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AT&T: Don't Want a Data Plan for That Smartphone? Too Bad. 798

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-enjoy-taking-your-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Joel Runyon recounts a tale that will be familiar to many people who have bought secondhand smartphones. After his old dumbphone died a few months ago, Runyon picked up a used iPhone. He just needed it for basic phone capabilities, and used it as such, turning data off. However, AT&T eventually figured out he was making calls from a smartphone, and they decided he needed a data plan, even if he wasn't going to use it. They went ahead and opted him into a plan that cost an extra $30 a month. Quoting: 'According to AT&T: They can opt me into a contract that I didn't agree to because I was using a phone that I didn't buy from them because it had the ability to use data that I wasn't using (and was turned off). To top it all off, they got the privilege of charging me for it because I bought a differently categorized device – even though the actual usage of their network did not change at all and I never reconstituted a new agreement with them.'"
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AT&T: Don't Want a Data Plan for That Smartphone? Too Bad.

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  • Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NettiWelho (1147351) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:26AM (#42777085)
    Yes, too bad, for the AT&T.

    It is usually good business to do stuff that make customers want to continue using your services.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, too bad, for the AT&T.

      It is usually good business to do stuff that make customers want to continue using your services.

      You're delusional.

      And I'll have proof of that in a month when not a fucking thing will change, including this policy or AT&Ts revenue.

      Sorry, but there are always plenty of addic, er customers in the cellular arena. These companies' new sales pitch should simply be "FUCK YOU".

      Don't like it? Get rid of your cell phone. All phones will be considered "smart" on every plan on every carrier very soon. Again, part of the "FUCK YOU" commitment to feed the addicts that refuse to quit.

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by aurispector (530273) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:33AM (#42777481)

        Your sarcasm meter may need recalibrating, but you're right about the new ad campaign.

        This kind of shit is exactly why people hate AT&T. I wonder what kind of language exists in their user contract that makes them think they can do this sort of thing?

        • I am not a lawyer. But clearly, this is equivalent to allowing people to sign blank cheques in exchange for potentially nothing, without them explicitly agreeing to. How such clauses would be conscionable mystifies me. If the laws in the US allow that, and people are not outraged enough that some member of congress will find enough colleagues to put a stop to that (because a super-popular law is worth a lot of votes -- and this compensates potential losses in contributions), you guys deserve it.

          Although fra

        • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by trevelyon (892253) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:45PM (#42778691)
          I hate to say but I've read the contracts from Sprint, T-mobile and AT&T and they basically all have screw you clauses. They are customer hostile contracts and the reason I've gone to pre-paid now. It's sad but this is the face of corporate america now, bad lock-in contracts pervade so many sectors in the US now from cable (tv, phone, internet) to fitness centers. Many places now won't even let you see and take away the contract to go over it (you have to read and sign there or sign on a digital pad only to be given a paper copy that is readable after). It's simply shameful. I won't even waste my time listening to companies that don't let you properly review their contracts. If their contracts have hostile terms (allowing them to change the contract but not you) it shows even they don't believe in their quality. If they had a good service they wouldn't need such terms.
          • Re:Too bad. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by green1 (322787) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @03:22PM (#42779481)

            On the bright side, if they won't let you take it away to evaluate before signing, you have a much better case to have the contract thrown out as you obviously were not able to make an informed decision before signing (part of the basis of contract law)

    • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:08AM (#42777329)
      AT&Ts service is crap compared to Verizon.
      In fact there are many places AT&T does not work, but Verizon does.
      They are small places like a club, a restaurant, or even the grocery story, but people still stick with AT&T.
      Again, choices are pretty much limited in this category, so... that is why they can pull this crap.
      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SJHillman (1966756) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:00AM (#42777677)

        If coverage area is your only metric, then yes, Verizon is the bestestest ever. However, there are other metrics. My primary metric is cost, so I'm on Virgin Mobile in spite of the limited coverage. For some people, the extra coverage is worth the money, for me it is not.

        • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Informative)

          by desertrat_it (650209) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:45AM (#42777951) Homepage

          I use Ting - they are a division of Tucows, use the Sprint network, are no-contract, and have reasonable monthly fees and no overage penalty (they just move you to the next tariff). I have an Android smartphone which I can use without any data plan if I so wish.

          www.ting.com

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johnlcallaway (165670)
      Why would AT&T want a customer that doesn't use data? Better to charge them fees and make them go elsewhere, or hope that they will start to use data. Same thing happened to my son-in-law, but I changed his plan to a $5 plan, and he does use data from time to time. So it all worked out.

