Reader Wants Class-Action Text Message Lawsuit Against T-Mobile

One of our readers is so upset about the T-Mobile text increase that he wants to gather a coalition of the willing together for a class action lawsuit.

In short, his argument is this: T-Mobile has contracts with all of its existing subscribers. But instead of allowing subscribers under contract to continue sending text messages at the agreed-upon rate, T-Mobile is saying that they have to pay more, but if they don’t want to, they can opt-out of the contract with no additional penalty.

In other words, T-Mobile is enjoying the best of both worlds. It will not even blink about holding you liable for a breached contract, but it won’t honor its own terms… it will simply slather the onus on you to drop-out if you’re bothered enough to take your business elsewhere.

Of course, there’s the very real question concerning whether or not T-Mobile subscribers are even under a legally enforceable contract, which our sue-happy correspondent mentions. If they aren’t (which is probable), it stands to reason T-Mobile isn’t bound to the terms of their own contract either. Which might kill the class-action lawsuit idea, but is pretty convenient for T-Mobile, as it allows them to bully customers into thinking they are in a legally binding contract without having to deliver on any of the service guarantees that contracts usually entail.

Us? Unlike Poppy Z. Brite, we’re not really into lawsuits. Speak with your wallet, opt-out, take your business elsewhere. But if you’re interested in Gregg’s argument, it’s after the jump.

I wanted to leave a TIP on the T-Mobile text message increase, but I don’t have an invitation…

Essentially, T-Mobile’s practice of requiring a contract or service agreement goes both ways. As a OmniPoint, then VoiceStream, and now T-Mobile subscriber, I can tell you that they not only have the worst customer service (all cellular companies could give a damn about anything but your bill payment), but their unilateral increase of a customer’s rates during a contract is both unconscionable and illegal.

First of all, in several US states, all subscription agreements must be in writing. Electronic agreements are being grandfather-in, but the basic public policy behind such laws is to prevent consumer fraud. What, you say? A large corporation trying to take advantage of it’s customers? Impossible.. that would never happen!

Second, when T-Mobile or any other company (or individual) takes such an action, they surely contemplate the fact that a certain percentage of their customers will get really pisssed an leave. Moreover, if they are savvy, they will also weigh the profits from such a change against the risks associated with legal exposure from such actions. For telecommunication companies, legal exposure comes in several flavors such as regulatory violations (FCC, FTC, etc.), state and federal law, and contract violations. In the present case, persons with existing contracts are being “given” the ability to opt-out of their T-Mobile agreements without penalty. Let me state that a different way.

Persons with existing service agreements with T-Mobile can enforce their contract rights by suing T-Mobile for specific performance of the text messaging rate effective at the time of their agreement, which will remain effective until their agreement terms change due to their choice or termination of the agreement.

The problem here is that attorney’s are expensive, and everyone typically can’t afford the time or money to sue T-Mobile.

I have a solution… it’s called a class action lawsuit, and I am thinking of doing just that. My reasons are simple. T-Mobile has just DOUBLED their SMS income. By the way, SMS messages are practically free from the perspective of a service provider. Blocks of 160 characters (SMS total message size, or 140 8-bit bytes) fly through a GSM cell system almost completely unnoticed, when compared to GPRS or voice traffic. The SMS premium is absolutely outrageous when you actually calculate what it costs to send the most expensive SMS message (internationally, less that a fraction of a penny). Thus, not only do the wireless carriers make a killing on their voice service rates, but they make hundreds of time more PROFIT on SMS messages. A service provider that charges say $0.45 per minute of voice communication will realize from $30 to $60 a minute for SMS traffic, depending on the underlying digital cellular data rate.

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Comments

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  1. The only problem I see with this type of class action suit, is that there is little incentive for an attorney. If there were punitive damages that could be awarded, then there would be lawyers chomping at the bit to go after T-Mobile, but instead all we are looking at is suing for performance…not too many attorneys will go pro bono against a company like T-mobile. You’d be better off starting an anti-T-mobile campaign to cost T-mobile as much customers as possible so that they change their minds.

    Lastly, it’s ridiculous the cost of text messaging in the states. Almost everywhere else in the world text messaging is less than a penny a message.

  2. Das Ubergeek says:

    Time for this person to learn how class-action lawsuits happen. The first thing that happens is you, the private citizen, hire an attorney on your own dime and sue T-Mobile.

    Then, assuming they don’t settle with you, you take time off of work and go to court and there you petition the judge to admit a class of people under Federal Rule 23. You have to prove that the class is big enough (which, in this case, is a doddle), that the case law will be similar for the class (doddle), and that there won’t be any weird ‘additional’ judgments asked for by various other members of the class. This is all pretty easy stuff but it’s paperwork, written at your expense, $300 or so an hour.

    In addition, because of legal ethics, you’d have to find attorneys who don’t have T-Mobile… conflict of interest, you know.

    IF the class is certified and IF T-Mobile settles, you MIGHT get your money back as part of the settlement. Usually, that happens — but it takes years (notice the plural).

    Do you really want to do that instead of paying your $175 and jumping ship to a different wireless provider?

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Jay writes:

    “I am writing to request that I be allowed to comment to “Reader Wants Class-Action Text Message Lawsuit Against T-Mobile.” The two current comments discuss the feasibility of filing a class action lawsuit. The first suggests that the proposed case might be too small to justify a class action. The second argues that, unless a consumer is individually willing to pony up thousands of dollars to pay a lawyer, a class action will not get off the ground. As a class action attorney myself, I can tell you that neither is the case. Dealing with the second comment first, class action lawyers – almost always – take cases on a contingency basis. That means that a named plaintiff is not responsible for paying any fees upfront. As for the issue of whether there are enough damages to justify a suit, without getting into the merits, the whole purpose of class actions is to allow a lot of individuals who each has suffered small damages to pool together to recover what collectively is a large amount. If T-Mobile systematically overcharged its customers, the suit likely would not be too small to justify bringing.”

