AT&T can’t tell me why I get Data Plan charges on a Phone with no Data Plan.

June 29, 2010

in General Interest

I have new iPhone4’s in the house and thus another 2 years with AT&T. This makes me queasy at the best of times. AT&T by default is my “there is no other choice” supplier. Now I find they are charge me for Data that we shouldn’t be incurring on the plan.

In my case I’m familiar with how the telecom industry works and find some of the billing practices distasteful and bordering on dishonest.  Corporate best practices and “service” are not always the same thing. It is about choices that AT&T makes and ultimately how they want to manage me.

So when I get an AT&T customer service rep on the phone to explain the data usage charges I try to find some humor and am happy to share some pointed feedback. I did not feel better about AT&T at the end of this experience.

AT&T resolution was credit me with the the charges for data KB’s sent. I had to mess around with rep Brian from the midwest for 30 to 40 minutes to get it. It was more a principle call than worth the time. I got a credit in the end for $15.10. I’m sure Brian wrote down on my info sheet a comment of $15.10 customer agreed to as resolution.His scripted conversation elements were repeated many times.

Details are painful. These are a few facts about my plan. I’ve had a plan with AT&T since 2008 when my first iPhone arrived. It’s now a family plan 700 minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, the usual rollover minutes, unlimited SMS and MMS/Photos ($30 per month service for family) and then 3X$30 for the three iPhone data plans. I’ve considered upgrading the fourth phone to a data plan and perhaps iPhone. Currently the fourth phone is $9.99 per month for the line. It has no dataplan and shares the unlimited SMS and MMS with the rest of us.

So here’s a small example of the charges I’ve been getting on that fourth line. Three entries in May is a good example. Total $4.39. Not much in itself. Question is… how did it get there? What’s it for? How do I insure I don’t get charged again? Note they are all data out.

Looking at my June bill I see another one off charge on the 14 of June for $.38. Nothing really – almost rounding on a bill that exceeds $220 each month. So I’d sort of missed that I was being charged for data on a phone that ostensibly doesn’t have a data plan.

Let’s give AT&T credit. They could not explain to me what these charges are. They could not explain how this account incurs them. Yet like many things you learn stuff by probing. Turns out that this fourth line isn’t blocked on Internet. I never wanted Internet available on it. The line is not in my hands. Yet AT&T in their wisdom when we added the full family account with the unlimited SMS and MMS opened a little window in my fourth phone. You see you can’t have zero internet and still receive or send an MMS. So they say… the phone is internet enabled and thus you can get charges for GPRS. Wait I say. I don’t want data on that phone. He says would you like to block the internet access. This means you also won’t get pictures and your son can’t send them either.

Given the charges you can see that GPRS internet connections are not continuous or even used often.  If my son knows he can use data them I’m surprised. However I think it is broken on his phone. He cannot receive data. So why is AT&T charging for requests if they cannot deliver the info back???  At first Brian at AT&T tried to sell me a $10 unlimited package. Of course he didn’t know it was a Nokia N97 on the end of the line. He looked it up after a while. Ah he said SmartPhone. A handset that is not supported. That track and line of talk is another way they want to push the problem back to me.

So I asked for use cases. What use cases would only result in “data out”. Doesn’t look like they have ever served up any information to me. I’ve never had a charge for data in on this phone or account. I was assured that if the invoicing system says data out then it must be right. I asked him what for? How do I initiate this? In the almost 40 minutes on the phone I never got an answer. I was told I could monitor the actuals and then ask my son. Right now my son won’t remember what he was doing 15 days ago and it isn’t even timed as an event.

Thankfully we have no idea how these charges are generated. According to AT&T my phone might even be making the requests. Yet it doesn’t explain the infrequent usage. It would be daily or hourly if the phone was set up to make requests. These are a few one off charges on a couple of different days. So what’s the solution?

As the rep noted. He doesn’t seem to use much data. I answer – well he doesn’t think he has a data plan and knows that GPRS if used in other countries (after his Italian experience) is expensive. I ask about data plan options. Seems we are now in iPhone territory. I’m wishing I’d got an unlimited plan for him before June 7th. They won’t allow me a fourth rollover to unlimited.

So, I get a refund for the data charges that can’t be understood. I get plenty of you are a great customer in great standing… and the CEO wants to make sure you are very happy types of comments. I tell him otherwise. He suggest that a quick phone call will correct it  if it crops up again.

This is no way to run a business or create a relationship. As the customer buying services it is set up in a way I have no control over costs. I bought family SMS/MMS because there is no option. We are now a text based society. It’s insurance. Same thing. Renewing the iPhones I kept the unlimited plans even though non of us has yet exceeded 2GB in a month. I suspect data is about to become even more expensive – just when it should be getting cheaper.

