Third-Party Text Packages Cost Subscriber $7,000 In One Month

TampaForums member Treysdad received a $7,243.29 bill after subscribing to numerous third-party text packages. By purchasing an unlimited text message plan from Nextel, Treysdad thought he could receive any texts for free.

Of course I am all giddy because they have made an error right? Well, to my surprise they didn’t. The guy on the phone is looking at my bill and tells me that most of the charges are from third parties. I’m like wtf? He says that although I may have unlimited text messages, the texts I am sending and receiving carry additional charges. Basically when I send a text to get my horoscope, they are registering me for some subscription for $29.99. I’ve sent out hundreds of those texts you see on tv. Now I’m pissed. moreso at these companies that don’t tell you that you are being charged so much to get a fricken joke or something everyday. I tell the guy that I have unlimited texts and I should be able to send and receive all I want based on my text message plan.

Third party text packages advertisements can be spotted a mile away, screaming: “Text ‘purple monkey dishwasher’ to 5555 for your free ABBA ringtone, NOW!”


The item ordered may sound cheap; a ringtone or horoscope for $0.99. Some users don’t realize they may also be subscribing to a service with monthly fees ranging from $2.99 to $29.99.

It’s not Nextel’s fault that people are gullible, but cellphone companies could help more. Currently, customers either get all text-messages, or none. By allowing users to block certain senders, and only allowing third-party vendors to pass along the charges for messages received, confusions like Treysdad’s could be avoided.

Always read the fine print, and stay away from “text now!” services…. especially if purple monkey dishwashers are involved. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

I Just Got A $7,000 Cell Phone Bill [Tampa Forums (Thanks to Carlo!)]

Comments

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  1. Nick says:

    “… by allowing users to block certain senders”.
    You imply that cellphone companies don’t allow this, but they do!

    Although you can’t call and ask them to block all third-party providers in a single swoop, T-Mobile gladly lets customers blacklist these creeps on an individual basis. Another mark of T-Mobile’s excellent customer service?

  2. scoobydoo says:

    Serves him right for not reading the 100th of an inch large warning on the commercials that pops up for 4 nano seconds.

    I’m from Europe and have done some work in this area, we had this premium SMS hell years ago till the various agencies finally took some action, now I guess many of them decided that it was time to move on to those suckers in the US and see if they can be scammed the same way.

    Of course, the networks are “innocent”, but they do forget to mention that THEY have to approve each and every one of the premium SMS shortcodes issued. Rest assured that T-mobile, Sprint, Verizon and the others REALLY don’t mind grabbing that revenue.

    Just so you know, operators take OVER 50% of the revenue generated on these numbers (source: http://www.zim.biz/wireless/ZIM_PL_USPremSMS_02.pdf )

    The ONLY restriction the operators set is that you have to be able to opt out. They don’t set rules on the opt out word (sometimes it’s just “stop”, sometimes if the supplier is an asshole it’s more complicated like “stop messages”).

    I’m confident that the world of premium SMS services is going to go insane here, just like it did in Europe in the late 90’s/early 2000’s.

    Let’s just hope that the FCC is paying attention and steps in on time.

  3. FishingCrue says:

    When you try to beat the system, sometimes the system wins. It’s hard to feel bad for someone gullible enough not to figure out that there HAS to be a catch — at the very least television advertising isn’t free.

  4. medalian1 says:

    he is an idiot for thinking it was included in his plan

  5. scoobydoo says:

    I really don’t agree with calling him an idiot. Perhaps a little naive, but certainly not an idiot. He probably pays $10 to $20 a month for unlimited messages, sees a commercial offering ringtones and other content sent through text messaging and simple adds 1 and 1. The operator never directly warn you about these services, and the disclaimers warning about the price are really really well hidden.

    He’s probably one of 1000’s of people that fall for this scam. If any other kind of product or provider did this all hell would break loose.

  6. valel says:

    naive.

  7. NeoteriX says:

    I have a little sympathy for this guy. From the forum postings he appears to remain a decent human being despite the fact that everyone is pointing out how stupid he is. However, my spidey-sense goes off big-time whenever I see any late night advertisement, and it seems like people should be at least a little suspicious about these things.


    I have a little bit more sympathy for him given how slow government is to respond with pro-consumer legislation. Hopefully some state DA will be able to sue with some state “unfair and deceptive trade practices” law


    @scoobydoo:

    I don’t know much on the issue, but this:

    Of course, the networks are “innocent”, but …Rest assured that T-mobile, Sprint, Verizon and the others REALLY don’t mind grabbing that revenue.

    Seems to directly conflict with

    Now the guy tells me there isn’t anything Nextel can do. They aren’t the ones charging me.

  8. adamondi says:

    Every single time I have seen an ad for one of those stupid “joke a day” or “horoscope a day” text messaging things, they do put up a “premium text messaging rate of $0.99 per day applies” line at the bottom of the screen. If this guy ignored these warnings, or didn’t check to make sure that his assumption that these would be included in his unlimited plan was correct, then he has just learned a very painful, and expensive lesson.

