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Teacher

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17 Messages

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 8:26 PM

How To Contact the FCC about Unauthorized Billing

Does anyone have experience contacting the FCC regarding unauthorized charges from ATT Wireless or other wireless carriers?  Any advice on that process would be much appreciated.  I have included a link below to the section of www.FCC.gov where complaints can be filed, but I'd love to hear about anyone's personal experience of going through that or a similar process so I know what to expect.

 

The regular customer service managers at ATT just aren't getting it done, and I have so far been unsuccessful at contacting anyone in senior management for the ATT Wireless division.  As far as I know, my complaints have not even been forwarded on to senior management despite my repeated requests. 

 

I need to contact someone who has the authority to either consider and revise a flawed policy or at least make an exception to the unauthorized billing on my account.  With no response from ATT, I'm not sure where to turn other than the FCC but am certainly open to other suggestions if anyone has other ideas.  Thank you.  JB

 

http://www.fcc.gov/guides/filing-informal-complaint

 

Teacher

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17 Messages

9 years ago

Has anyone upgraded iPhones recently by purchasing the phones remotely from Apple.com and activating service on the phones directly?  I upgraded to two new iPhone 6's this week and continued service with a 2 year contract agreement.  ATT is trying to tell me that the onscreen contract acknowledgement, which appears on the phone itself when activating service remotely, both disclosed and quoted the dollar amount of a monthly rate increase that would accompany the upgrade.  However, I scrolled through that onscreen acknowledgement and did not see any such disclosure or quote. 

 

Now, ATT is sneaking in a 35% increase in my monthly bill - AFTER THE FACT - that's an extra $760 over the 2 year contract period!!  I was notified BY TEXT MESSAGE of this increase the day AFTER I upgraded and activated service on the new phones.  The one-time $40 upgrade fee for each phone, the 2 year contract agreement, and the cost of the phones were highlighted and made very clear BEFORE AND DURING the upgrade and activation processes. But NO MENTION was made of a monthly rate increase – unless it was buried obscurely somewhere in an endless block of text – and there certainly weren’t any dollar increases quoted. Now, ATT directs me to the Customer Service Summary online, which of course does include and highlight the rate increase, but this should have been shown to me BEFORE upgrading – not AFTER. Apparently, this is only shown to customers upgrading in-store; not those upgrading remotely. Quite an odd policy given that customers increasingly shop and conduct business online rather than waiting in long lines at a brick and mortar store.

 

In my opinion, "starting over" now under the buyer's remorse clause (not to mention paying a ridiculous $35 re-stock fee for each phone that I would then turn around an immediately re-purchase) is flatly unacceptable and ridiculous for ATT to even suggest as a possible solution. So, after 20 years, this will be my last stint as an ATT customer unless the company somehow sees fit to honor the contract that I agreed to (a continuation of existing service at existing prices), rather than the one it has sprung on me after the fact.

 

Sure seems to me like ATT is using a deceptive - if not illegal - billing practice here.  Just curious if others have had a similar experience?

Guru

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629 Messages

9 years ago

Perhaps, with more information as to what charges you feel are unauthorized, one of us can either better direct you to the contact information you're requesting, or could maybe help you figure something out that could solve the particular issue you've had altogether.

ACE - Sage

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115.9K Messages

9 years ago

I was going to ask the same thing.
"Unauthorized" is a nebulous term here... Are we talking a charge for a phone you don't own (fraud), a feature you don't want (insurance, navigation), international calls ( if you made them, you have to pay for them), or a fee you didn't expect ( if it's printed policy, you were informed). Or, who knows, maybe AT&T got really creative and you have something totally new for us?

