were sufficiently interested in a problem like this (I'm not, I don't even have a cell phone contract), I would take AT&T Mobility to Small Claims court for breach of contract. I'd ask for damages and for them to pay me an early termination fee for having to deal with the headache of this issue. If thousands of customers did this, I think AT&T would just remove the fee entirely.

Re:Surcharge (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | about a year ago | (#43811883)

AT&T are hands-down the shadiest mofos operating as a business in this world. From small print-approved snooping on your data, to no-tell-em fees that just pop up all the time, the customer's best interest is the LAST fucking thing they could care about.

We recently cancelled our business internet/phone with them, because they were adding on all sorts of 'additional value-added services' without even asking us(totaling hundreds per month), and our bills were(without the charges from these services) more than double what we were told they would be when we signed up. I have heard from several other people that this is the case for them as well - not sure if it's a regional thing, but everyone I asked was in the Midwest.

They have no respect for regulation, the law, or common decency, and the sooner that former-monopoly branch of an evil empire implodes, the happier I will be. Unfortunately, the only way this will happen is if you - the consumers - vote with your feet and stop allowing them to do this to you.

Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (2, Insightful)

dmgxmichael (1219692) | about a year ago | (#43811385)

deserves what they get. Worst Telcom in history (and that's an achievement considering how rotten all of them are.).

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (1)

AlabamaCajun (2710177) | about a year ago | (#43811483)

Learned that 20 years ago with their dial suck service and avoided them for all but the landline I'm stuck with until better network options become available. "Dull"house Cable is not an option with it's monthly rising costs.

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (3, Informative)

anthony_greer (2623521) | about a year ago | (#43811569)

Many of us on ATT are not stupid at all - Many are grandfathered in on really old plans that they keep letting us carry forward each cycle! I have a plan from the old Cellular One, which became Cingular which much later became ATT Wireless...why on earth would I change when my rate hasnt gone up since 2003 (with the exception of the data package added in like 06)

I pay like $78 per month for what on ATT or VZW now costs about $120 or so - I get a new phone and sign a new contract every two years and they dont ever manke me change when my contract terms expire so...I would be nuts to NOT stay with them, right?

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (4, Insightful)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | about a year ago | (#43811709)

You can get unlimited talk, text, and data through Straight Talk or similar for less than $50 a month. Bring your AT&T phone and just buy a new SIM card, if you like (usually around $15 or less). Or if you're not overly concerned with having the fanciest phones (which these days doesn't make nearly as much difference as it did 2-3 years ago), you can get a phone on Verizon's network and possibly have better coverage.

Yes, I think you're nuts.

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811795)

God! That's crazy. I love my dumb phone. Was a freebie from someone, and with my €2 / month contract I can call and text more than I'm able to use up...

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (2)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about a year ago | (#43811867)

I pay $100 ($117 w/ taxes and fees) for unlimited talk, text, and web on 2 phones (through Tmobile). I get 2.5 GB of high-speed data and free tethering. It is also a no-contract plan (so if they try to charge me BS fees, I can vote with my wallet). I can get a new phone and pay for the phone over 2 years so, if the phone is $480, I pay $20 per month for the next 2 years (which would bring my total to the same as yours). But, I am happy with my current phone, so I get to pay $20 per month less than you. I do not think you are getting a good deal. I just think you are getting ripped off less than most of their other customers.

Re:Anyone stupid enough to use AT&T (2)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#43811777)

The only problem is that AT&T, like Comcast and Charter have a sort of 'geographical monopoly' for some services. I had this problem once when AT&T was my only option for internet. (barring satellite because latency on a good day can be between 900ms and 1200ms). So I had to deal with AT&T. They did suck quite frankly, but I've dealt with Comcast and they suck more for a higher price. The root problem is the lack of real competition between these companies. With the exception of Verizon, Sprint and similar cell phone only companies, they have other revenue streams. In the case of AT&T, TV and Internet service. That keeps them out of competition for certain amounts of revenue and allows them to bully their consumers...

cover certain expenses.. (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43811397)

..which are the expenses you were supposedly paying for already.

ditch 'em. and sue 'em for screwing the etf.

what good is the rule, if they just add charges and still have you pay the etf?

