AT&T To Charge $5 For Payments Over The Phone In May

An anonymous AT&T employee who says to call him “Vernon” wrote in to tell us that starting next Tuesday, March 11th, some customers in the Southeast who call in to make a payment will be charged $5, with the fee going nationwide by May. He writes, “I feel this is taking advantage of our customers’ trust, because even when we put it on all of their bills, and let people know, there will be tons of reps that won’t let the customer know they’re being charged for taking their payment.”

Here’s his full email:

I have been working for ATT (Cingular, before SBC bought ATT Wireless) and starting March 11th, they are going to be doing a trial in the Southeast Market in charging customers who call in to make a payment. $5 is the charge to be exact, and they expect it to roll out nationwide by May.

I would be forwarding you the official internal memo, but they do monitor our emails with Nazi prowess…so no official email from them..

This upsets me as two fronts, as first, a customer. Why the fuck would they CHARGE their customers for taking their payments?

“So, you’re telling me I have to give you MORE money for giving you my regular payment?”

“Yep”

Secondly, it upsets me as an employee. I feel this is taking advantage of our customer’s trust, because even when we put it on all of their bills, and let people know, there will be tons of reps that won’t let the customer know they’re being charged for taking their payment.

I feel that if this gets enough word and bad press, maybe this shit ball of a company will change its mind.

Well, you’re welcome AT&T, we just helped alert readers to your new fee scheme.

We doubt they’ll drop the fee, though—it sounds like a classic case of a company deciding to no longer foot the bill for what was formerly an included customer service.

Prediction: someone will introduce “live operator” surcharges in the next 24 months.

(Photo: Guillermo Esteves)

Comments

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  1. jwarner132 says:

    Comcast already has a fee like this; I think it’s $4 to pay over the phone.

  2. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    This is the sort of abuse I expect from Ma Bell 2.0.

  3. JustaConsumer says:

    I have no idea why anyone is still with AT&T. They are the worst. They screwed me over several times before I finally left. Do yourself a favor, switch to a consumer friendly company.

  4. Anonymous says:

    My bank charges $10 to take a payment over the phone for my home loan.

  5. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    @JustaConsumer: They’re practically the only game in town.

  6. novelgirl says:

    I just tried paying my Circuit Chase credit card bill on the phone b/c I lost my bill and it’s $14 and change to pay them on the phone. Say what?!
    Needless to say, I didn’t pay over the phone.
    Fees, fees, fees… nothing but fees all around.

  7. DigitalMariner says:

    Just to add to the pile here it’s $7 to RCN cable to pay over the phone.

  8. jadenton says:

    Pay by phone is a huge scam. Most times an automated system takes routing and bank account numbers, so no human is involved. Then, they process the numbers through the federally run ACH system. The fed charges them .4 CENTS for this transaction. All told it is probably less for them than processing a paper check. So the fee is pure profit.

  9. coelacanth says:

    This is the rule, rather than the exception, among utility-type companies with monthly recurring fees: my mortgage company, electric company, gas company & cable company (comcast) all charge fees for credit card payments. Only Sprint holds the line!

    My last cable company, RCN, was totally frank about the fee being for “convenience,” rather than cost. Because that’s what the business model: find a way to monetize every single thing about them that you might view in a postive (or even neutral) light.

  10. jaydez says:

    More than half the companies I deal with on a regular basis do this. If you need to pay by phone you are cutting your bills way too close. Pay 7-10 days before the due date by check… or go online and make the payment. Its not that tough.

  11. @jaydez: I only got three of my last bills three days before they were due. Now what? Go, go, gadget time machine?

  12. DadCooks says:

    This is just the beginning (charging fees to pay-by-phone or in person). Soon “they” will be charging to pay-online. “They” are wanting to shift us to directly debiting our checking accounts

  13. bohemian says:

    Both our gas & electric utilities (Both multi-state rather large ones) want to charge you $3-4 to make a payment online with a credit card, debit card or e-check.
    So far you can still make phone payments. If you send in a paper check or an automatic payment from your bank it will get lost in their system for about two weeks before it posts to your account. This frequently causes people to incur a late fee even though you paid far ahead.

    I would bet they will start charging for phone payments, then for sending them a check.

    I think it is time for some government law or Public Utility Commission rules barring companies from charging you to end services or charging you to make a payment.

  14. bohemian says:

    @DadCooks: Nope no freaking way!
    I let very darn few companies have access to debiting my account.

  15. UndergroundT says:

    I had an apartment complex deny my cash payment and tell me that I would have to pay rent with a check or debit card. Then I was told there was a 10 dollar processing fee with debit cards and 6 dollars for checks. Unfortunately this was the first month of my 6 month lease.

  16. trickonion says:

    They’re charging you money, in order to receive your money?

