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Another Way Carriers Screw Customers: Premium SMS 'Errors' 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the bank-error-in-their-favor dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Almost no one likes their carrier. And with the behavior described in this article, it's not surprising. TechCrunch catches T-Mobile taking money from a new pay-as-you-go customer after signing her up to its own premium horoscope text message service — and taking money before she's even put the SIM in the phone. Quoting: 'Perhaps carriers think they can get away with a few “human errors” in the premium SMS department because these services aren’t regulated. Perhaps it’s also symptomatic of the command and control mindset of these oligarchs. What’s certain is that if carriers dedicated a little of the energy they plough into maintaining these anachronistic, valueless (to their customers, that is) premium SMS ‘services’ into creating genuinely useful services that customers want to use then they would have a better shot at competing with the startups leapfrogging their gates. Or they would, if they hadn’t spent years destroying the trust of their users by treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet.'"
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Another Way Carriers Screw Customers: Premium SMS 'Errors'

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  • by arosas (904929) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:04PM (#43283843)

    ...if they hadn’t spent years destroying the trust of their users by treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet.

    Clearly this was the work of a video gamer [slashdot.org].

  • They're by far the least evil of the major carriers in the US.
    • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:28PM (#43284129) Homepage Journal

      They're by far the least evil of the major carriers in the US.

      Only for certain definitions of "evil". I've been with them for 7+ years and every year the service gets a little worse, the plan gets a little more expensive, and they offer fewer new phones that I actually want to purchase. Sure, their customer service is cheery and all, but they rarely actually accomplish anything.

      If Verizon Wireless is the Republican party - interested just in clever new ways to extract more money from those with the least money to spend so they can funnel it to the top executives - then T-Mobile is the democratic party, promising all kinds of things that they can't deliver while ultimately giving you the same lousy and uncaring product as the Republicans but with a fresher face to it.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        They're by far the least evil of the major carriers in the US.

        Only for certain definitions of "evil". I've been with them for 7+ years and every year the service gets a little worse, the plan gets a little more expensive, and they offer fewer new phones that I actually want to purchase. Sure, their customer service is cheery and all, but they rarely actually accomplish anything.

        Don't blame T*Mobile for a lack of phones - they can't force manufacturers to support their frequencies (though AT&T GSM phones will work just fine on T*Mobile as long as you don't care about 3G or 4G data - I used an Android phone on T-Mobile that only worked with 2G and it was surprisingly usable despite the slow data speeds).

        Blame regulators - if they wanted to enforce any sort of free market, they'd require that all phones have dual-mode GSM/CDMA radios that cover all carrier frequencies -- that wo

        • They're by far the least evil of the major carriers in the US.

          Only for certain definitions of "evil". I've been with them for 7+ years and every year the service gets a little worse, the plan gets a little more expensive, and they offer fewer new phones that I actually want to purchase. Sure, their customer service is cheery and all, but they rarely actually accomplish anything.

          Don't blame T*Mobile for a lack of phones - they can't force manufacturers to support their frequencies (though AT&T GSM phones will work just fine on T*Mobile as long as you don't care about 3G or 4G data - I used an Android phone on T-Mobile that only worked with 2G and it was surprisingly usable despite the slow data speeds).

          There is no evidence that T-Mobile has even gone to the table to negotiate with a lot of phone manufacturers over new phones. There have even been cases where small regional carriers operating on T-Mobile frequencies have picked up phones that T-Mobile has never carried (the last Blackberry Pearl, the 9100, was an example), so it clearly was not a case of the phone not existing or being made for T-Mobile frequencies.
          R

          Blame regulators - if they wanted to enforce any sort of free market, they'd require that all phones have dual-mode GSM/CDMA radios that cover all carrier frequencies -- that would let consumers hop between carriers without spending $500 on a new phone.

          That would increase the cost by quite a bit. We have two major GSM carriers in the US

          • by hawguy (1600213)

            There is no evidence that T-Mobile has even gone to the table to negotiate with a lot of phone manufacturers over new phones. There have even been cases where small regional carriers operating on T-Mobile frequencies have picked up phones that T-Mobile has never carried (the last Blackberry Pearl, the 9100, was an example), so it clearly was not a case of the phone not existing or being made for T-Mobile frequencies.
            R

            Negotiate? With what? T-Mobile is a small carrier, they can't promise millions of phones to every manufacturer, nor can they afford huge co-marketing budgets.

            Blame regulators - if they wanted to enforce any sort of free market, they'd require that all phones have dual-mode GSM/CDMA radios that cover all carrier frequencies -- that would let consumers hop between carriers without spending $500 on a new phone.