      Contrary to popular belief, businesses only want your money if they make more money than you cost. If you don't fit into that mold, they will be very happy you go elsewhere.

      Welcome to capitalism. I have had AT&
    • Re:Too bad. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:15AM (#42777771) Homepage

      AT&T hates it's customers. Utterly hates them. This will not change until there is any real competition. Verizon is not a choice because they are actually worse than AT&T. Verizon is like being in an abusive relationship with someone that is a BDSM freak that does not understand safe words...

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Miamicanes (730264) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @06:31PM (#42780695)

        The problem is, AT&T is expensive, but if you don't really care about the cost, everyone else sucks in at least one major way:

        Verizon's LTE coverage is "broad" (lots of cities with at least one spot of coverage), but "thin" (airport? Absolutely. downtown? Probably. Indoors in a fringe suburban area where AT&T has solid LTE coverage? Forget about it.) That said, Verizon has usable (if slow) coverage just about anywhere that's remotely populated, and most places that are really, really rural.

        T-Mobile is awesome in the areas where they're awesome, and sucks horribly in the other 80-90% of the country. As a practical matter, if you live in a market where they're good, as long as you're in your hometown they'll be really good about 80% of the time, tolerable another 15-18%, and totally suck the remaining 2% or so. When they're fast, they're almost as fast as Verizon. When they're slow? Er... well... when roaming on AT&T, you're limited to EDGE speeds (though it appears they at least have the decency to let you connect via UMTS/HSPA, even if it's throttled, and don't LITERALLY force EDGE connections).

        Sprint? OK, total epic suck just about everywhere right now, and likely to stay that way for at least another year or two. They were good up until ~3 years ago, and tolerable up until ~2, but the moment the iPhone hit, their network totally went down the shithole because most of their towers are serviced by literally two T-1 lines... one used for voice calls, control, and 1xRTT data, and one used for EVDO data. They've been putting band-aid fixes in place for the past year and adding another T-1 or two, but ask anybody with Sprint... until the day they switch on LTE and finish their NV deployment in your area, it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse every day. And just when you think it can't possibly get any worse (I was getting ~26kbps down, and ~40kbps up the day I finally walked away after ~14 years with them), you run speedtest one day and see SINGLE-DIGIT speedtest scores. And even in the cities where they've officially "turned on" LTE, their LTE coverage hasn't even gotten to where their wimax coverage WAS two years ago, so they still mostly suck.

        AT&T isn't quite perfect in every way... there are areas (mostly fringe suburbia indoors, but NOT necessarily rural areas) where Verizon is slow-but-solid 1-2mbps where AT&T wheezes and struggles to do EDGE, but I've only seen a couple of them... and they're definitely the exception rather than the rule. In the western parts of urban Dade & Broward counties in Florida, AT&T totally spanks Verizon in most places. Verizon TOTALLY cherry-picks dense areas and almost completely ignores suburban areas when deploying LTE. In contrast, AT&T has LTE in fewer markets... but in those markets, pretty much the whole area is solidly blanketed with LTE.

        That said, I firmly believe the government needs to forcibly break up AT&T again into at least 3 different companies: one that owns the wireless, one that owns the fiber/copper backhauls & rights of way, and U-verse. Then, the fiber/copper backhaul company would have every incentive to sell fiber to AT&T's competitors... and AT&T would be instantly stopped dead in its tracks from being able to launder surcharges and fees states agreed to 10-20 years ago to fund fiber deployments and use them to build out its wireless network instead.

        AT&T's own execs have said publicly that they don't want to spend any money building or maintaining anything with wires anymore. It's time for the FCC to take them up on their offer, and force them to divest their entire wireline holdings to somebody who DOES. Not just the old copper POTS network they don't want, but the fiber runs and rights of way that go along with it as well. Right now, AT&T doesn't want to spend resources on fiber (unless it directly services one of their own towers), and they don't want anybody ELSE to be able to do it, either.

    • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @12:34PM (#42778205)
      I work as a manager in a call center for ATT and while I disagree with my employer 90% of the time I am the guy who usually gets these type of users escalated to me. They begin with" I never asked for a data plan when I bought my LG flip phone." An I point out they are using an iphone, they usually claim they are not even though we can see it on the network, from the time they stuck their sim card in it. And most of the time they lie about it. We used to be able to lock down smartphones without any data, but the problem is that part of the data plan is used to offset the higher level of support required with smartphones, and unfortunately only about 10% of Iphone users actually no how to use them, and the rest need hand holding. I call it the George Jetson syndrome, they only have one button to press, and they whine about doing that. We started getting tons of users with off contract Iphone they were given, bought, or found, and they stuck their sim cards in them. Now these people want no data but want support in connecting via wifi to check their email, facebook, use company vpns, play words with friends, and all the neato things they can do. They want support for it, but without paying the toll. No one opted him into a "contract" he was informed for that type of device to be used on the network, he would recquire a data plan, and as such one was added. He is free to go back to his old phone.
      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:04PM (#42778387) Journal

        So you need to split your charges into "Smartphone support tax" and "Data plan", and not bundle them.

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:14PM (#42778467)

        Be that as it may, this means of responding to that problem is incorrect. A client was opted into a plan he did not want, without his consent or even informing him of this. THAT is an egregious way to treat a customer.

        If the data plan is mandatory, for the reasons you stated, clients need to know that the moment they sign up. If it is so easy to detect that they are using a smart phone, then they should get a "service denied because you are on an invalid plan" error the moment they plug their card in, so they can call support and hash that out.

        That may create more friction, but it is more honest and more appropriate than the "ha! gotcha!" practices going on now.

        This makes me glad I don't use AT&T.

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mesterha (110796) <<ude.sregtur.sc> <ta> <ahretsem>> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:16PM (#42778485) Homepage

        This doesn't make much sense. If the support for data plans is expensive then just refuse to give data support for people who don't have data plans. Of course, there is the associated cost of dealing with them on the phone and refusing to help. This could be offset by offering them a minimal data plan or a data support plan.

        The real reason ATT doesn't want people to use this option is that lots of people would drop their data plans. There's a lot of wifi around and many people would be satisfied with just wifi. I guess this opens up an opportunity for someone to come up with a way to get a phone to report a false id to the cell phone company.

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Informative)

        by s4ltyd0g (452701) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:18PM (#42778497)

        I call bullshit, no cellular phone provider actually provides support for the handsets. It's all "you have a signal, the rest isn't our problem, see the handset manufacturer".

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Voyager529 (1363959) <voyager529.yahoo@com> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:35PM (#42778613)

        They begin with" I never asked for a data plan when I bought my LG flip phone." ...part of the data plan is used to offset the higher level of support required with smartphones, and unfortunately only about 10% of Iphone users actually no how to use them, and the rest need hand holding...Now these people want no data but want support in connecting via wifi to check their email, facebook, use company vpns, play words with friends, and all the neato things they can do. They want support for it, but without paying the toll....for that type of device to be used on the network, he would recquire a data plan, and as such one was added. He is free to go back to his old phone.

        The correct response to this situation is, "We are more than happy to assist you with problems that your LG flip phone experiences. We can continue to give you voice and text messaging service on the iPhone you're presently using, but we cannot provide any assistance with its operation without a data plan added. If you'd like to add a data plan, I'd be more than delighted to assist you with the problems you're having with your handset".

        I understand that support costs money, and that having a "support only" contract or a 'pay-per-incident' is only going to make your job even harder as half of the time will be spent arguing with customers who believe that they are entitled to free support. However, an iPhone can send and receive calls just as effectively as the basic phones in the absence of a data plan, and I don't think that automatically adding a data plan to a monthly fee of a customer who has decided to forgo both support and data service, with no ability to opt out of either, is the kind of customer policy that should be defended. He may technically be free to go back to his old phone, but that doesn't mean that it's possible - if his phone breaks and he's six months out on his contract, even another dumbphone costs $150 or more. To someone who's going to feel the squeeze of $20 a month for data service, that's a lot of money to ask him to cough up at once.

        Yes, people - especially nontechnical people - are going to expect that data service and quality technical support both come out of thin air and are magically free, and I do certainly concede that this is not accurate, practical, sustainable, or fair to AT&T. That doesn't justify the fact that there is no "sudo rm --data-plan --phone-support" command for someone who genuinely wants neither. By the way, T-Mobile will let you have any service level you want as long as you either bring the phone with you to T-Mobile, or buy the phone outright instead of doing a carrier subsidy, so somehow, a carrier with a lot less money is able to do what these customers want and keep the towers running.