  4. karlie says:

    Karlie Schaaf
    4026 Linden Hills Blvd
    Minneapolis, MN 55410

    11/06/2006

    T-Mobile Wireless Legal Department
    12920 Southeast 38th Street
    Bellevue, WA 98006-1350

    612-812-7127 MAIN
    612-501-7306 IN DISPUTE

    On October 24th, I spent about 2 hours on the phone with TMobile representatives regarding text messaging charges. It is my teenage daughter’s phone & was replaced in August when she had it stolen. We have had all our phones set to block text messages via filters as well as changing the service center number per the prior instructions of TMobile representatives. The only thing that happened was that my daughter got a new phone which I assumed was still set-up as it was on the old phone – therefore the technical issue was TMobile’s concern & they should cover those charges. My daughter is underage and has no adult right to contract for services I did not approve. I have made it plain to TMobile repeatedly that I do not want the text messaging services & do not feel I should be forced into having this service simply because TMobile is not technically equipped to deal with it.

    I had made it plain that under no circumstances did I want text messaging & that I had strongly considered changing companies in April because of the text messaging issues. When I spoke to representatives on Oct 24 about the new charges for text messaging, they offered no reduction in the charges for the text messages. I contacted customer care via email – asking how to block incoming text messages. Here’s the response (in part):

    “the filters that you have viewed on T-Mobile website are to block unwanted incoming text messages. This means the server will screen all text messages with the filter you setup to block any unwanted messages.”

    It was confirmed (via phone) that these blocks had been in place since April & remained in place throughout the time period when the text messages began again. I made payment on the bill for $239.33 – reduced by $82.50 which is an estimate of the charges for incoming text messages which in all cases should have been blocked.

    I have made repeated attempts to send this information to T-Mobile via the email contact info on the web-site – it does not work.

    I still dispute the other charges & insist that T-Mobile refund them, and stop forcing this service on me or if that cannot occur release me from my contractual obligations with no early termination fee. I expect that my phone service will not be terminated for non-payment while this issue is in dispute.

    Thank you for your considerate attention to this matter.


    Karlie Schaaf

  5. ksankey says:

    I would love to see a class action suit against TMobile. They are scam artist. Number one they are using your SS number for ID purposes or at least the last four digits. I ask them to stop and not store my SS number as they are not collecting taxes from and should not be retaining my SS number. It’s their policy. Which is the answer to any dispute you may have with them.

    I have been a customer of TMobile for 4 years and have always paid my bill in full on time. Last month I had a dispute about an over charge for two phones. I paid by bill minus what I felt was on over charge until I could clear up the issue-yeah fat chance. After exactly 30 days they shut off my service and I had to pay the full amount or I was in breech of the contract which would cost me $200 per phone – I have three on my family plan. In the 30 days T Mobile called my cell phone, since they do have the number at least twice a day and text message me like I was some dead beat customer who never paid their bill. A bit harassing I’d say. My last issue is when I look up my account on line they have all sort of information about me, my plan, my bill etc. but nothing about my contract or when it ends. I called and complain and their rep said it’s like selling a house you don’t advertise the bad things about it. What???? They aren’t trying to sell me something I’m alread a customer.

  6. vegasmongoose says:

    T mobile pre pay service has been shut down for the past 3 days without notifiying customers that they will be upgrading their system..I own a business that has suffered thousands of dollars by not being able to recharge my minutes…I further have gone to other providers to switch but they cannot use my old number till t-mobile has fixed their system….there has to be alot of us involved in this situation since they now have a prerecorded message for their customer care center they arent even taking further calls….class action smells real good…and i have the money to support the fees needed ….i just need to get the names of the thousands affected…..this ball is starting to roll!!

  7. jeanraymond says:

    from what I read most are complaining about the charge of text’s message and, what it cost to send I’m perplex here I’m beeing charged for every text message thats sent to me and I don’t read them and don’t care to read them . I called T-mobil and said I dont want that feature on my phone and all they can say is its a built in feature of my services? I explained I dont want the feature since I did not order such a service and I have no control on who sends me a text ,if some one wants to send me a thousands text message. I have to pay. If some hacker can develop a program to send indiscriminately text to thousands and thousands to one person ,no one would have control , if someone is pised at me and wish to send repeated text’s to pis me off I have no control of the charge. The rep at t-mobil says the .15 is t-mobil money not paid out to others for shaired services so that only tells me its a t-mobil profit scam and we have no control on our services but to drop them. and from what I read , they are making that easy to opout because the thousands they loose is less than the millions they get for slipping the text charge in the bill and for me I didnt know because I dont get my bilbecause my AMX card auto pays each mt. so it may be mt’s I dont see the bill only when I may have a Question and this mt’s seemed a little high so I inquired .it wasnt because the text charges that put the bill up they were only .15 on mine and .45 on my wife but since we dont text’s. My question came out to the girl on the phone and she explained ,so I asked how long has it been going on and she said I dont know since I dont have your records back 7 years, but its been since this contract this pass year and for sure the one before that. so who has control of your services ? It’s not you ! and that should be not the case . I asked the girl phone # so I can text her when ever I liked and I will give my friends her number also and she can call me and tell me how unhappy she is from her bill and then I can say to her , “We’ll Its part of your plan!” but she declined ! I wonder why?