ACE - Sage

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115.9K Messages

9 years ago

Never mind, I found your response to another thread..
You wrote:
.......Sorry to hear. I have a very similar situation - been a customer of ATT (and predecessor companies) for 20 years - never had a problem upgrading phones and extending contracts over those two decades. There defniitely seems to be a new Sherrif in town though, as my upgrade this week was a very different experience from prior upgrades. I was notified only AFTER I upgraded to two new iPhone 6's and extended my contract for 2 years - that my monthly bill would increase by an eye-popping 35%. Nice raise for ATT, I guess!! That's an additional $760 over the 2 year contract period - over and above the $2,040 I AGREED to pay over that period! And that's even AFTER I paid a one-time $40 upgrade fee for each phone - not to mention the $300 for each phone. The one time fees and the contract agreement and cost of phones were all highlighted BEFORE the upgrade and process was complete. I did not learn of the much larger, monthly rate increase until ATT sent me a TEXT MESSAGE the day AFTER I upgraded phones and activated service. I too have been told I can return the phones and "start over" under a buyer's remorse clause. Ha! LIke you said, that's just not a viable option from a time commitment standpoint. And I would also have to pay a re-stock fee of $35 for each phone - $70 total - even though I'd immediately turn around and repurchase the same phone - crazy! Hardly a solution to the problem, which frankly, seems like a decetpive - if not illegal - billing practice, in my opinion. Maybe if enough people start to complain about these bait and switch tactics, the company will restore some semblance of the customer service we've known in the past. I do hope you will receive a better response from the company than I have so far. I certainly feel your pain. As for me, my 2 year contract can't end soon enough. Looks like Verizon will get my Wireless business in addition to all of my other services with them unless ATT actually reverses its position on this. Good luck! JB

You are spinning your wheels and it will do not good to contact the FCC or anyone else. You "authorized" the charges when you signed the customer agreement and bought new phones. It is all spelled out for you and has been for about 18 months.
Changing carriers will not fix your problem as ALL CARRIERS require customers to buy their own phones. You will pay for them one way or another. Either by using an installment payment plan like Next, or by loss of discount with a 2 year subsidy discount.
You mention an increase in your bill ( of $30 a month ).... Do you remember when your old phone was out of contract and the bill went DOWN ? That was the discount for having paid off your phone and being out of contract.

The new plan and payment options are fair and allow customers of modest means to purchase lower cost phones and keep their monthly bill low. While those who must have the latest phone can use next and upgrade as often as they like and can afford.

Teacher

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17 Messages

9 years ago

Hi lizdance40 –

 

Thanks very much for your response.  It sounds like you are very familiar with ATT policies.  So that I have a better understanding for the context of your comments, can you please tell me if you work for ATT, are compensated by the company in any way, or are in any way affiliated with ATT other than as a customer?

 

I can appreciate your characterization of the new plan and payment options as “fair” – maybe they are – I don’t know.  However, I believe you have missed the entire premise of my complaint.  I really do not care whether or not the monthly rates or the prices of the phones are “fair.”  It’s ATT’s prerogative to set their rates and prices as they see fit.  I care only that the rates are adequately disclosed by the company – and affirmatively authorized by the customer.  And in my case, they were not.

 

The amount of my monthly rate increase was not communicated to me UNTIL THE DAY AFTER I upgraded and activated service.   It's kind of hard to authorize something if you don't find out about it until after the fact. Further, I believe ATT KNOWS I wasn't properly notified, and that's why they notified me VIA TEXT MESSAGE the day AFTER upgrade and activation. 

 

Your suggestion that “if it’s printed policy, you were informed” is simply untrue.  The printed policy must actually be given to the customer to inform him or her. Simply having a policy posted on a website somewhere does not qualify as informing or giving notice. 

 

Maybe there’s some sort of disconnect at ATT between upgrades/activations that are done in-store and those that are done remotely (mail order phones with remote activation on the phones themselves).  Perhaps all of the terms are completely spelled out for in-store upgrades/activations – I don’t know. 

 

What I do know is that the agreement I acknowledged on my new phone during the activation process at home said NOTHING even resembling the notion that my monthly bill would increase by such a drastic amount (35%). I simply NEVER would have agreed to such an increase were it clearly disclosed to me. 