            That would increase the cost by quite a bit. We have two major GSM carriers in the US who use different frequencies, and two CDMA carriers who also use different frequencies. Hence a phone to hop between all four carriers would need to be able to communicate on four different sets of frequencies, and that isn't even including the various data frequencies.

            The iPhone 4S is a dual GSM/CDMA phone. Parts breakdowns put the cost of the wireless chip at around $25.

            I don't think car manufacturers would get away with releasing a car that requires Exxon gas (which is 50% more expensive than other smaller brands) for the first 2 years, so why do the cellular carriers get away with it?

            I don't know where on earth you buy your gas, but where I live nobody would stay in business charging that much more than their neighbors. If a gas station charged five percent more - with gas at $3.50 and up for regular where I live - they would look like a hollywood ghost town. With 50% difference they might as well not even bother taking delivery.

            That said, motor fuel is not a particularly good analogy for cell phones and cellular networks, even if you were to call GSM "gas" and CDMA "diesel". There is more in common between the engine types than there is between the phone types, amongst other things.

            So you got that I was making an analogy, but then you thought I was literally claiming that Exxon gas is 50% more expensive than other brands? In this analogy I was implying that some cell phone carriers cost 50% more than their competition and you

        • by rjr162 (69736)

          T-Mobile has actually been putting some of their towers on 1900 so they're compatible with AT&T phones. I think they did this to try to sweeten the deal if AT&T had purchased them..

          I just can't remember off the top of my head... I think it was HSPA+ in some areas.. well it had to have been since up just a bit north of Boston I got H+ on my Galaxy S III that supports the AT&T bands but I was on a T-Mobile tower

          • by mactard (1223412)
            They did that after getting a bunch of 1900MHz spectrum in the failed AT&T deal. Their GSM service uses 1900MHz so between the two of those, and the fact that it's looking like LTE will be on 1700MHz in the US (they have a lot of that), it made sense to refarm their spectrum and not have to fight impossible battles to get phones on their network anymore.
      • If Verizon Wireless is the Republican party - interested just in clever new ways to extract more money from those with the least money to spend so they can funnel it to the top executives - then T-Mobile is the democratic party, promising all kinds of things that they can't deliver while ultimately giving you the same lousy and uncaring product as the Republicans but with a fresher face to it.

        In the same vein - and I know this won't be popular here:

        Sprint is Ron Paul. He wants you to believe he's different but ultimately he's just another high priced fascist who happens to have better PR.

        AT&T is the green party. They have a couple of ideas worth exploring, but they can't get their shit together well enough to convince anyone that they are important, and they lack the discipline to return calls when people have questions.

        And Virgin Mobile is "the rent is too damn high" party. They

      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        they offer fewer new phones that I actually want to purchase

        Then buy them unlocked. T-Mobile is far and away the least douchetastic carrier when it comes to that sort of thing.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I do not see T-Mobile as any better or worse than any other mobile carrier. What I do see is that they are in the very low end of the market. They gain customers not by service, but by price. Because they have low prices, some think they are not there to gouge customers, therefore not evil.

      What we are seeing here is that all companies want to maximize profit. They can do that by asking for the money upfront, and be perceived as overpriced, or set up situations where customers will be billed for little

    • "The least evil" unfortunately doesn't mean much.

      They have great prepaid plans, so I use them for that despite the major down side: They give you absolutely no accounting of your usage. Whatsoever. Money just disappears from your prepaid account, and you have to hope they're pulling it legitimately - which they aren't. My prepaid account is for a rarely-used spare phone, and in the first month alone over $20 mysteriously disappeared from the account while the phone was completely off for that month. I con
    • by sjames (1099)

      So, in a room with Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, sits the nicest guy in the room, T-Mobile, also known as 'guy who kicks random people in the nuts for fun". Pretty low on the overall evil scale, but I still don't want to meet him on the sidewalk.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:08PM (#43283889) Homepage

    They have been doing their competitive race to the bottom for so long, they just don't know how to change. I've been with T-Mobile for a long time myself and have been wasting money on data plans I don't really use. In another few weeks, I'm switching over to a basic service pre-paid type thing. No Data.

    It's at times like these when I reconsider when I need vs. what I want. I already moved my wife over to a prepaid carrier with no ill effects and a whole lot of savings. Gonna put mine on there as well when my early termination fee goes low enough.

