Simple Mobile Unlimited Data Plan Is Of Course Secretly Limited

Simple Mobile, a reseller of T-Mobile cellphone service, offers a $60 “unlimited everything” plan that includes unlimited data. To no one’s surprise, there is a hard cap on the unlimited data according to Howard Forums and our tipster Eric. Naturally you can’t find that limit anywhere on their website, and if you exceed it you’re asked to pay $10 for an additional 100 MB of data.

I was suckered into a new mobile phone plan with a new company called Simple Mobile. They are a T-mobile MVNO (essentially a reseller) claiming to offer UNLIMITED talk, text, and data for $60/mo.

The reality is… Their $60 plan is NOT unlimited. When you hit 1000MB in one month your data service is simply terminated without warning.

They will offer to sell you an additional 100MB for $10. This policy is not stated anywhere on their website. If you call or write and complain, they will simply tell you to go elsewhere and will not provide any refund.

I can already imagine some readers will say “Too bad Eric, you were trying to game the system by overusing an unlimited plan when we all know there is no such thing.” But that’s what makes this annoying: we all know there’s no such thing, yet here is a carrier still advertising as much, which seems like a textbook example of false advertising.

Besides, readers here and on Howard Forums tend to know a little more about the details of cellular agreements. That doesn’t mean everyone does, and you shouldn’t have to possess hidden knowledge of how cellphone plans work when the point of fine print is to disclose everything before signing up.

The fine print on the bottom of the “Plans” page says that the plan can be terminated for “abusive conduct or abnormal call pattern(s),” but I couldn’t find any other fine print that defines abusive or abnormal behavior as “heavy data usage,” nor could I find mention of a maximum usage cap of 1000 MB or any other amount.

Here’s what I found on the Terms & Conditions page (emphasis mine):

8. Charges and Call Details. You may review your call and charge details on our website at http://www.mysimplemobile.com/myaccount. Domestic and Puerto Rico data usage is billed in full-kilobyte increments and is rounded up to the next full-kilobyte increment at the end of each data session. If you are on a metered data plan, and exceed your data limit, you may purchase an additional data plan to resume data usage. [This is what happened to Eric, although he was not on a metered plan. -Ed.] We do not guarantee that you will not receive spam or other unsolicited messages, and you agree that we are not liable for such messages.

[...]

15. Misuse of Service or Device. You agree not to misuse the Service or any Device, including: (a) reselling or rebilling our Service; (b) using the Service or Device to engage in unlawful activity, or engaging in conduct that adversely affects our customers, employees, business, or any other person(s), or that interferes with our operations, network, reputation, or ability to provide quality service; (c) tampering with or modifying your Device; (d) “spamming” or engaging in other abusive or unsolicited communications; (e) reselling Simple Mobile Devices for profit, or tampering with, reprogramming or altering Devices for the purpose of reselling the Device; or (f) assisting or facilitating anyone else in any of the above activities. You agree that you won’t install, deploy, or use any regeneration equipment or similar mechanism (for example, a repeater) to originate, amplify, enhance, retransmit or regenerate a transmitted RF signal. You agree that a violation of this section harms Simple Mobile, which cannot be fully redressed by money damages, and that Simple Mobile shall be entitled to immediate injunctive relief in addition to all other remedies available.

Comments

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  1. ssnseawolf says:

    You say they’re a reseller of Sprint, but the excerpt from the article says they’re T-Mobile.

    I think you just reflexively put Sprint, since, in my mind at least, they’re pretty well and good associated with badness such as this.

    • Chris Walters says:

      Thanks for catching this. I was still brooding on the Sprint story from earlier today, apparently.

    • PunditGuy says:

      Except that I haven’t found a limit on Sprint’s unlimited data plan, and I tether the hell out of my BlackBerry when I travel.

    • johnrhoward says:

      Except that Sprint’s unlimited plans are actually unlimited.

    • halcyoncmdr says:

      Sprint’s data plans truly are unlimited when they say they are. The only thing limited is roaming, which is disclosed.

      • ssnseawolf says:

        I meant in general (I no longer have Sprint). Although word on the street is that they have truly unlimited data.

  2. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I don’t like this solution, but it’s the only one large companies will listen to: class actgion lawsuit.

    Precedent needs to be made that says “unlimited” has to actually mean unlimited.

    • CoachTabe says:

      I’m with you. I don’t like the idea of suing left and right but unlimited has to mean just that.

    • dragonfire81 says:

      Problem: unlimited is, I believe a vague term legally since it’s hard to specifically define.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Do I really need to link to webster’s dictionary? Maybe http://www.dictionary.com/unlimited ?

        • Destron says:

          Doesn’t really what the word means because they get to define what it means with their user agreement. Every single data related product marked unlimited will always have that excessive use or network abuse clause in it, and they will pull it out almost every time. What’s excessive? It’s what they say it is! They don’t define it on purpose.

          I have seen 3 of these similar cases go to court and fail because of that simple clause.

    • JoeDawson says:

      some of the carriers have put forth the B.S. that “unlimited” means you can “Access it” 24/7

    • athensguy says:

      Really what needs to happen is that they need to be forced to quit using the term altogether. Unless a phone has infinite bandwidth, it’s impossible for the data allowance to be unlimited. Likewise, the number of minutes is limited to the number of minutes in a time period per phone.

      Unmetered is the preferred description.

  3. OSAM says:

    I have a 6GB data plan with Rogers (their original iPhone plan) for $30/mo (+ talk/text gets me just under $60 after taxes). It isn’t unlimited, but it may as well be.

    • guspaz says:

      I have the same plan with Rogers subsidiary Fido, and I should make the point that if a major North American carrier (Rogers being one of the largest in Canada) is selling me 6GB for $30, it’s hard to see how going over 1GB as part of a $60 plan could be considered abusive.

