Alltel Requires Data Plan For Blackberry Owners Who Don't Use Any Data

Dan likes the interface and ease of texting on his Blackberry, but doesn’t need mobile Internet or e-mail. He asked his service provider, Alltel, to switch his service to a Blackberry he already owned, but without a data plan. An employee said that was possible and set it up for him, and Dan texted away happily…until he received his bill, which now contains a hefty data plan charge. Alltel now insists that Dan can’t have a Blackberry on their network without a data plan.

I am hoping someone can help me out with a situation I am having with Alltel. I entered into a contract with Alltel in February and purchased a Motorola Razr phone along with the service. I have a Blackberry from my previous employer that I own. About a month ago, I was unhappy with my Razr and wanted to switch back to the Blackberry. It is much easier to text with and stores and accesses my contacts much better. I do not need to email or access the internet.

With some arm twisting, Alltel allowed me to do an ESN change and just move the service over to the Blackberry. I was told they don’t recommend this, but I could do it and I wouldn’t require the data service package. They said ok and everything seemed fine. My bill arrived yesterday and I was charged $44.99 twice for data service. Alltel bills a month in advance, that is the reason for two charges. Needless to say I was quite upset and called customer service.

I described the situation to the first person I spoke to in customer service. She told me I could not use a bb phone without data service. I told her that someone at her company informed me differently and even processed the change for me. She then said they had changed their policy on that and I now required data service. She the informed my she wouldn’t be crediting my account for the two charges because the service is required, this despite the fact that I did request nor was I informed to the change. In fact, I was told by Alltel that I could use the Blackberry phone without data service.

This is when I really became angry. I said “Look, you are a wireless service provider and I am a customer who owns a phone who wants service. That is your business, you charge people to use your wireless network, which is exactly what I want to do. Why do you care what kind of phone I use?” They said it was their policy and this went back and forth for some time. I then asked for a supervisor concerning crediting the bill.

The supervisor immediately credited the bill, but reiterated the policy on Blackberry phones. They said they couldn’t manually override it because their system automatically detects when someone is using a Blackberry and charges them. I told them that AT&T doesn’t require that (I have subsequently learned) and I am considering switching to them, to which she said they would sure hate to lose me as a customer. I responded with “You are saying you’d hate to lose me, but your actions suggest otherwise.” They of course won’t help me out with the $200 ETF, either.

The following week, I checked back in with Dan to see if Alltel had budged. They had not.

I have succumbed to Alltel and did an ESN switch back to my Razr phone. They are supposed to be reviewing my account and crediting the charges for data services, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The main issue with my complaint is not being addressed at all. I still have no explanation for why I can’t use my Blackberry phone without data service. It is my phone that I own from previous to my contract with Alltel. I don’t know why it matters to them what kind of phone I use for my wireless service. I just want to use my Blackberry because it is far easier to text with and is far easier to access and navigate contact information.

No one at Alltel seems to care about this at all. It is highly unlikely that a CSR or a supervisor can influence a change of policy like this.

Is Alltel insisting on data plans for smartphone users just because they can, or because they mean well and don’t want to see customers racking up huge data bills paying for individual kilobytes? I use an AT&T Blackberry without a data plan, and it hasn’t exploded.

Dan has a good case for a waiver of his ETF. Either he was misinformed, or the company changed their policy after he signed the contract.

(Photo: zitona)