 

Just to put that increase in perspective, that’s over 10x the average rate of inflation – and more than 20x the average person’s annual raise in this country.  And yes, I could have switched carriers and avoided that UNREASONABLE monthly rate increase, and that’s exactly what I would have done had the increase been adequately disclosed.  But again, my complaint is not that the rate is unfair or unreasonable – it’s that I wasn’t notified of the rate until AFTER THE FACT – and therefore – I was DEPRIVED OF THE OPPORTUNITY to make an INFORMED CHOICE.

 

Now, I’m locked into a 2 year contract at rates that were imposed upon me without my consent – and my only choice for remediation, according to ATT Customer Service, is to “start over” under a “buyer’s remorse” clause.  "Starting over" now under the buyer's remorse clause (not to mention paying a ridiculous $35 re-stock fee for each phone that I would then turn around an immediately re-purchase) is flatly unacceptable and ridiculous for ATT to even suggest as a possible solution – given the time and money I’ve already invested. 

 

Of course, ATT customer service directs me to the Customer Service Summary online, as some sort of “proof” that I was notified.  This online Summary does of course include the rate increase, but this should have been shown to me BEFORE upgrading – not AFTER.  It does no good to “notify” me after I’ve already invested the time and money to switch phones – and that’s exactly what ATT has done.  Again, I believe that ATT knows I was not adequately notified prior to activation, which I believe is the reason the company sent me a text message notifying me of the rate increase the day AFTER I upgraded and activated service. 

 

Periodic rate increases are certainly ATT’s prerogative and a normal part of doing business – however, those rate increases should always be adequately disclosed by the company – and affirmatively agreed to by the customer.  Simply having something printed somewhere on a website does not really qualify as disclosure – the customer needs to actually see it or be made aware of it – anything less is unethical at best, and illegal at worst.

 

Therefore, I am making a very reasonable request for ATT to honor the contract that we agreed to (a continuation of existing service at existing prices prior to the upgrade) rather than the one the company has sprung on me after the fact.  So far, the company has ignored my requests with stall tactics, smoke in mirrors, and cheap sales tricks.  I am hopeful that they will change their tune, but if they do not, I really have no choice but to seek a solution elsewhere – hence my seeking guidance in this forum from anyone who has gone through the process of filing a complaint with the FCC.

 

Lastly, I’d like to address your point that “…ALL CARRIERS require customers to buy their own phones. You will pay for them one way or another.”  Your statement here really oversimplifies the matter.  In reality, the phones are, in fact, grossly OVERPAID for by the consumer.  It’s simply a question of the degree or magnitude of OVERPAYMENT.  The idea or notion that the monthly carrier rates are somehow subsidizing the cost of the phones or an “out-of-contract discount” is absurd. 

 

For instance, the retail cost of my phone from Apple iPhone 6 is $750 – that’s with no carrier, no contract – just buying the phone free and clear.  So, with the $30/month rate increase – alone – that ATT is charging for a 2 year contract – that’s $760 – which is already $10 more than the RETAIL cost of the phone – and that’s BEFORE the $300 one must pay to “buy” the phone under a 2 year contract – and BEFORE – the one-time $40 upgrade fee.  So, now we’re up to $1,100 for the REAL COST of a phone that sells AT RETAIL for $760.  That’s quite a MARKUP (over and above retail, mind you) for the carrier.  And the best part is, if you buy the phone from ATT instead of Apple directly, you can bet that ATT is not paying RETAIL prices for those phones – so in that scenario, the company’s margin is even wider than in my case.  So, in fact, consumers are vastly OVER-PAYING for their phones, which is fine as long as they CHOOSE to do so, but let’s not suggest anything else is really going on here – or that the monthly rates are somehow subsidizing the cost of the phone or an "out-of-contract" discount when the customer contract lapses.   And of course, no company really offers customers a “discount” for being out of contract anyway.  It’s not some grand gesture done out of the goodness of some proverbial corporate heart.  It’s simply a necessary “business enticement” to keep customers from jumping ship to other carriers for a more competitive rate. 

