Tags: AT&T | T-Mobile | prepaid | call

WaPo: Prepaid Customers of AT&T and T-Mobile Should Beware

By    |   Monday, 17 March 2014 07:16 AM

Telecom giants AT&T and T-Mobile appear to be "ripping off" their prepaid customers by overcharging on minutes used, The Washington Post reported.

The newspaper said it investigated after AT&T subscriber William Fogal filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after noticing a discrepancy between the call records reported by his prepaid phone and the usage history reported by AT&T.

Fogal has filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the House Oversight Committee, the California attorney general's office and the FCC so far, but there has been no resolution.

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Daniel Berninger, a telecom analyst and former AT&T employee who helped design VoIP technologies, was not optimistic about the outcome.

"In the prepaid world, they definitely try to rip you off," he told The Post. "That includes gift cards, calling cards — it's a very dark world. At the same time, they can run you around in circles saying these are very complicated systems. And they'd be right."

In the case of AT&T, the newspaper said prepaid customers are being billed extra for minutes they are apparently not using. "If true, that means their available credit is being drained at unexpected rates — often without their knowledge — requiring that they buy more credit, more often," The Post reported.

AT&T said the time displayed on the phone "does not necessarily reflect the actual start and end periods recorded for the time charged to the customer," and that voicemail and call transfers can also add to "chargeable time."

In the case of T-Mobile, The Post provided an example in which a 54-second call was rounded up to a 2-minute call charge. T-Mobile told The Post, "If a customer exceeds (1) minute, they will automatically be charged for an additional minute. Total charges are calculated based on the total time of the call, including: set-up, call and hang-up time."

The Post said of the telecom companies: "Critics allege the practice amounts to a subtle program of consumer fraud that, in the aggregate, delivers big bucks to wireless carriers."

Last week, the FCC approved the acquisition of Leap Wireless, a large prepaid provider that owns the Cricket prepaid service, with AT&T, which adds about 5 million customers to AT&T's customer base.

When the deal was announced last July, the merger raised concerns that it could harm public interest from an antitrust standpoint, Time reported. But AT&T deflected the issue by promising, in part, to offer low-cost packages like the ones that made Cricket popular.

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Telecom giants AT&T and T-Mobile appear to be "ripping off" their prepaid customers by overcharging on minutes used, The Washington Post reported.
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2014-16-17
Monday, 17 March 2014 07:16 AM
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