    No more over-priced subsidized phones. This is especially true when you see T-Mobile selling the Nexus 4 unsubsidized for far more than Google was selling it. It was insulting to the public's intelligence. And when I am told "you are required to have a data plan because you have a smart phone" I have to wonder how or why. I just want telephone service and they won't just give it to me. It's nonsense.

    Sprint was my first carrier. They jacked me around too much. The only way to get what you want was to tell them you are leaving their service. That was an annoying game after the first couple of times. Next was T-Mobile. And they were better than the others from what I was hearing. At the end of the day, they all suck though.

    I just want my freedom back and I only want to pay for what I use.

    • Why not just use T-Mobile's prepaid plans? They're the best I've seen so far. $50/month for unlimited everything. I put the $20-40 I save every month into a savings account to buy a new phone periodically even.
      • Why not just use T-Mobile's prepaid plans? They're the best I've seen so far. $50/month for unlimited everything. I put the $20-40 I save every month into a savings account to buy a new phone periodically even.

        Which plan are you referring to? The only $50 prepay plan I see on their site is the unlimited talk/text with 500MB (and 2G speed after that) data plan. "Unlimted (for relatively small values of infinity) 3G/4G data is another $20 on top of that. Still not that bad of a deal compared to the contract plans, but I'd rather like to find the one you got.

        • That is what I use. It's a rare month when I use more than 100M of data (I'm always close to wifi), so the data constraints don't matter much to me. I've heard of a $30 plan by an AT&T reseller that is like 500 minutes, unlimited text and data, but you'll have to do research if you want a better plan with significant amounts of data
          • by Albanach (527650)

            You don't need to do much research. T-mobile have a plan advertised on their site for $35/month offering 100 minutes with 'unlimited' text and 3G internet. If you don't call much from your cell phone, but do value the text and data part, it's a good option.

      • by Andrio (2580551)
        I love my prepaid plan from T-Mobile. 30 bucks for unlimited data (throttled after 5GB) , unlimited texts, and 100 min. Additional minutes are 10 cents a minute, so I keep my account "prefunded" with like 15 bucks in case I need a couple extra hours of talk.

        The plan isn't for everyone, but with my Nexus 4 I couldn't be happier. I envy no one.
  • Odd, it seems someone should notify John Legere [theverge.com] that he's dishing up some new fangled bullshit instead of the old fangled bullshit we all know and hate. He also said, "This is the biggest crock of shit I've ever heard in my entire life. Do you have any idea how much you're paying?" But apparently that was only about his competitor's pricing models ...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps carriers think they can get away with a few “human errors” in the premium SMS department because these services aren’t regulated. Perhaps it’s also symptomatic of the command and control mindset of these oligarchs. What’s certain is that if carriers dedicated a little of the energy they plough into maintaining these anachronistic, valueless (to their customers, that is) premium SMS ‘services’ into creating genuinely useful services that customers want to use then they would have a better shot at competing with the startups leapfrogging their gates. Or they would, if they hadn’t spent years destroying the trust of their users by treating them like numbers on a spreadsheet.

    Okay, see that entire section of the summary? The one that started out with the weasel word "perhaps" and spun right off into wild speculation and generic "grrrrrrrrrr NERD RAEG!!!1!"? Yeah. That whole part could've been ditched. Not only would it not have hurt the summary to get rid of it, it would've IMPROVED it by not making Slashdot look like just another bog standard snide news website.

    Oh, what's that, you say? Then the summary would've seemed too short? No problem. How about adding in one or tw

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      Hacker News [ycombinator.com] might be good for you. They're in general a little more intelligent and a little less crazy.

      Hopefully either your post or mine, further down, will be modded up.

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:12PM (#43283957)

    As I type this, my father is on his phone yelling at his carrier. He's now spent over 20 hours this month yelling at them over the same billing error. He's furious, and it all makes sense.

    I have the same carrier. I'm very happy with my carrier. But I've done things very differently. And I continue to do things differently.

    The carrier did mis-bill my father. Absolutely and without question. Whether or not it was intentional is optionally obvious. But it's irelevant. My father, like most people, calls them, expects them to work out the issue on the phone for him immediately. And while we all know they should, and they could, it takes twenty minutes and then they don't. Again, intentional or otherwise is up to you.

    I've seen all of you guys get frustrated with this sort of thing. So I've solved the problem. Here's what I did, and what I do.

    First, I have a "business account". The only difference between a business account and a consumer account is that I asked for a "business account" and they call it a "business account". Otherwise, it's the same. All plans are available to me the same way. If anything, it actually reduces the availabitily of customer support because I need to be transfered to a business account person. Again, true or not is up to your own belief system.