I should not have to call because charges start creeping in. Now I expect I may have to call again next month to get a credit on some 50 cents or a few dollars. Thanks Brian I now know to look out for the charges and then call to get a credit. This is not a low cost or efficient solution for AT&T. Then perhaps I misunderstand how many dollars they reap in this way.

  • I have new plan.So here’s a small example of the charges I’ve been getting on that 2line This is no way to run a business .I should not have to call because charges start . charges my plan to exceeded $50.00 in messaging

  • T. Tim

    did you know that the fcc is looking into billing practices by the large wireless carriers. i would recommend that you go online to the fcc website and file a complaint. the site is easy to find and their complaint procedure is also easy to do quickly online. i did just that over billing overage fees – here is a summary of my complaints with att:

    i just received a marketing letter from Terry Stenzel
    (AT&T Vice President and General Manager No. Cal) thanking me for choosing AT$T and telling me about all the great new stuff AT&T has come up with. I wrote a letter back explaining to Terry that I didn’t choose AT&T – i am an apple iphone user with no choice of wireless provider. i also told him that instead of all the new stuff – why can’t att send me an autotext when they start charging exhorbitant overage rate fees to my wireless account so i can adjust my usage. i’m talking voice not data since i’m on the two year unlimited data plan but they still gouge you with voice overages. today i actually spoke at length with an att customer rep. i pointed out that a simple auto text that overage rates were about to kick in is a perfectly reasonable request and certainly not a technological hurdle. i won’t repeat myself but here’s a summary of a previous post i made regarding my talk with att:

    Just got off the phone earlier today with an ATT customer rep. he was explaining to me why ATT cannot send me a text alerting me to the fact that i have reached the limit of my minutes and will now be charged 45 cents per minute. his excuse is the ‘they system is just not set up to do that’. i pointed out that att currently auto texts me when i update my address on my account. att also auto att also autotexts me when my autopayment is confirmed. if there is any problem with the payment att sure as heck autotexts me to tell me and even
    provides their customer service number so i can take care of processing the payment right away. apparently, att can text me all kinds of information in real time regarding my account but no way in heck can they text me to tell me that i have entered the 45 cents per minute overage territory. let me tell you some of the things the rep said when i questioned his reasoning. (1) “the system is not set up to do that” (2) “we only text you on actual changes to your account” (3) “we do text you when your overage fees reach approx $100 or something like that”. (4) “we can’t text you any earlier because most customers wouldn’t want to be bothered.” I pointed out to the att rep that i can’t imagine anyone not wanting to know that they had reached overage per minute charges. the att rep said actually said to me, “well, we have 80 million customers. we can’t be texting everybody. it’s complicated. try doing our job for a day.” i couldn’t believe my ears. there is absolutely no technological reason that att couldn’t send customers an autotext when they begin charging overage rates. they’ll text you to tell you “your address has been updated’ but no way in heck will they text you to say ‘hey dear customer, you’re now getting hit with 45 cents per minute’. they won’t do it because overage fees are a CASH COW and listening to an att rep give excuses on why this particular overage alert autotext is ‘not realistic’ ‘not possible’ etc is PATHETIC. shame on you att – following in the footsteps of the big banks who reap billions in fees – a game they’ve set-up. att is not interested in helping you avoid overages – they sticking their foot out and hope you fall right into their overage hole.

  • Christain

    How many entry level customer service reps have a degree in computer programming? The request that the previous post makes may be a simple solution but the person answering the phone has no authority to create a program to send a text when you incur overages. It would probably take many escalations and several policy changes by upper management to implement the text.

  • disqus_GoeMs7PA9I

    I know this is an old article but I’m having this problem right now. See, I’ve never even had a smartphone. Yes, still in 2019. And just a few weeks ago I noticed that I’ve been getting data charges. The first time I noticed it was after receiving an MMS from a family member. I knew what charges to expect ahead of time. 20 cents a minute, or 25 cents per text. So when I saw a charge for 49 cents I was a little baffled. But considering it was MMS that might have been why, so I shrugged it off. I know the family member uses a smartphone. But it still shouldn’t charge me for that. Other times when I’ve had a pay as you go phone with AT&T I never recalled getting charged data for texts, even with MMS. Now ever since that MMS I noticed a few other charges. I think once or twice I may have accidentally opened the web browser on my flip phone, but I always closed out of it right away and usually I get a text right away saying how much I was charged… never got a text right after those incidents though. However, I’ve gotten spam texts with links in them recently, and noticed I got charged 2 cents somewhere after receiving them. Are they charging me for having links texted to me that I don’t want? I sure hope not. I don’t like being charged for stuff that I shouldn’t be charged for, they could at least explain why it’s happening or why it started to happen now. There’s no info available on the data charges, just the amount of data and the charge it incurred.

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