Re:cover certain expenses.. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43811613)

ditch 'em. and sue 'em for screwing the etf.

I agree. I'm just they're not screwing the IETF. So long as they're our bedfellows instead, we have a fighting chance.

Re:cover certain expenses.. (1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | about a year ago | (#43811625)

I believe the words "Class Action" spring to mind :)

Re:cover certain expenses.. (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#43811669)

I believe the words "Class Action" spring to mind :)

And I believe you'll find they've added terms to the contract which prohibit you from doing that, and that the courts have upheld this,.

You have zero chance of a class action suit against them, because they already updated your terms of service to say you agree you can't do that.

There's my new catchphrase: (1)

tutufan (2857787) | about a year ago | (#43811743)

"screwing the elf"

Yup, they really screwed the elf on that one...

How To (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811403)

And here [reddit.com] is a very succinct how to by someone who successfully ended their AT&T service sans ETF.

(Note it still did take 2 hours)

Ain't it great? (5, Insightful)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year ago | (#43811407)

"the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year"

So, have I understood this correctly? If you have a contract with them, they aren't violating it, because they aren't raising your rates. They're just adding a separate administrative fee. Reminds me of the game airlines play: your flight is cheap, but you have to pay the fees for the airports, for fuel, for your luggage, for having wings on the airplane...

This is great for the bean-counters and marketeers, but it's unethical as hell. Why do big businesses lose their ethics? Does MBA stand for "Must Be an A**hole"?

Re:Ain't it great? (2)

dukeblue219 (212029) | about a year ago | (#43811455)

At least the airlines have to advertise the full cost of a ticket (minus luggage which is legitimately an optional expense). If I go to United.com and their ad or search engine says I can fly to SF for $292 then it's going to be $292, with a base fare of maybe $240 plus fees and taxes. The phone bills are so much more frustrating because the advertised rate might be $39/mo but then you have no clue what will be added on top of that, and then they can add even more down the road.

Re:Ain't it great? (2)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year ago | (#43811717)

If I go to United.com and their ad or search engine says I can fly to SF for $292 then it's going to be $292, with a base fare of maybe $240 plus fees and taxes.

That's a good one.

My last airline ticket costed me 515 Eur. That's what it was advertised for, and that's what I paid. Not out of range for a transcontinental flight. And can you imagine how my jaw dropped when I checked the passenger receipt and I saw that the price was composed from 125Eur airfare and 390Eur fees and taxes?

Re:Ain't it great? (1)

gtbritishskull (1435843) | about a year ago | (#43811897)

I am pretty sure there was a law passed relatively recently (maybe a year ago) that requires airlines to show the full price including all taxes and fees. Before that I remember it being quite difficult to comparison shop between airlines (because their fees, which were not shown with the price, were different).

Re:Ain't it great? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811459)

Do you have any idea of how much a pair of wings cost? Always complaining...

Re:Ain't it great? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#43811461)

"the new administrative fee is a key component for accelerating revenue growth for the rest of the year"

So, have I understood this correctly? If you have a contract with them, they aren't violating it, because they aren't raising your rates. They're just adding a separate administrative fee. Reminds me of the game airlines play: your flight is cheap, but you have to pay the fees for the airports, for fuel, for your luggage, for having wings on the airplane...

This is great for the bean-counters and marketeers, but it's unethical as hell. Why do big businesses lose their ethics? Does MBA stand for "Must Be an A**hole"?

There's a big difference. When you buy an airline ticket, they tell you when you make the contract (i.e. buy the ticket) that there is an extra charge for baggage. What you agree to at the time you make the contract is part of the contract. This is not part of the contract. This is stealing.

Re:Ain't it great? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811465)

Why do big businesses lose their ethics? Does MBA stand for "Must Be an A**hole"?

"Money Beats Anything". Why have ethics when you can have money?

Re:Ain't it great? (1, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43811501)

Why do big businesses lose their ethics? Does MBA stand for "Must Be an A**hole"?

"Money Beats Anything". Why have ethics when you can have money?

Money is the root of all evil. They're trying to make the world a better place by limiting its distribution.

Re:Ain't it great? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811683)

It is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil.

http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/6-10.htm

Re:Ain't it great? (3, Insightful)

ATMAvatar (648864) | about a year ago | (#43811491)

Why do big businesses lose their ethics?