    I would call him an idiot, though. If a person had unlimited messaging and signed up for a couple of the premium text messaging services, then fine. Everyone makes mistakes. However, this guy somehow managed to sign up for so many of these stupid “services” that he racked up $7243.29 in charges. That is a TON of “joke a day” messages. That crap could annoy a saint after just a few of those per day.

  9. louiedog says:

    If this was a $70, or $170 bill I’d feel bad for the guy. But $7000? What was he thinking? That makes me feel bad for him, any potential spouse, and his poor shoeless future children.

    He’s probably unemployed as well. Think of all the late night TV you’d have to watch to find $7000 worth of those commercials.

  10. Jesse in Japan says:

    You’ve sent out hundreds of text messages to places you see on TV, including places to get your horoscope? OK, what you need to do here is cancel all of your credit cards, empty your bank accounts, buy as much rice and corn as you can, and basically just go back to using barter.

  11. paraxysm says:

    You always have to follow the golden rule. Advertising costs money. Advertising on TV especially costs a good amount of money, why would someone spend a lot of money for you to get free ringtones?

    Nothing in life is free, this should be common sense.

  12. kim says:

    What a tool.
    Those commercials are screamingly obvious scans and it’s very clear that you’re essentially handing them your phone and kissing your wallet goodbye.
    I threatened to remove my son’s cell phone if he ever called one of these numbers, and that was years ago!
    Best thing: get something pay as you go. I never get unwanted text messages.

  13. JLam4911 says:

    Well, getting a bullshit horoscope texted to you is your first mistake.

  14. Pete Gaines says:

    I have no sympathy for this dumbass. It’s just the 21st century version of 900 numbers, and if you couldn’t figure that out from the popup ads and low-budget commercials on late-night cable, then it serves you right.

  15. Steve_Holt says:

    I wonder if he subscribed to “Text-Flirt.” You’ve seen the commercials with all the hot girls gathered around their phones, waiting to be, err… text-flirted-with by some unsuspecting chump. Man, that’s got to be the most retarded service I have ever seen in my life. I would love to have confirmation of at least one person in the world using this thing. So far, haven’t found him (or her).

  16. skyyguy says:

    Fine print. How many times do people have to learn to read the fine print.
    I wonder if he will get a loan from cashcall.com. Thats almost 90% interest.

  17. CockeyedOptimist says:

    to quote borat…he is retard.

  18. cerealfan says:

    Subscriptions don’t exactly have anything directly to do with sending or receiving. It’s telling someone to send you something regularly and paying for that service. For example, those annoying magazine subscription postcards (in the U.S., at least). As a U.S. citizen, I already receive free snail mail. I can send in as many “No Postage Necessary if Mailed Within the United States” cards from magazines as I want (for free), but I’m still going to get bills from them. Smart consumers usually ask themselves, “What’s the catch?”

  19. Mr. Gunn says:

    I can help Treysdad out. I recently inherited TEN MILLION US DOLLARS from a Mrs. Miriam Abacha, and I can give him some of that, if he’ll just send a money order to cover postage fees to my associate.

  20. superbmtsub says:

    Last year around the time of Hurrican Katrina, I got like 3 text messages (once daily) with like pr0n kinda wordings in em. I thought somebody subscribed me to some pr0n txt scam. Freaked out. Luckily for me, my plan was almost over, so I renewed it and got a new line.

    Sometimes, they get you even if you dont “text-flirt”

  21. superbmtsub says:

    forgot to add sayin that the txt msgs came from Florida.

  22. royal72 says:

    shoulda known better, that said, “you must be 18 to subscribe”. so someone under 18 used your phone ;)

  23. HawkWolf says:

    I worry about the sanity and intelligence of anyone who actually watches those horrible text message commercials and is convinced to try whatever they’re advertising.

    The joke ones are the worst, that weird 3D animated crap with dogs laughing in the background. Eesh.

  24. The Unicorn says:

    I agree that this is a case where “buyer beware” comes heavily into play…to me, this is akin to someone not realizing that the rates go up after your first free minute of consultation with Miss Cleo (or whatever). I’ve never seen one of those ads without wondering/worrying about who their target market was, & I guess this post answers that question somewhat.

    My mind is still boggling at how those services managed to total over $1,000, let alone $7,000+

  25. kubus_gt says:

    I always wondered who bought into to that SMS crap… now I know.

  26. Greg L says:

    Sprint lets you block all premum SMS messages by calling customer care.

    This is EXACTLY like 900 numbers, as another commenter posted. Your carrier doesn’t charge you. Honest. They just “pass the charges on.” Strangely enough, though, you sure don’t get them on a separate bill or anything, you just get them on your carrier’s bill as if the carrier charged them. It’s really quite deceptive, and honestly, I think that it would be more fitting for the carriers to have a “Customers First” policy where if you call to dispute a premium SMS, they refund you and withhold the payment from the shady 3rd party. Let said shady 3rd party come after you if they think they have a legitimate right to charge you.

    It’s even more deceptive for things like the Deal or No Deal contest entries – where they say “To enter this contest, text WORD to 12345!” and never verbally disclose the premium SMS fee of $1 per entry. I could see to an extent why the guy thought he would get all the stuff for free. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I could see it.