 

Thanks again for your response.  I do hope to hear from you regarding the nature of your affiliation with ATT.  Perhaps you are truly just a really happy ATT customer who enjoys being a positive brand ambassador – but your comments struck me as unusually pro-company, which is why I ask.

 

Sincerely,

JB

Professor

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3.2K Messages

9 years ago

Not a rate increase, but a lost discount. Your unlimited talk and text rate has always been $40 per month per line. Then a 15 or 25 dollar discount was applied for out of contract devices per line. Being you now have a device under contract, you've lost that discount. All the carriers have gone to a business model to make you pay for that phone, one way or another. No more free or discounted phones, and I see that as a good practice. 

 

Check your bill line by line and you will see that the monthly rate was and still is, in fact, $40 per line. When I changed over from Verizon to ATT last November, it was very clear to me that I would be paying $40 per line for my two lines and receiving a discount on only ONE line for purchasing one device under the NEXT program and one with a two year contract.

ACE - Sage

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115.9K Messages

9 years ago

I do not work for AT&T. I don't get anything for my participation on this forum.
Employees are clearly noted as such, per the forum guidelines.

As I wrote in my earlier post, the line discount for having a line out of contract has only been applied in the last 18 months. If you look at your bill details online, or on paper bills, you should notice your line fees of $40 each, had a credit of $15 applied to each line. That is the out of contract discount. The only way your bill could increase is to lose the discount by entering another 2 year contract.

I'm a numbers person...
Price of 2 iPhones, cash in full $1498 ( sales tax paid with purchase)

With 2 year contract, $600 + $760 = $1360

With Edge installments $1498 (sales tax on retail cost paid up front according to your state)

The 2 year contract price was your least expensive option.

Verizon has the same plans for service and purchasing phones.
T-Mobile offers either installments or full cash price. Sprint offers installments or cash
Smaller, prepaid carriers require you buy a phone at full price.

both T-Mobile and sprint have buyout options, if you can tolerate the service, you are entitled to switch.

The end result of these changes will drive prices for both phones and service down. It is already lowering service costs. Because I have to buy my phones, it effects my choices. Rather than buy all new phones, I have 2 older models and one low end smart phone on my plan. I paid cash so I can keep a larger data pool, higher line credits and a lower bill.

Teacher

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17 Messages

9 years ago

Hi Busternutt –

 

Thank you for your response.  I think it’s great that it was made very clear to you what you would be charged when you activated your ATT service – that’s exactly as it should be.  I only wish ATT had fulfilled its disclosure obligations and shown me the same courtesy.  That is precisely the root cause of my problem. 

 

ATT did not notify or inform me that my bill would increase until the day AFTER I upgraded and activated service – it was only then that the company notified me – and that was done via text message.  The higher monthly rate was NOT quoted in the onscreen remote activation process.  Perhaps it would have been different with an in-store upgrade – I don’t know.  But if I had been properly notified, I at least could have made an informed choice.  Instead, the company sprung the price increase on me after the fact – leaving me no real choice at all – other than to pay the higher monthly rates or subject myself to the overly burdensome inconvenience (and $70 of additional restocking fees) of returning the phones under the buyer’s remorse clause and “starting over.”

 

I can appreciate ATT positioning the higher monthly bill as a “lost discount” rather than a “rate increase.”  That is great marketing and effective salesmanship.  But that is all it is – positioning and semantics.  If the monthly bill goes up, it goes up – period.  It really doesn’t matter what anyone calls it.  The customer is being charged more.  If that terminology makes someone feel better about paying more – then great – that’s exactly what it was designed to do! 