    Man, normally I thought no power in the ‘verse could stop companies from finding ways to take your money. Shouldnt they be happy you’re paying your bills?

  17. Kat@Work says:

    Use a credit union/bank that has a web bill pay feature where they will send the payment electronically or mail the check (at no charge!) for you. Then if its late, they will pay the fees, as long as you had it set to pay by the due date on the bill.

  18. Tank says:

    I think it’s my fault for even having service to begin with. It’s a stupid tax. /sarcasm

  19. subodhgupta says:

    Is it “You will be charged to pay on phone if a rep is involved” and “You will NOT be charged if you pay by phone using the automated system?”

    Or is the case that it does not matter?

    At-least with Comcast if you pay by phone using the automated system, there is no charge.

  20. soulman901 says:

    AT&T has announced that they are starting a new program to ensure that people get connected to the right party. Called Right Party Connect. Now each time you push a button on the phone you’ll be charged 10 Cents. Local Calls which are .70 Cents and Long distance calls which are 1 Dollar will ensure that your call goes through everytime you punch in the correct number. No need to call us to activate this wonderful feature. It’s already mandatory and in place. We’ll even go back and retro charge you for the past three months so you won’t have to go looking up your old phone bills.
    Right Connect – It’s what is Right with AT&T

    *Right Connect does not guarentee that you will be connected to the right party or even the person you tried to call. No refunds period for missed calls, wrong numbers, little billy getting ahold of the phone. If you disagree with this new fee we will send over our “family” to take care of the problem.

  21. samurailynn says:

    I pay pretty much all of my bills online and none of them are charging me payment fees yet. I generally try to avoid having to call businesses because I hate wading through the phone messages and talking to people. I really hope they don’t start charging for online payments. Mailing things is my biggest weakness. It can sit in my house with a stamp on it for days before making it to the mailbox.

  22. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    @Tank:
    nah thats the truth. Having a cell phone is a availablity tax. Want to be available 24/7 then buy a cell phone. But they give a cell phone a power button, and sometimes you miss calls, so your being falsly taxed. It’s time to riot.

  23. backbroken says:

    @jaydez: Um, most also charge for paying online.

    I love the logic of charging someone for the convenience of making your payment. Seriously, when did we let this happen? Rise up!!

  24. bravo369 says:

    I think Banana republic has this also. i called up to pay my bill and the lady told me there was a $10 fee to pay over the phone. I said to her “You’re charging me because I want to pay you? do you realize how ridiculous that is?” and after a few seconds of silence she said “i know sir but it’s policy”. Needless to say i paid by snail mail

  25. Ciao_Bambina says:

    The electric/gas utility I work for is FORBIDDEN by the state commission to include any fees charged by credit card/debit card companies in the overall energy rates, and has ORDERED us to include it as part of the paynment of any customer who chooses to pay with a credit or debit card.

    They wouldn’t allow us to eat it if we wanted to!

  26. AMetamorphosis says:

    I refuse to do business with any merchant that wants to charge me a “convience charge ” for paying my bill.

    Nor will I allow ANYONE to automatically debit my accounts.

    Set up online bill paying and set your own system to automatically pay the bill. I have never paid one of these fees nor will I in the future.

    I sincerely sympathis with those of you that have gotten bills late and have been placed in this quandry.

  27. Wynner3 says:

    Hey, it’s better than Mervyns! They charge you $15 to take a payment over the phone, I nearly crapped in my pants when they told me that. I promptly went down to the nearest store (3 minutes from my house) and paid there.

  28. Scuba Steve says:

    It would be a lot less bitter to swallow if they started actually advertising all their fees and surcharges added on.

  29. thirdbase says:

    screw em it costs them more to process a paper check that an online or phone payment. Pay all your bills by check. If no uses the phone payment or online payment systems they will cease to be profit centers. I personally will never ever pay a company to receive my money. How would it play out if you told your employer that each time you got a paycheck he had to pay you a processing fee.

  30. Eshin says:

    As a FORMER employee, of the “New AT&T” I can let everyone in on a few items. I remember arguments from the upper management for this fee, the main one of which that we use a 3rd party company that charges us to make payments through them. From what I understand this is true, yet it’s not even close to 5.00. The Fee is a simple trick in a few ways. They are trying to make you pay online, to eliminate staff, yes you are putting your own job at risk employees, or to make you pay by mail which may take time to post to the account and cause the payment to be late. More fees on your side.

    It might be something one should look at in regards to fees when paid with credit cards. I know it’s big no-no in the Visa play book for any company to charge you extra for making a payment. That whole “Minimum” purchase is a violation of Visa’s merchant agreement. Hope this helps.