    Second, I don't expect anything to ever get done immediately over the phone. About once a quarter, sometimes once a month, I have some sort of an issue to deal with. Maybe billing, maybe account change, maybe whatever. I call, I leave the phone on speaker-phone until I get the right person -- sometimes I'm on hold for twenty minutes, rarely but sometimes. Doesn't matter, I'm working to hold music instead of to my own music, big deal.

    Then, I ask for whatever I want. If it doesn't get done and solved perfectly in five minutes by the first reasonable-correct agent, I simply say: "I need to go, please work this out and call me back tomorrow at this time." 90% of the time, that's exactly what happens, and it's perfect. The remaining 10% of the time, if they don't call me back and it doesn't get done, then I walk into the physical brick and mortar store, and say exactly the same thing -- to someone wearing a manager tag. I smile, I shake her hand, I flirt a little (it works between men too, by the way), and I ask them to do me the personal favour and call me back with the solution -- and I give them a full week.

    I think a lot of you forget that, assuming your phone is functional, all of these billing- and plan-, and account-related issues can be worked out retro-actively. There really is no rush. It's not urgent.

    So I live a very happy life. I get problems solved within a week, with minimal time and effort spent by me. Why does anyone need any more? You deserve to have your problem solved. You don't deserve to have your problem solved within an hour.

    • by Loughla (2531696) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:35PM (#43284235)
      OH GOD DAMMIT, YOU USED RATIONAL THOUGHT AND LOGIC. NOW THE POWER OF MY HYPERBOLE IS DESTROYED.

      Seriously, though. This seems like a relatively good solution to a shitty problem. But, I do have to ask, why did you resign yourself to the fact that

      And while we all know they should, and they could, it takes twenty minutes and then they don't

      Really, if we know they can, and know they should, why aren't they?

      Just wondering what your thoughts are. I have ideas, but they mostly revolve around hell-spawn and hatred of humanity.

      • by holophrastic (221104) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:55PM (#43284511)

        Actually, then I'll brighten your day -- even though I hate humanity too, it's for a different reason.

        Fours reasons.

        First: it's a competitive industry. Why spend money to bulid and upgrade systems when your competitors don't? Unless your customers are willing to pay extra for better customer service, there's no profit in it. Being worse makes things cheaper, which can be passed on to the customers in the form of cheaper services.

        Second: employees aren't the company. employees make mistakes, some are new, some are young, some don't care. Not only are you holding a 16 year old drama student responsible for immediately servicing your telephone service, you're demanding that they do everything perfectly, quickly, and without assistance.

        Third: your carrier puts policies in place to ensure that those crummy employees don't make things worse -- their version of do-no-harm. Keeping things bad is better than making things worse. You probably never called to complain about over-billing only to be billed even more. So the employees can do only those things that they can do without authorization. Some things require authorization.

        Fourth: I also run a business. You know that customers are really mean, and demanding, and won't stop asking for more. And then, when it's all fixed, and it's all retro-active, and nobody died, they'll ask for a discount for the trouble. What the hell?

        So by asking for whatever you want, and providing the time for it to get done. The employee can get authorization, look up how to do things, the system can go down and be brought back up, the manager can take-over, they know that you won't ask for more -- because you aren't even there to ask for it -- and they can do it during non-peak-customer-calling hours when they really aren't pressured by a hundred customers per hour.

        The big trick is for you, as the customer, to really not care about your problem with any degree of urgency.

        And here's the advanced class.

        Take $200. Right now. Out of your own personal bank account. Put it under your mattress. Call it the budget for the year's crappy frustrations.

        Throughout the year, every time some stupid problem like this crops up, just remember that you've budgetted $200 for this sort of thing. At the end of the year, you'll find that you've got $75 left over, and zero stress. Do the same thing with $2'000 for your car every year. Another $1'500 for your house. Another $500 for restaurants. Another $1'000 for friends, $500 for travel emergencies, and $500 for bribes.

        At the end of every year, you'll find left-over money, zero stress, no problems, and you won't have spent countless hours yelling at people just to spend the same money anyway. And while you're at it, throw in $1'000 for the love of your life.

        • by quarterbuck (1268694) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @05:29PM (#43285661)
          Take $200. Right now. Out of your own personal bank account. Put it under your mattress. Call it the budget for the year's crappy frustrations.
          Or if you like revenge better than bribery, just remember that for every call you make it costs them approximately $15 in total costs (phone + personnel + training) . So schedule your call during your least busy time when your opportunity cost is zero and count -16 in their account. That way after you are done with the call and have fixed the problem (so that your net cost is zero), you can mentally tally the score as Me: 0, T-mobile -16 and feel happy about that.
    • by mrbester (200927)

      When it comes to fraud, then yes, I certainly do deserve to have it sorted by the most expedient method available.