That's rather easy to explain. Businesses never really had ethics. They're out to make money, and these kinds of situations are simple risk vs. reward calculations. The activity brings in more money, and any laws to curtail corporate misbehavior have long since been rendered toothless. The only consideration is whether customers would leave en masse, but between the early termination fees and the fact that most costumers have some pathological fear of standing up for themselves when a corporation jerks them around, that's rather unlikely.

Re:Ain't it great? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43811507)

Does MBA stand for "Must Be an A**hole"?

If the holder of one went straight for it instead of having a real job then probably yes. Those who had a real degree first and then later in their careers got it so they could move into management positions probably no.

I love this show (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | about a year ago | (#43811413)

Congressperson: That's fucked up. I should introduce legislation which would allow the consumer to get out of their contract if the carrier breaks it like this.
AT&T lobbyist: (Opens suitcase full of cash.)
Congressperson. Free market!

Re:I love this show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811559)

That already exists, it's called breach of contract. By law you have the option to exit your contract if the carrier changes the terms of said contract.

If you sign up for $X/month for Y services and Z months later the carrier degrades Y services to Y-n services or decide to change their privacy policy, tack on arbitrary priced (but mandatory) data fees, or pretty much anything that causes you to experience less than what you paid for or causes you to pay more for the same level of service you had the previous month, then you likely have very good legal standing to tell your carrier to take a hike and keep the subsidized phone as a trophy to hang on your wall or something since you generally can't do anything with it outside of the network it's coded for without unlocking it which is again a crime since the LoC's window has expired. Holly crap that was all one sentence. My third grade English teacher'd be pissed.

Re:I love this show (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811863)

Good luck getting your carrier to agree with the idea of "breach of contract".

Re:I love this show (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#43811901)

I'm picturing the Congressperson doing the Fonzie two-thumbs-up stance in the last line there.

Surcharge? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811419)

If it is required that the customer pay this money, it is an increased price - no matter how they try to spin it.
Another example is tips at a restaurant. You leave a tip as a reward for excellent service. If a restaurant puts a mandatory 'tip' for any reason on the bill, it is now a fee not a tip.

Re:Surcharge? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a year ago | (#43811629)

Another example is tips at a restaurant. You leave a tip as a reward for excellent service. If a restaurant puts a mandatory 'tip' for any reason on the bill, it is now a fee not a tip.

(I post with the assumption you are in the US. If not, US tipping practices do not apply, and your local custom may differ, so my comment will likewise not apply.)

Please tell me that you leave an "acceptable" tip for "acceptable" service, and you're not that guy who goes out with his co-workers and stiffs the waiter, leaving everyone else to subsidize you just out of embarrassment. (That's also usually the guy who tries to get the whole table on a single check, so he can chip in just the price of his entree, rounded down. Not the beverage, not his portion of anything he shared, like the cheesy-potato-finger-burrito-fries appetizer. Not the tax. And certainly not the tip. "That service was not excellent".)

Or the retiree who "never left more than a 10% tip, and I'm not gonna give one to these freeloading entitled kids now!"

Ahhh at&t (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811425)

Ok, so no kidding:

A while back my company was trying to resolve a billing issue.

We were under "foundation" billing. Whatever that means.

So the customer service dude on the phone gave us a URL where we could check our "foundation" billing. In this web portal, we were able to see all the other foundation accounts bills.

As in detailed bills of other people and companies, including call logs. There were thousands of these, all in PDF for the download. With everything you'd expect on a bill, like name, address, phone number, ammount due. I suppose anyone could have seen our bill too.

It reminded me of the at&t ipad "hacker" case.

Evil Company (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811429)

AT&T overcharges many customers on every bill anyway. I have to call in every month to receive a credit to my account because of their business practice of overcharging and hoping customers don't notice. I've been an AT&T customer a few times over the years, and EVERY time they do this. It's not a mistake on their end, it's a deceptive business practice.

This new "surcharge" is just the tip of the ice-berg of AT&T's deceptive business practices. I know people who work there and most of them I've spoken with actually agree with me, thought they wouldn't go so far as to call the company "evil" as much as greedy and mis-managed.