      • Re:Too bad. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheRedSeven (1234758) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:45PM (#42778689) Homepage
        I'm with you for the whole thing, until the last 2 sentences.

        My contract with my carrier consists of (roughly--there's lots of legalese in there) the following: Carrier provides A, B, and C services at X service level agreement, and I pay Carrier $YY for the privilege.

        Nowhere in the contract I signed does it say that I give the carrier permission to change the services provided or add additional services without my express permission, nor does the contract say that they can charge me extra for any additional services that they may deem I 'require' at some point in the future. If you wish to make a unilateral change to my contract, I consider that a breach or a "material change of contract" that allows me to quit without penalty or ETF.

        If the policy is "If you bring your own smart phone to our network and put our SIM in it, we will change your services and costs," that had damn well better be in the contract I originally signed, or it is immaterial to the agreement we have. End of story.
      • Re:Too bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Solandri (704621) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @01:53PM (#42778763)

        They begin with" I never asked for a data plan when I bought my LG flip phone." An I point out they are using an iphone, they usually claim they are not even though we can see it on the network, from the time they stuck their sim card in it. And most of the time they lie about it. We used to be able to lock down smartphones without any data, but the problem is that part of the data plan is used to offset the higher level of support required with smartphones, and unfortunately only about 10% of Iphone users actually no how to use them, and the rest need hand holding. I call it the George Jetson syndrome, they only have one button to press, and they whine about doing that. We started getting tons of users with off contract Iphone they were given, bought, or found, and they stuck their sim cards in them. Now these people want no data but want support in connecting via wifi to check their email, facebook, use company vpns, play words with friends, and all the neato things they can do. They want support for it, but without paying the toll.

        This is entirely your fault. The carriers that is. You complain about people wanting support without paying the toll. Yet you charge people the subsidized phone monthly service rate even though they have an off-contract phone. (T-Mobile is the only major carrier who doesn't - they'll cut your monthly fee $10-$20/mo once you're out of contract and paid off the "subsidy" for your phone purchase.)

        You're the one who decoupled the relationship between "service" and "toll", and turned it into one amorphous "monthly service fee". You can't act like it's all fine when it favors you (off-contract phone owners paying subsidized service rates), then in the next breath complain about it when it doesn't favor you (non-data plan users asking for non-data support for their phone). You're currently charging them a toll for a subsidized phone, even though it's not a subsidized phone. Turnabout is fair play - give them the damn support.

  • Welcome to... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OpenSourced (323149) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:26AM (#42777087) Journal

    ...your new serfdom.

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:27AM (#42777089) Homepage Journal

    Too bad the corporations own the government, needed laws restricting companies from screwing over customers no longer get passed here. More corporate rights, fewer human rights.

    • by JWW (79176) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:47AM (#42777221)

      Yep. It makes you think - Why do so many industries way of operating today look like organized crime?

    • by jbolden (176878) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:50AM (#42777233) Homepage

      AT&T is regulated by the FCC. The contract has a termination clause which generally works out fairly close to a fair price for the subsidy he got on his original phone. The policies are regulated by the FCC and the FCC agrees.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fustakrakich (1673220)

        Good to know who the FCC works for... This isn't regulation. It's a protection racket.

      • by houghi (78078) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:24AM (#42777437)

        Legal and moral are two different things. It is legal what is happening. It is still wrong.

        From Wikipedia: The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the media, public safety and homeland security.

        So it isn't an organization that has the consumers interest at heart, And in this case, they have not.

      • The contract has a termination clause which generally works out fairly close to a fair price for the subsidy he got on his original phone.

        The ETF with a new phone works out to roughly $15 per month over the course of a 24-month contract. Why doesn't the price of service drop by $15 starting on the twenty-fifth month? And why does bringing one's own unlocked GSM smartphone, buying a voice-only plan, and using Wi-Fi for all data result in a data plan getting crammed [wikipedia.org] onto the customer's bill?

        • by Rhys (96510) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:15AM (#42777777) Homepage

          Because despite having fallen off contract, the sucker blogger wasn't bright enough to get off a contract plan and onto one of the various, usually cheaper, monthly plans.