      • If it's fraud, then you actually have the right to sue them, and have it take two years just to get to a courtroom. That's your right.

        Who the hell cares. Read your bill, each and every month. Tell them to correct it, each and every time that it's incorrect. Then enjoy your life. Don't waste it proving that everyone's out to get you.

    • As I type this, my father is on his phone yelling at his carrier. He's now spent over 20 hours this month yelling at them over the same billing error. He's furious, and it all makes sense.

      I have the same carrier. I'm very happy with my carrier. But I've done things very differently. And I continue to do things differently.

      I don't think the explanation is "people are dumb". I think the explanation is the companies know the numbers. They can find a "sweet spot" (accidentally or on purpose) in billing error amounts (intentional or just by luck that they're always in the company's favor). The sweet spot is just small enough that after you're put on hold for a certain amount of time (that they get to pick, not you), you give up and say "This isn't worth my time and frustration for $5" (or whatever amount the sweet spot is). Worst

      • Absolutely correct. So you can live my father's life, and spend 20 hours for (in his case) $200 (by the way, he's a high-power executive working for $10/hour to "get what he deserves") or you can live my life, and get what I deserve, eventually.

        Remember too, it's all paid by credit card. So I don't actually pay it for yet another 30 days anyway.

    • About once a quarter, sometimes once a month

      then I walk into the physical brick and mortar store,

      with minimal time and effort spent by me

      So which is it? And who, in five years I've had two issues between landline, broadband and mobile - and that was me trying to cancel the service because of broadband throttling (virgin media). And the other issue was caused by wear and tear / weather and was fixed promptly.

      • Over the last five years, I've been to a store four times, and called in about eight times. I've probably spent two hours in person, one hour on hold, and two hours talking on the phone. And yeah, you're right, that covers mobile phone, home internet, home television, and home telephone.

        So, five hours of my life over five years, meh. It's something to do on a nice day.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      As I type this, my father is on his phone yelling at his carrier. He's now spent over 20 hours this month yelling at them over the same billing error. He's furious, and it all makes sense.

      I have the same carrier. I'm very happy with my carrier. But I've done things very differently. And I continue to do things differently.

      The carrier did mis-bill my father. Absolutely and without question. Whether or not it was intentional is optionally obvious. But it's irelevant. My father, like most people, calls them, expects them to work out the issue on the phone for him immediately. And while we all know they should, and they could, it takes twenty minutes and then they don't. Again, intentional or otherwise is up to you.

      I've seen all of you guys get frustrated with this sort of thing. So I've solved the problem. Here's what I did, and what I do.

      First, I have a "business account". The only difference between a business account and a consumer account is that I asked for a "business account" and they call it a "business account". Otherwise, it's the same. All plans are available to me the same way. If anything, it actually reduces the availabitily of customer support because I need to be transfered to a business account person. Again, true or not is up to your own belief system.

      Second, I don't expect anything to ever get done immediately over the phone. About once a quarter, sometimes once a month, I have some sort of an issue to deal with. Maybe billing, maybe account change, maybe whatever. I call, I leave the phone on speaker-phone until I get the right person -- sometimes I'm on hold for twenty minutes, rarely but sometimes. Doesn't matter, I'm working to hold music instead of to my own music, big deal.

      Then, I ask for whatever I want. If it doesn't get done and solved perfectly in five minutes by the first reasonable-correct agent, I simply say: "I need to go, please work this out and call me back tomorrow at this time." 90% of the time, that's exactly what happens, and it's perfect. The remaining 10% of the time, if they don't call me back and it doesn't get done, then I walk into the physical brick and mortar store, and say exactly the same thing -- to someone wearing a manager tag. I smile, I shake her hand, I flirt a little (it works between men too, by the way), and I ask them to do me the personal favour and call me back with the solution -- and I give them a full week.

      I think a lot of you forget that, assuming your phone is functional, all of these billing- and plan-, and account-related issues can be worked out retro-actively. There really is no rush. It's not urgent.

      So I live a very happy life. I get problems solved within a week, with minimal time and effort spent by me. Why does anyone need any more? You deserve to have your problem solved. You don't deserve to have your problem solved within an hour.

      #1. I've had a smartphone for almost 3 years now. Can't say I've had a need to get on the phone with anyone once a quarter, let alone once a month. That, is rather ridiculous.