In most cities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811445)

There's some sort of charity for retired law enforcement officers and their widow(er)s.

AT&T evidently has an Additional CEO Compensation [fiercewireless.com] Fund.

How is a surcharge even legal in general? (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year ago | (#43811453)

Just wondering... How is it possible to add a surcharge on top of the contractually agreed charges? If it's not in the contract, then why pay? And if the contract stipulates that AT&T can add whatever surcharge they like, why are customers complaining?

Re:How is a surcharge even legal in general? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43811521)

And if the contract stipulates that AT&T can add whatever surcharge they like, why are customers complaining?

Such a contract would likely be unenforceable as a matter of law, or at least it should be. By their very nature the terms of contracts cannot be modified except by mutual consent. Contracts can include variable rates, but usually they need to be very well-defined. A contract that says you'll pay whatever expenses we happen to incur without any choice in the matter wouldn't qualify.

Re:How is a surcharge even legal in general? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811557)

Because a contract that essentially says, "I get to do whatever I want, and you have to deal with it," is unenforceable garbage. It just takes calling them on it, since they aren't going to nullify their contracts out of the kindness of their hearts.

Re:How is a surcharge even legal in general? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811647)

And calling them on it will cost you more than the ETF or the accumulated charges until the end of your current contract so they're pretty secure in thinking no one is going to bother kicking up a fuss.

It's how the telecom industry works in Canada too.

Write to your state AG (5, Informative)

anthony_greer (2623521) | about a year ago | (#43811467)

Part of what we pay for with state taxes is an Attorney General who amongst other things, is supposed to stand up for tax paying citizens in these sorts of situations - This is a clear david vs goliath contract law issue and a state AG or two suing these motherfuckrs could help...

I agreed to a particular price, if they can not offer the service and make profit for the price they offered it to me at, its their own bad business decision...

Re:Write to your state AG (4, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43811705)

I agreed to a particular price, if they can not offer the service and make profit for the price they offered it to me at, its their own bad business decision...

Not only that, but the prices should never go up for the same service. It's not like the machines want better working conditions (yet). Growing revenue with a surcharge is not a valid way to grow revenue. You grow revenue by getting more customers, providing a better service, using more efficient hardware, PROGRESS. This is a pure example of profit for profit's sake. It's stealing, plain and simple. Taking from me without giving any benefit in return is stealing, even if the amount is too small for us to notice individually, in aggregate it's outright theft.

If I came home with a big pile of cash the question would be: "Wait, where did you get all this money?!" If I was AT&T my answer would be: "Uh, from customers?" "What did you do for them to get the money?!" "Nothing!" THAT'S STEALING. It would be one thing if they actually had higher costs to operate, the answer could be "I provided them with a service that cost more to provide", but that's a lie. Costs they're citing have actually GONE DOWN.

So long as it remains more profitable for companies to simply oversell and raise the prices to make profit vs using some profit to do the work to provide better services then you can expect this to happen again and again. What happens if you spend a bunch of profit to provide a better service? Your stock price goes down. Blame the fucking stock market.

How to get out of your contract (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811485)

There's a good thread here [fatwallet.com] detailing other AT&T customers experiences with getting out of their current contract without paying the ETF. That thread also contains extremely useful info about how to go to Arbitration with AT&T if they won't budge.

PUBLIC UTILIY? (1)

anthony_greer (2623521) | about a year ago | (#43811523)

Why are cell phones not covered under public utility law like water, power or land lines?

The power company could ever pull this shit without state legislature approval and/or public PUC hearings.

At this point, there needs to be much tighter regulations since we have for all practical purposes an oligopoly in the USA.

Re:PUBLIC UTILIY? (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43811591)

Your power company has a legal monopoly over you. So does your water company, and your sewer company. You cannot vote with your wallet. That's why they are regulated.

With cell phones and Internet, you CAN vote with your wallet, because there is free competition.

You agreed to the ETF when you signed your contract. It was not foisted upon you against your will. Neither was your choice of carrier made mandatory to you.

That's the difference.