          Then if AT&T or any other provider dicks you around with your monthly (like T-mob is with their "no tethering on the unlimited data plan"), you can either 1) break the terms of the plan, because you can always go buy a new sim and top-up cards from a physical store and they can't track you and block your credit card or 2) jump to a different provider.

          Sure there's the inconvenience of a new number, but that's what google voice and similar services are for.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          That $15 / mo is going up in the last two quarters.

          The reason you bill doesn't decrease is the carriers long ago realized that the total qualify of your cellular experience is heavily dependent on the quality of your handset. Consumers systematically under appreciate this, so carriers are acting in the public's interest by creating structures to shift costs from the monthly reoccurring side of the ledger to the biennial handset purchase.

          As for why carriers don't let you use smartphones with no data plan.

    • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:45AM (#42777545) Journal

      We don't need more laws, we need more honor. You cannot legislate honor. The problem is, honor is an outdated notion that is contrary to "law".

      Honor is doing what is right, no matter what, even when nobody is looking. Too many people want to screw the next guy and get away with it that we need laws to stop them from doing the wrong thing. They are brazen in their deeds. Quoth the asshole, "it isn't illegal, that makes it okay"

      • by Phrogman (80473) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#42777985) Homepage

        Corporations have no honour, and never will. Their sole purpose is to make more money for those who own them, or their shareholders. They know no morality if that will limit profits.

        The phone companies have us all by the short and curlies and can do whatever the fuck they want. Up here in Canada they are all essentially the same - they charge too much, for too little and they have a monopoly effectively, with zero real competition. Like the cable companies I am sure they collaborate to keep the prices artificially high.

  • Mind boggling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AbRASiON (589899) * on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:28AM (#42777103) Journal

    I've heard stories as described in the subject previously from Americans and it's /fully completely mind boggingly insane/
    I can't even contemplate how it's legal in any possible way. I know you guys get shafted on terrible policies / regulations and I guess 'social norms' of how things are meant to be with cell phone usage but err yeah this takes the cake.

    In Australia what's described in the subject, simply wouldn't occur, at all.
    I have a BlackBerry Bold 9000 as my spare phone and use it purely as a voice only 2g phone, no data at all. My provider has no issue with this at all. If I put that same SIM inside an iphone or my Galaxy S3 - I simply end up with no data, my tough luck - if I want it, I need to call them and add a data plan to my account.

    You can also get phones unlocked here, you can buy phones outright and you get different priced plans - so purchasing an outright high end smartphone can be paired with a fairly minimal data and voice plan if you just use it for casual browsing / twitter / facebook and you're near wifi all the time.

    I realise getting angry isn't really a solution for you guys - but based on the article? I would be angry, extremely goddamned angry. It simply shouldn't be legal.

    • Re:Mind boggling (Score:5, Informative)

      by realityimpaired (1668397) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:16AM (#42777385)

      It's in the service agreement, I think... smartphone = required data plan. Don't like it, don't buy a smartphone. If you want an idevice, then get an iPod. There are carriers in the US who don't act like this, or at least who won't charge that much for adding data, and it's his own damned fault for using ATT when he already had an unlocked phone he could use elsewhere. (and if it's about coverage on the ATT network, use one of the many MVNO's who use their network).

      Here in Canada that wouldn't happen either... carriers will quite happily let you have a smartphone on a non-data plan, because if your device leaks and accidentally uses data they can charge you at $50/GB. ($0.05/MB is not uncommon for per-use data, and some carriers charge $1/MB for per-use data for the first few MB). But a few years ago, the big 3 did act exactly as described in TFS, before they realized that they could extract more money by not forcing you onto a data plan. (I think it says something that even though I work for one of the big 3 and get an employee discount, it's still cheaper for me to have a plan on a fight brand for one of the competitors).

    • It's not actually as bad as the post claims. T-mobile doesn't do this, and even with AT&T you can get a non-AT&T branded smartphone and use it on their network without a problem.
  • by acidfast7 (551610) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:29AM (#42777105)
    ... from the Apple Store when I was in US (549 USD). I wanted to use it for a month while I was there and I was shocked that you guys STILL don't have reasonable prepaid-SIM options. I consider reasonable to be filling in an online form, having it mailed to an address with credit already on it, getting on SMS when it's low on credit and recharging online or at a kiosk with a scratch card&SMS solution.
    • by blahbooboo (839709) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:36AM (#42777155)

      There are several ways you just didn't know where or how to get them. To name a few options, T mobile sells prepaid sims in their stores and online, eBay has prepaid pre carded t mobile sims, straight talk sells pre paid sims.