      #2. I'm failing to see how your treatment is any different than the average consumer by obtaining a "business" account. Glad to see you somehow see value in all this bullshit, because I certainly don't.

      #3. While I agree with you from a technical standpoint when it comes to hardcore troubleshooting issues, something along the line

      • Why would you replicate my entire post? It's available without your duplication.

        #1. I stated elsewhere, it's been about 12 times over the last 5 years. It's not once a month every month. It's not once a quarter every quarter. It's just never more than once in a month or once in a quarter. It's still more than it should be, but it doesn't cost me any money, and it costs me very little time.

        #2. The "business account" affords me some respect in three ways. It has human beings believe me when I say that

        • by geekmux (1040042)

          ...Yes, they are incompetent. You spend the effort teaching them to be better. I'll spend less effort ignoring them.

          Fine. Have fun being patient with incompetence in any way. I'll speak as many others have to this issue, and in a way that perhaps the business will eventually understand and take action on, spoken in the only language they care about.

          I'll speak to their bottom line with my wallet.

          • You'll notice no change in them. And you'll notice more stress in you.

            You speak as though yours is a new idea. Like you're the first to think of it. Like it hasn't been tried for thirty years. Maybe you'll change it all. Let me know when you do.

    • by Endo13 (1000782)

      I like and approve your attitude... but good god your carrier sucks. I've never had any kind of service, of any type, ever where I had to call in that often, nevermind go in to their b&m location. I'd have long since moved on so I could enjoy my life even more.

      • Yeah, someone else pointed out my mis-type. Not once a month every month. Not once a quarter every quarter. Just no more than once in a month and no more than once in a quarter. In five years, I've gone to a store four times, and called eight times. So that averages once every five months. And that's mobile phone, home telephone, home internet, and home television.

        Whether or not it's still more than it should be, it's a reason to kick back once in a while. I simply refuse to complain about spending o

        • by Endo13 (1000782)

          Still seems a bit excessive. Back when I was on Verizon for... eh, 5 years? I had to call in once, twice at the most. Since I'm on prepaid I've had to call in never. You're right, it's not worth complaining, and I wouldn't. But I'd still take my business elsewhere.

          • Then maybe I'm a lot different. I'd also take my business elsewhere if I weren't happy, but I've got a rather unusual cellphone plan -- the kind of unusual that comes with wanting something weird and knowing how to get it. I'm really happy with the actual service, and I'm happy with the effort required by me -- nothing. So if I'm unhappy with my bill, then that's really not a big deal; that can be fixed.

            In my case, last year, I needed a weird plan. I needed unlimited long distance between two cities tha

    • Yeah my solution, go with pre pay like net10/straight talk/h20/etc. Got my nexus 4, pay less, less hassle. Can't charge me more since I put in pin #'s. Company doesn't have my CC info. Unlimited everything for $40/month (ebay pins FTW).

    • by plover (150551)

      So let me get this straight: you're reasonable and polite to the phone company representatives and they eventually solve your problems? Funny, I'm reasonable and polite to my phone company representatives, too, and they solve my problems for me as well. What a remarkable coincidence!

      For those of you who haven't tried being nice to people whose job is to help you, there are some simple things you can do to make the experience as smooth and successful as possible. First, and most important, remember your

      • I'll add something more, also along your same lines.

        It's ok to be really upset about your problem. Just not upset at the person on the phone. I've always found it beneficially disarming, when they ask "how are you today" to respond with "I'm actually really upset and angry, I just spent the morning fighting with someone, and my blood is still boiling, so please disregard any tone I have, it's not directed at you" -- and I say it with some humour and a chuckle.

        It helps them to realize -- and me to remember

  • I can't speak for the UK, but I know that this has happened to me on a few carriers before (back when I was jumping from prepaid to prepaid). First thing I did was always call up and remove premium SMS services from my line and have them blocked when switching to a new PAYG phone. It's what you have to do when you have no idea who signed up for what with your 'new' phone number before you had it.

    That, and of every carrier I've been with, T-Mo has treated me the best, and every time I went for renewal, t
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:18PM (#43284021)

    What's certain is that if carriers dedicated a little of the energy they plough into maintaining these anachronistic, valueless (to their customers, that is) premium SMS 'services'

    If customers find them valueless, why do they sign up for them? They are optional. So optional, I've never heard of them even after being a ten year customer of T-Mobile.

    • Re:Valueless? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nexus[ ]org ['uk.' in gap]> on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:39PM (#43284295) Homepage

      If customers find them valueless, why do they sign up for them? They are optional. So optional, I've never heard of them even after being a ten year customer of T-Mobile.