    -Eshin

  31. vex says:

    I think they do this because they know most people paying by phone are doing so because it’s too late to send in a check, or whatever other payment method they usually use. They know the customer has a choice between a big late fee or a smaller almost-late fee. Seems to me the practice should be illegal, but they certainly get around it. A few of the businesses I use charge extra to “rush” your payment within 1-2 days even if you make it online via their website. Put folks between a rock and a hard place, and the company can’t lose.

  32. greggdetroit does not like the American South says:

    This happened to me just yesterday, MARCH 5! I was trying to pay my DSL bill and set up automatic payment. When “christine” (who knows how real those names are) told me this, i asked to speak to her supervisor, was placed on hold and then told she was given a “coupon code” to take care of the 5$ dollar charge. If comcast wasn’t such an inept company, i would have canceled right there on the spot.

    I really hate having to pay to pay!

  33. SuffolkHouse says:

    I don’t know when the Worst Company Ever will be announced, but I regretted nominating Verizon when AT&T clearly ought to win.

    I had a cell phone contract with AT&T for one year, about 7 years ago. They have lost my business forever. I avoid everything AT&T touches because they are ruthless bastards on the phone. AT&T deserves every shitty customer service review that consumer reports gives them. They are THE worst.

  34. SuffolkHouse says:

    @soulman901: I was at O’Hare Airport with $1.00, completing an overseas flight. Waiting for a connection, I decided to call my wife. The AT&T phone said I needed $.50 for the first three minutes. I got change, put the money in the slot, dialed my home number, and a recording told me there was no such number. Then it refused to return my money.

    So, I tried the next $.50 and called again. This time, the wrong number picked up. Evidently, I don’t know my own phone number. So, I didn’t get my money back this time either.

    Here is where the story gets fun. I dialed “0” and got an operator. I told the operator what had happened, and she explained that there were directions on the phone for getting my money. In this case, I would need to mail in a complaint, an approach that wasn’t about to help me. I asked if I could make a collect call. She explained that the call could originate from the phone, but as a local provider she couldn’t connect the call. She asked me who my long distance provider was. I told her Verizon. Then she said, “I can’t connect you with Verizon, would you like me to connect you with a long distance provider?”

    I asked, “Which provider?”

    She said, “AT&T.”

    I asked, “Are you affiliated with AT&T?”

    She said, “I’m a local operator.”

    I asked, “Are you affiliated with AT&T?”

    She said, “You will need to be connected to a long distance provider to complete your call.”

    I said, “Will you please tell me if you are affiliated with AT&T?”

    She then explained that I didn’t need to know that. But when I continued to press, she relented telling me she was. She was channeling business to AT&T, who wanted $4.99 to connect the collect call and $1.15/minute once connected.

    I hate AT&T with a passion.

  35. ClutchDude says:

    I already heard this yesterday(from MS), in another bone headed move. When I merged my account into a family talk, they had not yet billed me for the next cycle.

    When I logged on to pay off the remaining balance on my account, my family talk account came up instead. So I get a collections letter later that month. Yikes. Turns out they just never billed me for the remaining amount.

    I called and paid it over the phone after making sure what it was, and though they already had the card to charge it to, said it would soon cost $5 to this.

    Personally, the first thing you hear when you call is “To Pay your bill.” $5 to just get a person to use the automated system? Jeez.

  36. ambrooks16 says:

    At&t is already charging the $5 fee. I have it on a bill dated Feb 15, 2008. When I called and asked about it, I was told about the new policy and he took the fee off the account on the spot. Apparently you even pay additional taxes on the fee, so it winds up being like $5.52.

  37. chocxtc says:

    This is just AT&T trying to make more money to fight us when we file a class action suit against them for illegally tapping our phones!!

  38. pfeng says:

    @JustaConsumer: There’s no other local phone company in my area (coincidentally, the Southeast). I’ve looked. They have about one more dumb-ass thing to do before I switch to Time Warner digital cable for phone and internet. Not that I’m a huge fan of TWC, either, but they’re better…

  39. icntdrv says:

    They did it to me in January.

  40. Syrenia says:

    I switched from Treo to iPhone over the weekend. When I did so, AT&T changed my account to paperless billing. When I called in to have it changed back, the rep told me that they are changing everyone (region by region) over to paperless and that we’ll have to pay $2.00 per month to receive a bill. He was (supposedly) able to switch me back, but he said eventually I’ll either have to go paperless or pay an extra monthly fee.

    I love it. I have to pay to get my bill.

  41. Anonymous says:

    @JustaConsumer: A what?

  42. Anonymous says:

    @Wynner3: When I worked for a Sh-print affiliate, we charged even for in-store payments.

  43. mikecolione says:

    I seriously doubt there will be a 5.00 charge for all payments. They probably want people to use the automated system (*PAY, paystations or online). They’ve been pushing for more online usage over the last year, and maybe this is just another push for that.

