Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cell Phone Carriers Quiet Thievery



I've gone through just about all the phone carriers at one point in time or another, save Verizon. Some carriers like Sprint, didn't receive signal in my Dad's house where I was staying after college in '06.

After starting my job at MicroStrategy, I could afford a new service. I got an AT&T BlackBerry Curve. In 2007, I was greatly impressed with the phone, the speed of the service, coverage, and reliability of AT&T. The only downside, were the high payments, more than double Sprint at the time. So eventually it got to a point when AT&T was costing an arm and a leg (good memories of the same thing with land-lines in the 20th-century).

Finally, I settled on T-Mobile. I heard and saw that their prices were fair, at least much better than AT&T, though a little more than Sprint, and of course Catherine-Zeta Jones is hot.

T-Mobile also had the Google HTC Android phones which greatly excited me and prompted me to extend my T-Mobile contract into 2011 to receive the HTC Google myTouch. In my opinion, this phone transcends every other phone I've ever had. Regardless of what the iPhone can and can't do. The Android based myTouch makes T-Mobile supercool, in this writer's opinion. Until...

Six months ago I read my bill very carefully trying to understand the damn thing for starters. In fact, phone bills are so confusingly written and arranged, that I bet a college graduate would still have trouble answering questions about it. Nevertheless, I started reading more, and realized that T-Mobile had been overcharging me $15 a month. My plan included free unlimited text messaging for me and my second line, yet they were also billing me again for unlimited text messaging for my second line solely. I was getting charged twice for the same service!

How long and how much money had I flushed down the toilet since I became diligent in reading my cell-phone bills? Probably over $500. And, with a technicality which was really just semantic games calling plans different that I won't get into, T-Mobile did not let me get my money back. But, I was paying $15 a month less and feeling good about it. Until...

Today. I opened my bill and began to read in about as happy a state one can be in when reading a bill over a hundred dollars and realized that T-Mobile had changed the types of plans they offer. I was on the old 'Fav5' plan that let you pick 5 phone numbers you could talk unlimitedly to.

But, they had recently come out with a lower family plan for $20 less that provides me with exactly the same services as before I switched the plan. This really made me mad, but in an intelligent way.

I, a college grad, could barely decipher the plan that would be the cheapest for my needs. All in all, it saved me $35 a month or $420 a year. Think about that. Carriers are making money selling you plans, expecting you to not be able to read your own bill. By default, if you don't read your bill because it is too confusing, you are likely being over-billed.

All the carriers in my opinion are guilty of mass-billing fraud. They intentionally make their bills hard to read in a font size of 10 to 6. They know you are likely to overpay for services and not know it. They purposely intend to bill more than a customer really should be billed based on usage to make a greater profit. If suggesting a plan, then changing plans around to charge older customers, locked into a 2-year contract more money without knowing, and not updating accounts to current billing levels is fraud.

Intent it the keyword. If cell-phone company executives don't know they are accidentally over-billing some customers, they must be idiots since numbers don't lie. But, since these execs run billion dollar cell phone companies let's assume they are not idiots and know they over-bill and continue to do it. T-Mobile, probably the best cell carrier in my opinion participates in this practice more than I could have imagined.

Everyone really suffers this from this unethical practice of deceptive billing. Consumers are left with less disposable income with which to invest, spend, or save. My extra $35 bucks a month is going toward, I don't know right now, but not to T-Mobile.

So thanks T-Mobile and others for being great at scrapping a few more bucks out of the American pocketbook playing semantic word games on our phone bills. It reaffirms my belief that corporate America always puts the consumer first, you know the same way a prostitute makes sure the John is truly happy deep down. She would never fake it for extra money. Would she?

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