      Often they don't sign up for them, they just magically find themselves signed up; and all attempts to "unsign up" and get a refund are met with the carrier disclaiming all responsibility and refusing to do anything.

      Back when I was on Orange, I was signed up to 2 premium SMS services through no fault of my own on 2 separate phones (one of which had never been used). Orange wouldn't do anything about it other than continue to bill me, they informed me that I needed to contact the SMS service provider and insisted that I had somehow signed up for these services, even to the point of "well maybe someone else signed you up on a website without your knowledge". In one such instance the conversation went something like:
      "You need to contact the SMS service provider and have them stop the messages and send you a refund"
      "Ok, can you give me contact details for them?"
      "Yes, their number is 0123456789"
      "That number doesn't work - I just get a number unobtainable tone"
      "Well, you'll need to contact them about that"
      "How do I do that then?"
      "Their number is 0123456789"
      "I just told you, that number doesn't work - can you give me some other contact details?"
      "You'll need to ask them"

      (This conversation went round and round for a good few times before I gave up).

      At the end of the day, I _did_ manage to get both SMS providers to stop sending me messages; I even got a refund off one of them. I was left about a fiver out of pocket with the other. The financial cost was small, the time and hassle cost was high. And this is why they get away with it - if it had been a significant amount of money, I would've taken Orange to the small claims court; but it was about a fiver, so not worth it. Multiply that by thousands of customers and it just isn't in their interest to be customer focussed about these kinds of issues - they're making money by screwing the customers, but the amount they are screwing each customer by makes it not worth that customer actually investing the time to do something about it.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:19PM (#43284035)

    After reading TFA .. yes the newly minted SIM card was receiving premium SMS before even being inserted into a phone. But from TFA, they talk about how phone numbers are recycled, so there is a chance that the previous owner's profile was not properly scrubbed before the number was re-issued and that previous owner had subscribed to that service.

    The TFS and TFA are beat ups based on the complainer speculating that because they were given the run around by customer service that T-Mobile is acting in a nefarious manner. That and *gasp* they had to give their elderly family member's birthdate over as a part of the activation , and that the horoscopes being received matched the birthdate.

    So as far as I see .. it's all speculation and conjecture.

    (And yes I admit that I am a happy T-mobile customer, but that has nothing to do with this hatchet job)

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      If you take their claims at face value, then then there's a couple of facts:

      * T-mobile's support lied to them about the services being a third-party - twice by two different representatives.
      * T-mobile's support lied to them about the signup date - giving a date that usually would make sense and might be written of as a mistake.

      Now sure it might have been a left over subscription from a previous incarnation of the phone number. Which just happened to match the customer's star sign and just happened to be rec

  • This is why... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Endo13 (1000782) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:19PM (#43284037)

    I've been using prepaid for a few years now. Tried Boost first, didn't like it. Switched to Straight Talk which was OK. Then just recently I switched over to Page Plus. Liking it a lot better. Page Plus uses Verizon's network and just about any Verizon phone can be activated on their service without being unlocked (though 4G/LTE phones can be a pain). That said, all of the prepaid carriers I tried were a fine replacement for a contract carrier, and far less expensive.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      FYI this was on a prepaid account.

    • by rjr162 (69736)

      Completely agree. Or go with a smaller local carrier. Sure I don't get 4G (yet.. it's suppose to finally get deployed soon), and I have a limited number of minutes, I get unlimited text messages, pictures, and data for $50 (I think around 250 talking minutes which is more than enough for me)

      I just purchased a Note II outright off of NewEgg for the wife.. $600 or so, which would have been $300 from Verizon. She got a Net10 sim card for it, $50 for unlimited with 1.5GB data a month (up to HSPA+). For Verizon,

  • I had to argue with a UK carrier to get a refund on the international roaming that I had done in the EU. My trouble tickets were closed without a proper resolution (I received a small refund) and it took a lot of persistence to get a full refund.

    EU roaming rates are limited by EU regulations, yet there were reports of the same problem going back months (to the date that the roaming rates were limited by EU regulations).

    I can understand human error leading to roaming rates being incorrect when the limits w

  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot&uberm00,net> on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:33PM (#43284203) Homepage Journal

    As part of an Ofcom directive to ensure that the UK doesn’t run out of numbers, PAYG numbers are recycled. In this instance, it appears that the premium text service attached to the number remained when the number was transferred to [the customer]. When PAYG numbers are recycled, they are attached to new SIMs so no personal data is transferred.