      • by acidfast7 (551610) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:46AM (#42777219)

        T-mobile is horrible because the minutes expire after a year and it costs roughly 20 cents/min. Straight talk is a monthly plan for at least 30USD/mo.

        Both options are terrible, at best.

        Here (Germany), I can walk into a store, show ID, get a prepaid SIM put it into the phone, buy a recharge card for as little as €5, scratch the foil, send as SMS and have €5 immediately (at .05€/min or .€.05/MB).

        Another way to think about it is that, I can walk into almost any third-party store and for €30 walk out in 15 mins with a new functioning Nokia candy-bar phone with credit. Can't really get that in the US?

        • by vlm (69642)

          Your german experience is basically the USA "virgin mobile" experience, although there's a bunch of microscopically more expensive competitors. A couple years back I paid $20 for my new dumbphone and then used, on a long term average, around $8/month of minutes. Which was something like 80 minutes per month, which is a lot of talking. I believe the prices have risen somewhat to something like 25 cents per minute, but the phones are still about the cost of a restaurant lunch.

          I got into the republic wirele

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I have a prepaid cell phone using T-Mobile. While it's true that the minutes expire after a year, if you put any amount of additional minutes on it (i.e. even $5 worth, for example), the timer is reset for all of your existing minutes. Additionally, after putting a certain amount of money into it over time (I forget the precise amount - been a few years), the cost is about 10 cents a minute. It's probably not the best deal, but considering I only have to put ~$50/year into my phone for talk and text (and th
          • by Teckla (630646) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:19AM (#42777807)

            I have a prepaid cell phone using T-Mobile. While it's true that the minutes expire after a year, if you put any amount of additional minutes on it (i.e. even $5 worth, for example), the timer is reset for all of your existing minutes. Additionally, after putting a certain amount of money into it over time (I forget the precise amount - been a few years), the cost is about 10 cents a minute. It's probably not the best deal, but considering I only have to put ~$50/year into my phone for talk and text (and the phone itself was only $30 off the shelf), I consider it a bargain.

            I do the same. PAYG T-Mobile - 10 cents/minute - top off the minutes once in a great while - end up paying less than $6/month for my cell phone service. And my phone was only $20 off the shelf.

            If and when I'm ready to upgrade to data and a smartphone, T-Mobile has earned my business for treating me so well. I also highly recommend them to anyone and everyone. I think AT&T and Verizon are abusively expensive and unfair to customers.

  • Obligatory. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:29AM (#42777109)

    " I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further. " - AT&T

  • Old news: Verizon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stevegee58 (1179505) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:29AM (#42777113) Journal
    Verizon was pulling the same trick years ago. They were even trying to include LG env3 phones in the data phone category which is a joke of course.
    The current crop of non-data phones available from the carriers is a joke. Want a full qwerty keyboard for texting? Forget it, that's only on a data phone.
    It's basically a plot to get everyone on board with the more expensive data plans.
  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:30AM (#42777121) Homepage

    Sure, the carrier's are the spawn of the devil.

    But all this (having to get your phones from a carrier instead of buying a phone outright and then buying service) isn't just their fault. It's also the fault of users, who like the ability to get a "free" phone, which is really being payed for by their monthly payments.

    But, beyond that, it's the fault of the government (the Fed, specifically), for lending out free money, basically. 0 or (in a sense, even negative) interest rates. Think about what percent you get for your savings account. The price signals being given out are simply to consume, consume, consume.

    The same loose money policy which was responsible for the housing bubble is also responsible for the smartphone bubble (though it's possible that's about to burst [wsj.com]).

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Unlocked phones are becoming more available than they were before. I fell for the discount gag a few too many times myself. No longer.

  • Consumer Cellular (Score:5, Informative)

    by msk (6205) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:30AM (#42777125)

    Since you have a phone that can use AT&T data (even though you don't want), switch to Consumer Cellular, which uses the AT&T network but doesn't force you into a data plan.

    • Re:Straight Talk (Score:3, Informative)

      by fair use (948368)

      After my AT&T contract expired, I switched to Straight Talk for my iPhone. $45/month unlimited everything (well, not unlimited data but a lot of data). They also use AT&T's network. Its been working great.