    We’re already supposed to charge 2.00 when paying the bill at a register instead of using the paystation, but no one in my store or other stores I’ve worked in have charged that fee in over 2 years…

  44. mikecolione says:

    @Syrenia: You don’t have to pay to get your bill. You will start getting a summary bill in the mail, and are able to view the detailed bill online for free.

    The reason is to save paper. If they sent a bill with everything detailed you’d have 20 pages of text messages (each one) and 300 pages of internet usage (each time your phone transmits data).

    If this wasn’t done you’d be complaining about receiving a box in the mail with your bill (as many people have done). If you really want the box, you can pay 1.99 a month to cover postage.

  45. drjayphd says:

    Eh, fair enough, I’ll just pay online at work.

    Oh, wait, I can’t because AT&T insists on using Flash on the login verification page, and that’s blocked at work.

    How’s Sprint again, and that SERO thingy?

  46. oregongal says:

    @thbarnes:
    I remember about a year and a half ago, I went into the local Sprint store to make a payment for my daughter [an over-the-road trucker]. I had pulled cash off her Comdata card [rather like a debit card for truckers] and was using it to make her payment. I was told by the clerk that there was a $6.00 fee for paying CASH! I was totally floored with that one. So I made the payment, then called her so that she could tell Sprint to kiss off.

  47. alulim says:

    @thbarnes:
    Sprint stores don’t charge you for making payments. You probably went to some 3rd party dealer.

  48. Gadgetgirl says:

    Like others have mentioned, many places charge for taking payments over the phone. Mostly folks who wait until the last minute to pay a bill are taking it without lube, as the reps will tell you that “Paying $10 now is cheaper than the late fee of $30… And some of these companies won’t even work with you and move the bill due date up a few days so that you can mail a payment or make on online (and don’t get me started on online payments with the cut off time of 2pm, business days only…you think you’ve made it by making a payment on a Friday online=being royally screwed when you check your account the next day.)

  49. jsshelton says:

    Last week, we were changing our phone numbers since we moved across the country. AT&T told us that we had to pay off our old account as they were setting us up a new one for our new numbers. They told us it would be $5 to make the payment over the phone – which totally floored us. So, while on the phone with them, we told them to hold, I went to the computer, logged into my online account, made a payment with a check card – and then told them it was done and they continued to process the phone number conversion. Tell me there isn’t something wrong with that.

  50. tme2nsb says:

    As a matter of fact (I am a current employee) – when you call for DSL or Landline services, you are calling an outsourced call center. When you call for your wireless, you are calling in the US. We use our real names, but some employees get to chose if they want to use a fake last name, which I am against. I am against this charge and have voiced my concerns within upper management, but all they do is justify it.

  51. FLConsumer says:

    Tampa Electric was doing the $5 charge for internet/phone payments by credit card. After I contacted Visa, Tampa Electric changed it to $5 charge for ANY payment (check or credit card) over the phone/internet. Boo Tampa Electric! Boo!

    All of my other utilities gladly accept my money in any form I wish to send it.

  52. tme2nsb says:

    It starts March 11th in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. How it works: If you call in and speak to a person, the $5 fee will be placed on the next bill. If you goto a store, the $5 fee will be paid up front.

  53. tme2nsb says:

    @tme2nsb: To add, payments through the IVR, online, autopay or mailed in, there is no charge.

  54. algormortis says:

    My personal account’s with Verizon, and the payment machines in the store are awesome and if there’s a line they will take my payment at no charge. Verizon has been very, very good to me in terms of service…it’s comparable to ours at t-mo but more consistent; t-mo has more rockstar CS reps and some crappy ones to balance it out (though more rockstars than crappy!) and Verizon is pretty much always…the…same.

    I do occasionally ponder going to Sprint for SERO but somehow i don’t mind paying Verizon for my basic, basic $39.95 a month for 450 minutes deal. I like my t-mo phone better, but try getting service in Castle Rock, Toutle, or Darrington…

  55. susiechapstix says:

    I paid my AT&T wireless balance, in full, through a customer rep. NOT ONCE did the representative inform me of the $5.00 charge…she told me my balance was at zero…she explained all the different ways in which I could check my most current balance, etc.

    Shortly after my payment was made I logged on to make sure the payment had indeed posted to my account…and there sat a FIVE DOLLAR BALANCE!! How sneaky and unprofessional of the rep. to withhold this important information.

    Yes folks, utility and mortgage companies DO charge for phone payments…but they ALWAYS inform the customer and they NEVER, I mean NEVER fail to add it to your phone payment. The charge instantly attaches to the outstanding balance. Paid in one nice little transaction.

    The $5.00 charge is not unusual…it’s the lack of communication with the customer and adding it to the next bill, without choice, that disturbs me.

    I regret that I called customer care in the first place, I would’ve paid on the internet had I known I would be paying $5.00, on TOP of the $722. balance they let me rack up as a new customer.

    That’s a whole other story….UGH