 

Another great piece of marketing and salesmanship is positioning the phones as “no longer being free.”  The phones have never been free.  Companies do not make money by giving away free electronics.  The cost of the phone has always been covered in one way or another.  The payment for the phone might come in various forms (upfront payments, higher monthly service fees, etc), but rest assured, the phones have never been free.  In fact, the early termination fees guarantee that the phones are paid for by the customer.

 

And that’s all fine and good – I don’t have a problem with companies charging whatever they want for phones, cell service, or whatever.  I only have a problem when they charge for something without first disclosing it.  Again, that is my situation and the premise of my complaint – I was not informed until the day AFTER I upgraded and activated service that my monthly rate would increase by 35%.  

 

Judging from some of the other posts on this site – I am far from alone in being swindled by this overly aggressive business practice raising rates first and informing customers later.  

 

Thanks again for your reply.

 

Sincerely,

JB

Teacher

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17 Messages

9 years ago

Thanks for your follow-up reply.  I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on the central issue here – which is that my monthly rate increased by 35% without my consent.  The increase was not disclosed to me until after the fact when ATT sent me a text message the day AFTER upgrade/activation.  To reiterate, the increase was NOT quoted to me in the onscreen remote activation process, nor was it quoted to me anywhere else until AFTER the fact. 

 

This issue is simply about proper disclosure and authorization of charges.  Everything else is semantics.  Whether we call it a “rate increase” or a “loss of discount” is irrelevant.  In either case, the bill goes up and the customer pays more, which is fine, as long as he/she knows about it and agrees to it in advance, but I neither knew about it nor agreed to it.

 

I don’t have a problem with the cost of the phones or ATT's freedom to set its monthly service rates wherever it chooses.  My only problem is ATT increasing a customer’s rate without proper disclosure and consent – and then refusing to provide the customer a viable, realistic choice if he chooses not to accept the higher rates.  The burdensome inconvenience and additional cost of restocking fees associated with “starting over” under a buyer’s remorse clause is simply not a realistic option – and frankly, it’s disingenuous of ATT to even suggest otherwise.  That is merely giving the customer a choice between two unfavorable and costly outcomes.  

 

I’ve paid for the phone free and clear – purchased directly from Apple.  The company should either let me leave without penalty (no early termination fees) or it should honor the contract that it made with me (existing service and existing prices at the time of upgrade/activation).

 

Sincerely,

JB

Teacher

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17 Messages

9 years ago

Hi lizdance40 -

 

My apologies for leaving off the salutation the first time I posted this.

 

Thanks for your follow-up reply.  I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on the central issue here – which is that my monthly rate increased by 35% without my consent.  The increase was not disclosed to me until after the fact when ATT sent me a text message the day AFTER upgrade/activation.  To reiterate, the increase was NOT quoted to me in the onscreen remote activation process, nor was it quoted to me anywhere else until AFTER the fact. 

 

This issue is simply about proper disclosure and authorization of charges.  Everything else is semantics.  Whether we call it a “rate increase” or a “loss of discount” is irrelevant.  In either case, the bill goes up and the customer pays more, which is fine, as long as he/she knows about it and agrees to it in advance, but I neither knew about it nor agreed to it.

 

I don’t have a problem with the cost of the phones or ATT's freedom to set its monthly service rates wherever it chooses.  My only problem is ATT increasing a customer’s rate without proper disclosure and consent – and then refusing to provide the customer a viable, realistic choice if he chooses not to accept the higher rates.  The burdensome inconvenience and additional cost of restocking fees associated with “starting over” under a buyer’s remorse clause is simply not a realistic option – and frankly, it’s disingenuous of ATT to even suggest otherwise.  That is merely giving the customer a choice between two unfavorable and costly outcomes.  

 

I’ve paid for the phone free and clear – purchased directly from Apple.  The company should either let me leave without penalty (no early termination fees) or it should honor the contract that it made with me (existing service and existing prices at the time of upgrade/activation).

 

Sincerely,

JB

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