Re:PUBLIC UTILIY? (1)

anthony_greer (2623521) | about a year ago | (#43811691)

I agree that I agreed to the ETF at signing the contract, but I also agreed to pay a fixed and pre established monthly cost for services rendered. They are increasing the cost without revision of the contract - that would nullify it would it not? Or can I simply pay them (Bill Total LESS Amount of new fee) each month and wait till they ding my credit score for non payment of those fees when I switch carriers in a few months...

Re: PUBLIC UTILIY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811787)

I also agreed to a fixed cost as well, but clearly that's optional as well, as these guys can charge whatever extra they want

Re:PUBLIC UTILIY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811859)

Sorry charlie - you can buy power from anyone you want, you can also generate your own - windmills, fuel cells, solar...

Water? You can drill your own well, or setup rain collectors, put in your own filtration and treatment.

Gas? You can switch to LP, and buy at any cooperative you want.

So yes, you can vote with your wallet on all of these things.

Simple Greed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811539)

This must be the same as what car dealers list on the invoice as "Extra Dealer Profit".

Re:Simple Greed (1)

anthony_greer (2623521) | about a year ago | (#43811805)

Having bought a new car last year, Isat down with the dealer and made them tell me exactly what each of those ffees were and why I was paying them...It came down to this: $of the $500 in fees, $400 were state government fees of one sort or another, $50 was a processing fee to pay the salary of the team that processes the titles and registrations, saving me a trip to the DMV, so I gladly paid that There was a $ 50 fee for prep - which included cleaning it, filling the tank with gas, checking tire pressure , oil levels and such to make sure nothing was out of whack from the factory, and helping me setup my GPS nav system...

So of the $500 in fees, $400 went to the state, $50 went to the dealer to pay for the time of the staff to deal with the state, and $50 went to prep, of which $40 or so went back to me in the form of topping off the tank, want those dealer added fees to go away? push your state to reform taxation.

Of course they added an administrative fee (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43811549)

They have to administer all that new money coming in, don't they?

"Surcharge" is the new "Fee Hike" (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43811579)

It all started when gas prices shot up and the "fuel surcharge" hit UPS and Fedex customers in the wallet. Now this.

My favorite story about hidden cellular fees... (1)

kackle (910159) | about a year ago | (#43811583)

I brought cellular connectivity to a medium-sized town to connect the remote points of their water SCADA system. When looking deeply into the charges on their monthly cellular bill, I learned that they were (and still are) paying a 'municipal tax', that is, a tax, indirectly charged by them, to collect from any cellular users accessing the towers within the city!

Consumer protection (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811595)

Do you Americans not have any consumer protection laws and/or groups who would sue the providers for a move like this? It's what would happen in Europe.

Illegal??? (1)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | about a year ago | (#43811603)

"An AT&T spokeswoman said the fee covers 'certain expenses, such as interconnection and cell-site rents and maintenance."

So my question is, is then why have you just now started to add this fee? Haven't you always had to pay for cell-site rents and maintenance? Simply adding the "surcharge" because you feel like it should be illegal.

Re:Illegal??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811799)

All of those expenses were already covered - by the monthly fee.

The fucking greedy bastards - need to pay back a thousand fold to their customers, remove the *fee*, and be forced to drop their rates to 20 bucks (including all vats, fees, surcharges, rates, etc) for unlimited voice, data, internet, etc - uncapped as well.

Oh, and if they don't provide enough bandwidth for all of their customers to run full speed 24x7, they get fined a million dollars a day until they do - payable to their subscribers.

Needs to stop (3, Informative)

markdavis (642305) | about a year ago | (#43811627)

>" Normally, consumers could vote with their wallets by taking their business elsewhere"

Hate to tell you this, but I think they all do that. Sprint has, Verizon has... not how T-Mobile does it. They all have one or more mysterious "fee" lines on the bill. It is a sham and why you can't believe any advertising from any cell company about the price of the plans. It is bad enough that in MY locality, wireless is taxed at something like 22%, then add "carrier surcharges", E911 fees, administrative fees, "Federal Univ Serv Assess Non-ID" fees, "State Gross Receipts Surcharge", "State Special Revenue Surcharge", "Regulatory Charge", and even f*ing sales tax (how can the state charge sales tax on a SERVICE???)

Then don't forget to add that data add-on charge and insurance protection in case you drop that $600 phone.

Before all the above, my plan for two phones is $107.99. And after- it is $159.48. 48% higher than the shiny number being advertised.