  • by hessian (467078) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:31AM (#42777129) Homepage Journal

    The problem with the cell phone carrier market is that there are relatively few providers, and worse, consumers do not demonstrate loyalty to any one, but switch when better deals are offered on the others.

    This means the only factor that matters is price and availability of features the market wants.

    As a result, this news story will have zero effect. Every few months another atrocity comes out about some cellular carrier or another, but the audience just doesn't care.

  • by Slicker (102588) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:34AM (#42777147)

    My contact was over and I wanted a smartphone but not a data plan. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon all said that if I used any kind of smartphone, I must have a data plan. My brother bought a Nexus One outright and his carrier discovered this and added a $30 charge per month for data against his will. My plan was to use WiFi only for data...

    Each carrier responded by calling me and telling me that that is their policy and therefore I was not wronged. I responded that I think law trumps company policy. As far as the FCC was concerned, that was it... they had done their due diligence, I suppose..

    I send an email to one law firm that specializes in class action suites but never got a response.

    If a lawyer anywhere on this planet would be willing to take up this as a class action suite, I will strongly support it. I am a web developer, I can build an excellent web site to begin the process of finding the many, many other victims.

    • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:13AM (#42777369) Journal

      Maybe the answer is to use their own sales processes against them in the opposite direction.

      I have an iPhone. On AT&T. With no data plan. That's the spec required here, right?

      So let's go play a little. Go to the "stores" aka those mall outlets, rather than someone in corporate. Just like we/they/someone says about Greater ______ ****wad, the workers in those stores have to earn their living doing real work rather than being a faceless voice of policy. So my example is from AT&T. It could be different on those other carriers.

      1. Go to AT&T Store. "Hi. I want to end my contract. What if any fees do I need to pay to get out of it?" (Sometimes/often you'll have a minimum left on the "subsidy".) End your contract. Or, if this was that "second hand phone" you might just go to step 2.
      2. "I want a Go-Phone plan on this phone. $100, so that the minutes last all year." By making a purchase, you are directing the discussion. There's nowhere for them to wiggle you.

      Put facetiously for slashdot humor effect, you can go all baby-steps on this.
      "Go-Phone plan. You still sell those, right? I like the Meatloaf ad on TV. He's my hero."
      "Yay. Now I can be just like Meatloaf. Or something. Here's $100. In the $100 option the minutes last a whole year right? Good."
      GoPhone *doesn't have* data. Since we all know companies don't like giving away stuff for free, and you handed them five $20's, "of course you can't get free data". Which is ... wait for it ... what we wanted. There's nowhere for them to charge anything else because you handed cash to the sales person at an AT&T store.

  • Welcome to America (Score:5, Informative)

    by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:36AM (#42777153) Homepage Journal

    That sort of shit doesn't happen anywhere else in the world.

    You can use any kind of phone you want, and get whatever kind of plan you want. You aren't forced to use a dataplan just because you have a smartphone.

    • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:53AM (#42777247)

      I whole heartedly agree. Trouble is, most Americans think the [mighty] USA is the best place to be.

      They view themselves as being superior to others nations, after all they have the strongest, the best of everything, including democracy.

      No wonder companies like At&T treat them that way.

      • I whole heartedly agree. Trouble is, most Americans think the [mighty] USA is the best place to be.

        They view themselves as being superior to others nations, after all they have the strongest, the best of everything, including democracy.

        So, what you're saying is that you think Americans are mostly straw-men? Got any research or polls to back up those claims? I mean, is that statement more true or less true in the US than say, say Japan, England, China, Germany, France, or North Korea?

        You're uninformed. Look, just because you believe the USA propaganda, doesn't mean most of the citizens actually do.

        If I think the USA is the best place to be it's because that's where most of my family and safety net is, not due to chauvinistic pride

  • by rvw (755107) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:36AM (#42777157)

    I don't understand this. Can someone explain this to me using a car analogy?

    • by zm (257549) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:42AM (#42777189) Homepage
      They charged him highway toll because he has a car capable of doing highway speed, even though he never drives on a highway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hello there.

      We have noticed that your car your car has an OnStar system installed therefore we are enabling your OnStart service at X / month.

      If you do not wish to use this OnStar service please buy a car without OnStar capabilities.

