Forced to A New Plan--My Experience May (or May Not) Help Someone Else
TL;DR: Yes this is long, but explains the process and outcome of fighting the change out of a plan I wanted to keep. And, this was not a COVID temporary account.
Seven years ago in 2013 - nearly to the day - I signed up to AT&T's Home Wireless GoPhone plan (before it was just called Prepaid). I had come from another provider who had given me a number that belonged to someone else already established and in good standing (yes, the company had actually jerked the number away from them), and it caused a whole lot of problems trying to fix. Then they gave me a number totally opposite, and I was getting collection harassment calls for someone I did not know. Needless to say, I dropped the service, and I moved to AT&T.
When I signed with AT&T, I told them I wanted a reliable service that would not be tied to internet and would not go down when the internet went down (I'd had problems before there, too); and I wanted just voice, as I do not text and did not feel the need to access the internet from my phone. The phone would be just for talking (old concept, I guess).
The sales rep for AT&T went back to talk to their manager (I was at the AT&T store), and came back with an offer: $20/month for Home Wireless GoPhone in the form of a cell phone, no base, and I pick whatever phone I want and pay for the phone. Of course, I accepted this offer, it was affordable and I got to pick any cell phone I wanted as long as I paid for it then and there. I chose a simple flip phone, I didn't need a fancy "smart" phone. Granted it was inexpensive, but it actually did have the capability of surfing the ol' 'net had I wanted to pay for that service, too.
I stopped receiving email newsletters from AT&T in 2017. Did I unsubscribe? I don't think so, but nonetheless, they stopped coming. I was not too concerned, as my service had been good and I didn't have any complaints, until recently.
In late June/early July of this year, my phone service stopped abruptly. No connection to the network whatsoever, and I was only allowed to make emergency calls (911). I tried to see if there was an outage, but I could not find anything online and I could not call customer service, of course, since the network was not available to me. Other than that, the phone seemed fine. I did see, though, that AT&T was shutting off 3G support and services and was running head on into 5G. I figured, then, that my phone must be a 3G device, and it was probably time to upgrade. I liked my plan and it was working for me, but while trouble shooting my phone issues online, I was directed to the forums here and I was seeing some of the same issues, and that folks were being forced from their plans. I had no intent to change my plan, I just wanted to upgrade my phone. While looking online, I did come across a statement by AT&T that said when updating a device, the customer's account would not be required to change plans. I actually printed this out to take with me to the AT&T store, because my account was telling me I could not upgrade online.
I got to the store, and when they pulled up my plan, they said I could not upgrade my phone because my plan would not allow it without changing plans. I gave them the printout from the online account that stated one does not have to change their plan in order to update their device. They told me they did not have a phone I could upgrade to (even though it is still a cell phone), and that my only recourse would be to get a prepaid AT&T phone from a third party (i.e., Walmart or Target) and it would have to be a flip phone and not any kind of "smart" phone. Wow, really limiting the choices here, especially considering the 3G drop had just been confirmed to me.
I managed to contact AT&T by phone finally, and I asked them specifically, what phone can I get that is 4G and will be supported by the AT&T network and my plan. The representative told me to get a Cingular II. It's a flip phone, only slightly larger than the one I had. Ok, found it online at WalMart and ordered it. When I received the phone, I took it back to the AT&T store and the store representative activated the phone in less than 10 minutes. Eureka! I had a working phone again! For 2 weeks.
The network cut me off again on July 23, and I had no service until August 1. Then, yesterday, August 4, the network shut off yet again. I went into the store today, and got the whole "you can't upgrade the phone without changing plans" line, again. At least this time, the main store representative I worked with explained, without condescension, that AT&T has a program that scans customer accounts and devices for compatibility. If the network, the plan, and the phone don't all get along with each other according to the parameters of the program, the account is cut off. The store said they could reset the phone for me again, but the next time the program sweep came around, it would go off again. This happens roughly every 48 hours, or so. (I can confirm, however, autopay will still take your money. And, no notice whatsoever was given to me as to what or when something like this was going to happen to my account.)
After 3 plus hours between the store representative, the account representative on the phone, and myself (all while at the store), the account representative finally said I can't do anything except change plans because my current plan would not be compatible with any device. Basically, AT&T just cut me off without so much as a cigarette chaser.
So, yes, I had to change my plan and now I have to pay more.
Being on disability retirement, I have to budget every penny. The change means that I'll have to work to stretch what I have leftover in the month, somehow, as it was all ready very tight. I am also a little upset they charged me the full price for the new plan up front when I had just paid for my previous plan 10 days ago. No credit at all, just full payment for a full month on the new forced plan with a new payment date to go along with it. (Automatically done by "the system" when the "enter" key was hit on the plan change.) I was told I could upgrade my device to any device I wanted, now, though. I'll keep the Cingular II, it's all ready paid for (or until they turn off 4G and start the process all over again).
My respects go out to the store representatives who tried in vain to help me. They were the only kindness this day brought, and I thank them. I cannot name them here, it would likely be edited as personal data, but I give props to them for their efforts to help me.
Folks, if you have an old home wireless plan and you are getting the run around, and your service has gone to heck (no calls incoming, outgoing, or both), look at where you stand. Is it worth it to fight for your consumer rights, or just let it go and get blasted with a payment increase and phone upgrade? Is it worth the hassle to go to another service and keep or change your number, or just deal with a 75% increase in your bill? Really, it may not seem like a lot of money to most folks, but it was a big blow to me in my situation.
It is my personal belief AT&T are attaching the 3G abandonment to plans they want to get rid of. My phones have been compatible for 7 years up until this past month, and then all of a sudden, I have to upgrade because they shut off the 3G. This is probably where you are, too, if you are hunting for a solution here. I did the fight for a month, I argued, I cried (I still am), but in the end, I surrendered. I cannot afford lawyers, so I won't threaten with them. AT&T pulled a shady deal, as far as I'm concerned, but there is nothing more to be done about it, now.
If you can afford to keep at the fight, go for it. Otherwise, if you want to keep your sanity and maybe some of your money by planning the change date, I hate to advise it, but just give in to their plan change.