Save yourself some money and some grief by checking your AT&T cell phone bill

5 01 2009

It was back to the real world today so what better way to plunge in than to pay a few bills. After the car payment (our last!) and credit card, I logged on to the AT&T site to pay our cell phone bill. It was $10 more than last month’s so I immediately went in search of the $10 in question. Boy, am I glad I did.

We had been scammed. On one of my college-age son’s accounts, a $9.99 charge had been added under “Mobile Purchases and Downloads.”  The purchase was for a monthly service called Predicto by the merchant Open Market. But get this, the contact number provided was 1-800-331-0500. That number is AT&T wireless customer service. The exact number that is printed on all their bills.

When I googled Predicto Open Market, I was even more disturbed/angry/outraged. According to the site 800notes.com, folks across the country are having this charge added to their bills. AT&T apparently has some shadow relationship with Open Market that handles the billing.

When I called AT&T customer service, the rep knew immediately what I was talking about and worked quickly to cancel the service. What she told me about how this fee was added to my son’s cell line was even more disturbing. She said that my son most likely got a lengthy text about this service, which he undoubtedly ignored. By ignoring the text, he unwittingly agreed to the service. In other words, he would have had to answer the text to decline the service. Outrageous.

I politely told the CS rep that while this practice may not be illegal (AT&T is too smart for that), it is undoubtedly unethical. And what they are gaining in profits will soon cost them in customer goodwill. She courteously removed the service but gave me the bad news that I would have to wait 1 to 2 billing cycles for my refund. Needless to say, I documented the call, along with her name and location in Kansas.

How do you avoid these charges in the future? I had a “purchase blocker” put on all four of our lines, free of charge by the way, which requires the use of a pin number before making a mobile or download purchase.

Bottom line, however, is to be vigilant about checking your cell phone bills — and all bills. It could save you some cash and some grief.

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3 responses

5 01 2009
LM

They’re ugly practices will eventually come and bite them in the rear end.
Verizon has their “moments” too.

In order to make sure I was up-to-date with the CA. laws I had to upgrade my old cell to a new one, one that was Bluetooth compatible. Easy. I went in to the Verizon store picked out a phone, told the representative/salesperson that I wasn’t interested in internet access at that time and asked if I was required to do so (Blackberry and Verizon require, but Palm doesn’t). I made sure, I asked the salesperson to assure me that there was no way to access the internet…he assured. I was satisfied.

Well, a month later, I opened my bill to find it massively inflated. Nearly $800. When I called the rep I was told that I had accessed the internet (I was later told it was a two minute connect and did look accidental) and had been charged accordingly. I told her I didn’t have access to the internet and it was a mistake and I should be credited.
After two days, two reps, hours and hours of conversing I was told that they wouldn’t credit my account but said that if I signed up for their $25 a month plan for access that they would consider removing the charge.

I felt as if I’d been blackmailed.

I’ve heard similar from many people using different companies. I do hope in the future that these sorts of practices will be considered illegal rather than just unethical. The phone and cell phone companies have been getting away with legalized highway robbery for too long now, it’s time we clean house (a lot of that going on lately).

Thank you for letting people know.

LM

6 01 2009
Quenfis

Yikes! I’m just about to switch my wife’s phone from Sprint to AT&T for the iPhone. I will need to pass this along to her and make sure I check that bill each month.

Mobile phone services have never made me comfortable. I think they are over priced and most plans are a total scam. I pay almost nothing for my home phone, yet the cell phone bill is almost as much as my internet and cable tv bill. It just boggles me.

9 01 2009
mike

The cost of house phones and regular phones makes me want to use just email all the time. One day owning a phone I think will become a luxury.

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