Simple fix (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811631)

Simple fix

Call up AT&T and switch to a pay by check through the mail. The cost of billing and postage will cost them more than the 61-cents.

Re:Simple fix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811889)

you mean they don't charge extra for that? here theres a an extra fee if you don't setup automatic payment via the bank

dumb (1)

AxemRed (755470) | about a year ago | (#43811637)

I understand the need to add fees or increase rates. But it would have been a lot smarter just to add the fee to all new contracts or at contract upgrades rather than sticking it to everyone at the same time.

You've been judged, and found wanting (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#43811651)

AT&T has decided its customers just have too damn much money.

Not the only ones (3, Interesting)

Junta (36770) | about a year ago | (#43811667)

I think you can find instances of every carrier sneaking rate hikes onto customers with contracts. The contract only helps the carrier, never ever the consumer.

Thankfully, my contract is up next month. I'll be off to T-mobile no-contract plan.

It's only a small fee (1)

Doug Cullen (2931577) | about a year ago | (#43811711)

designed to insure c level bonuses for their "innovation"

white collar crime does pay (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about a year ago | (#43811719)

Wish more people would not take this kind of stuff lying down. Especially in cases where the business is not a monopoly. For instance, I don't understand why anyone still banks at Bank of America. They don't have a monopoly, far from it, and they treat their customers like wolves treat cattle. And why does anyone pay for cable TV? Can't be for the absence of ads!

Cutting the land line doesn't help save money, not while the price of cell phone service remains outrageous. Internet service and phone service should have fallen well below $20 per month years ago. Over the years, hardware prices have dropped dramatically, but somehow these service providers have been unable to pass any of that savings on to customers. MMORPGs have been forced to offer alternatives to the crazy $10 per month kinds of plans. We have sub $100 laptops such as the Raspberry Pi. We even won the right to keep our phone numbers. Why can't we have $5 per month phone service and broadband Internet service?

Spend it on more hard drives! (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43811729)

76F34BB0EF7 849 Thu May 23 12:57:02 icinga@example.com
(host mx.cingularme.com[209.183.32.63] said: 452 Insufficient system storage (in reply to MAIL FROM command))
                                        6035551212@txt.att.net

It's still a cost increase, and a fake one at that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811761)

Everyone is now able to leave their contracts without a fee.

No court in the world would deny that it was a cost increase and a sleazy lowlife one at that.

Trying to make up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811773)

Maybe they are trying to make up the money they lost from my business when I dumped them last month.

AT&T can eat a bag of dicks.

Re:Trying to make up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43811921)

Why would you give them a meal they'd enjoy... give them a bag of donkey dicks, covered in shit from their own asses.

Yay for alternatives (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#43811785)

Imagine if AT&T were the only game in town (Monopoly). Your only option would be to put-up-or-shut-up. Fanboism drives this sort of thing. And I'm not just picking on the iPhone crowd. Any corporation that can drop something shiny and have a customer base so willing to bend over for it would love to be sitting in AT&T's place. Think about how your future purchases are affected when "everyone is doing it". Be glad you can turn to many different alternatives right now. Alternatives are the only thing keeping these corporations from an all-out slave-driving of it's customers. No, the legal system is not protecting the consumer. Go google for copyright and patent issues if you need proof.

The root problem (1)

gmclapp (2834681) | about a year ago | (#43811789)

The problem is that AT&T, like Comcast and Charter have a sort of 'geographical monopoly' for some services. I had this problem once when AT&T was my only option for internet. (barring satellite because latency on a good day can be between 900ms and 1200ms). So I had to deal with AT&T. They did suck quite frankly, but I've dealt with Comcast and they suck more for a higher price. The root problem is the lack of real competition between these companies. With the exception of Verizon, Sprint and similar cell phone only companies, they have other revenue streams. In the case of AT&T, TV and Internet service. That keeps them out of competition for certain amounts of revenue and allows them to bully their consumers...

meh (2)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about a year ago | (#43811791)

AT&T...it's just not worth it...

It's per-line... (1)

tmshort (1097127) | about a year ago | (#43811817)

The $0.61 fee is per-line, so with my 5-line family plan, it's an extra $3.05!

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