      Regards

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:39AM (#42777171) Homepage

    This is the reason why I am moving to pre-paid service at the end of this month. I have been waiting for my early termination fee to drop low enough to leave. I have my Nexus 4 because it is unlocked and not branded with any carrier, easily (and already rooted) and is completely under my control. Going prepaid, I am in control of the deal. They can decide not to do business with me each month, but that's the freedom of choice I need.

    And yes. No need for data plans here.

    The big carriers will come around eventually, but only after large numbers have jumped ship.

    • Re:This is why (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:53AM (#42777253)

      I've been prepaid / non-contract since the early 00s when I got sick of paying $80 for two dumbphones and switched to about $8/month/phone prepay. I think the business logic "big cell providers" use, is anyone dumb enough to sign a contract is dumb enough to be taken advantage of in pretty much any technically possible way. I mean how dumb do you have to be, to pay $120/month for two years for a $300 phone? Thats $3180. I'm getting the same service for a grand total of $780 over the two years (24*20+300). I'm sure I'll find some way to spend the $2400 I'll save merely by selecting an alternative billing method.

  • I love the EU (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drolli (522659) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @09:44AM (#42777199) Journal

    Euro problems or not, but for the customers its great here in Europe.

    I never had the situation here that a mobile provider tried to force me onto a certain mobile phone. The reason for this is that the European union has a lot of laws regarding the availability of services everywhere and that no competitor may have a disadvantage by closed markets. In the same way the mobility of the cititzens should not be limited.

    Soemthing like: "If you use the phone which we did not sell you, we charge extra" would bring you into an overkill of lawsuits. Its not accidentally that MS needs to show the "browser choice" screen in Europe. Its not accidentally that Apple and other ebook publisher got got into trouble here. it not accigentally that Apples warranty conditions clashed here. It is not accidentally that the "one mobile provider sell the iphone" idea broke down in the EU more quickly than elsewhere.

    • Euro problems or not, but for the customers its great here in Europe.

      I never had the situation here that a mobile provider tried to force me onto a certain mobile phone. The reason for this is that the European union has a lot of laws regarding the availability of services everywhere and that no competitor may have a disadvantage by closed markets. In the same way the mobility of the cititzens should not be limited.

      Soemthing like: "If you use the phone which we did not sell you, we charge extra" would bring you into an overkill of lawsuits.

      Actually, US carriers don't charge extra - they just don't offer a discount and non-contract plans as you go plans are often targeted to people who are total price sensitive (i.e. is it $10 or 430 per card) rather than to the actual cost per minute. There is some movement to offering cheaper no contract plans - Walmart is starting to advertise unsubsidized iPhones with lower per month rates; although their "unlimited" data is really "use more than 2GB per months for a few months and we may not let you renew

  • by Malenx (1453851) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:03AM (#42777303)

    There are lots of re-sellers who provide you with the same networks but don't require crap like this. http://www.pagepluscellular.com/ [pagepluscellular.com] is what my wife uses.

    I've deactivated my phone completely and use it with google voice / voip on wifi for free. http://sipdroid.org/ [sipdroid.org]

  • by brindafella (702231) <brindafella@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:55AM (#42777641) Homepage
    When ever you feel like it, and have a few spare minutes, call up their call centre using free-call number (that costs the company) and spend a few minutes (or as long as you can spare) complaining about this matter. It racks up a cost to the company. Even better, mention why you call (to cost them more than what they are charging you) in the conversation. Eventually, they will escalate it and someone at a higher level MAY decide to call it 'even' and disconnect you from the plan. This strategy worked for me with a similar company......some years ago...... eventually.
  • by arekin (2605525) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @10:59AM (#42777673)
    For a while a few of my friends and I were on a family share plan with AT&T. One of my friends had his phone die and started using his girlfriends unused iPhone. Sure enough after a month we started seeing the extra data plan on the bill. Called AT&T, and not only were we told that he would be charged for using the data plan, but he was not due for an upgrade despite having never signed a contract for his line to begin with (he had his phone from a previous plan). While we are not still in a family plan, every one of us have switched to sprint, who are not only significantly cheaper, but also have way better customer service.
  • by loshwomp (468955) on Sunday February 03, 2013 @11:57AM (#42778003)

    AT&T tried this on me, twice in five years. The first time was immediately after I accidentally launched the "browser" in my ancient Treo 650.

    Each time a simple phone call was all that we needed to have them undo it. Annoying, yes, but probably not even on the top 20 list of things I hate about AT&T.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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