    We have placed a block on [the customer's] account to stop any further texts and we have credited her account to cover the charges incurred.

    This was an isolated human error and no personal data was shared. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

    Shitty nonetheless, but they did fix it once they realized what was going on.

  • that this article appears the day T-Mobile ditches the service contract and starts selling the iPhone. I mean, this isn't just about T-Mobile, because "almost no one likes their carrier", am I right?

  • Where do these imaginary start-ups get the billions in funding to roll out a national cellular network?
    If they're simply reselling the local incumbent's services, guess who gets most of the money without having to deal with the advertising and customer service?

    • by Endo13 (1000782)

      That's fine with me. The prepaid third-party carrier I'm using is cheaper and still gets a cut too, so that means the carrier(s) whose network(s) I'm using get FAR less money than they would if I'd be going direct. So if they can sell service to a third party, who sells it for cheaper than direct customers get it, what does that tell you?

      • The carrier doesn't have to pay for customer service or billing though.
        All it really costs them is capacity on a network they've already built.
        They may get less revenue but I doubt their profit suffers much. If it did, they would simply charge the 3rd party more.

  • by msk (6205)

    http://www.ting.com/ [ting.com]

    It's hard to be happier.

    If you like it enough to sign up, let me shill it for you and get us both a discount.

    • If I wasn't happy with Page Plus Cellular, I would go to Ting in heartbeat. I just dropped some money on a brand new iPhone 4S at the unsubsidized price to use on PP.
  • Here in the USA, what isn't explicitly regulated by some federal agency (as a result of legislation) and is sold to consumers falls under the jurisdiction of the states consumer protection laws.

    So, I'll see them in court. In Texas.

  • I've been using Page Plus Cellular since January of 2009 and I will never go back to T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. With Page Plus, I am in control as there are no automated premium SMS features to sign up for and there are few gotchas. I like paying 55.00 per month for service levels that would be a lot more expensive at the big boy's doorstep and I've been contract free for four years now. I bought a brand new iPhone 4S and activated it on PP without an issue and I have an iPhone at a fraction
  • Every time this sort of things happen to me, I call them, informing them I did not hire that service, so they can't legally charge me for it.
    I've gotten a refund every time (a couple of times, rounded up - I got $5 instead of the actual total of $4.85).

  • by adam525 (813427) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @05:21PM (#43285577) Homepage
    I watched the following happen. T-mobile launched "pay per use" web service and were putting the service on customers' phones without notice. All phones (like any other computer) is going to try and use a network connection if it has one. Customers with flip phones would call in and have a $10.00 data bill. It was discouraged to credit the money back.

    It was a _requirement_ of your job to push features to customers EVERY time they called in and your metrics were based on whether or not you sold them anything. I'm sure lots of the "top sellers" were adding features onto people's accounts without authorization from the customer.

    Here's the best part : If you call in and ask for a manager, your'e given the run around. If you ask to have the call pulled (since they are all supposed to be recorded), expect to wait at least two weeks and most of the time you won't get a call back ever.

    Want to cancel your account? Fine. You will be credited NOTHING and will have to pay your contract termination fees. The entire call structure is built around NOT giving you access to a manager to talk to about the problem. The manager is in the background telling the rep your'e on the phone with to sell you EVEN MORE as you're complaining about being robbed. It is completely ridiculous.
  • by jklovanc (1603149) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @05:57PM (#43285911)

    First I would like to point out that customer service representatives are people. And as people they make mistakes. I worked in cellular customer service for over two years and probably made a few mistakes. The first representative probably got the 3030 service mixed up with another service. There are many of them and sometime it is difficult to keep them straight. Give the people a break as it is human error. I just love when the article says "spokesperson". It implies that the CSR is speaking for the entire company when all they are really trying to do is help the customer in the best way they know how. Why didn't the CSR call back? Maybe they were not on shift yet.

    The recycled phone number issue is getting more and more common. Some people change their number much too often. The problem occurs because the separate system that provisions the horoscope messages may not be cleared when a phone number is cut of. The system may not even recognize the number is cut off and continue to send messages. The sender does not care because they do not get charged for the messages. The issue is when a new account gets attached to the number and the number is still subscribed to old services. As for the horoscope being the correct one there are two possibilities. First that pure chance may have hit. There is a 1 in 12 chance of having the same sign as the previous owner. Another option is that there may be a query into the T-Mobile system that shows the horoscope system the birth-date of the owner of the phone.

    Remember Hanlon's razor [wikipedia.org]; "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
    CSR's can be pretty stupid at times. I know I have had to fix quite a few stupid mistakes.

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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