  4. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Unlimited should be unlimited, period. If people abuse it, tough luck, it’s unlimited.

  5. jsl4980 says:

    If you were affected by this then you should complain directly to the FTC about the clear false advertising. I would love to see these cell phone companies and ISPs who claim “unlimited” service get penalized in court.

    • regis-s says:

      Except when pressed they usually say “unlimited” doesn’ apply to the amount downloaded. They’ll come up with some bs excuse. Like it means “unlimited access” to their network. Even though their ads will often mention the download limits of other networks and then talk about being unlimited.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        What they say and what’s considered the expectation are two different things.

        They can say that “unlimited” means that your cows won’t be green (whatever the hell that means) but unlimited means exactly what the U.S. population thinks it means.

        The law doesn’t care about the company’s interpretation of a word, it cares about the reasonable expection of what the word is.

        This is the same reason the FTC is harking down on food companies for implying foods are healthy or immunity-boosting just because they have vitamins. It’s all about what their advetising suggests to the population.

        • regis-s says:

          Companies didn’t start making these claims last week. They’ve been doing it and getting away with it for years. It’s about time the government did something about it. If indeed they do.

  6. sk1d says:

    How does the FTC allow anything to be marketed as unlimited? Whether the cap is 1GB or 5GB, there is a limit and misleading to customers. You’d think this would be an easy win for the FTC, if they go after yogurt with bacteria that claims to be beneficial for you which is debatable, but there really is no debate here.

    • shepd says:

      There really are providers that provide you unlimited of things. My internet is an unlimited 5 mbit connection with 800 kbits up. I used 1.65 TB last month without complaint. I suppose there actually is a limit based on the fact that I purchased a 5 mbit connection, but I really don’t think that counts.

  7. Draygonia says:

    If they cancel your data, tell them that they can go ahead and rip up the contract because that is a breach. Failure to provide services that are paid for is fraud. Let them know you will be keeping the phone you paid for (even if they didn’t recoup the loss, they still broke contract) and that they can go screw themselves.

  8. Watcher95 says:

    Here’s where you go to file a complaint before whining on consumerist.

    Better Business Bureau
    Federal Trade Commission
    Your state Atty General
    Their state Atty General

    • Murph1908 says:

      Oh, ok. So while he goes through that process, we Consumerist readers are not made aware of this practice, and may fall into the same trap as he did.

      Good idea. Let’s just let all issues fester for 6 months before sharing them here.

      Here’s where you can go for your type of contribution to the discussion:

      Yahoo Answers
      Alt.manga.schoolgirls
      Perezhilton.com

      • kingofmars says:

        Well said. It’s better to get the word out to as many people as possible, so that the company in question doesn’t get to take advantage of more customers. Furthermore, Consumerist has always billed itself as a clearinghouse for customer complaints. So if a company finds itself on Consumerist, they better take note.

    • Devil505 says:

      You’ve really completely missed the point of this blog methinks.

    • BettyCrocker says:

      Just what do you think the BBB is going to do?

  9. Cicadymn says:

    Needs to be some sort of law/policy/rule in place stating that Cell phone companies can’t sell “unlimited” data plans if they’re actually limited.

  10. Destron says:

    The catch is, they always have that clause in there about excessive usage or interfering with the network. Web hosts do the same thing, they will advertise that if you host your website with them you get unlimited bandwidth for like $9.99 a month – BUT – they have that clause in the fine print. The thing is – they never define excessive usage and it seems to vary on a case by case basis.

  11. sanjaysrik says:

    IF they don’t say it, and it’s not written anywhere how can it be “implied”? Why isn’t the FCC “looking into this” and “taking it very seriously”?

  12. Shadowfax says:

    Just FYI, apparently there is such a thing as unlimited. I have a Moto Droid from Verizon with an unlimited data plan. I grilled them pretty hard when I bought it on whether or not it was really unlimited. They swore it was. And they seem to have been telling the truth. I stream audio on it 8 hours a day, download stuff, watch video, geocache, remote-desktop into my home computer (very data intensive) etc etc, and I’ve never once hit a cap.

    • Seattle-Guy says:

      I’d like to see just how much that is, you don’t have NetCounter installed, do you?

      • Shadowfax says:

        No I don’t. I would roughly estimate that I go through at least 50GB per month, which would be double the data limit on the next plan down from mine. Some months I’m sure I go higher than that, like when I have to remote-desktop to my home computer a lot – - that’s very data-heavy because the remote desktop client displays the remote screen by sending bitmap files. Every time I do anything, it sends another bitmap of twin displays.

    • Destron says:

      Your right – these plans are unlimited – and that’s exactly why they just did away with them. New users won’t have access to these unlimited data plans anymore. I have an unlimited data plan with T-Mobile and my phone is rooted so I use it as a tethered modem. I have had up to 2GB of data in a month and never had anything said about it… even though tethering is against their TOS.

      • Destron says:

        Should add though, that Verizon (as well as all phone companies) have that same clause or similar:

        We can, without notice, limit, suspend or end your Service or any agreement with you for any good cause, including, but not limited to: (1) if you: (a) breach this agreement; (b) resell your Service; (c) use your Service for any illegal purpose, including use that violates trade and economic sanctions and prohibitions promulgated by any U.S. governmental agency; (d) install, deploy or use any regeneration equipment or similar mechanism (for example, a repeater) to originate, amplify, enhance, retransmit or regenerate an RF signal without our permission; (e) steal from or lie to us; or, if you’re a Postpay customer, (f) pay late more than once in any 12 months; (g) incur charges larger than a required deposit or billing limit, or materially in excess of your monthly access charges (even if we haven’t yet billed the charges); (h) provide credit information we can’t verify; or (i) are unable to pay us or go bankrupt; or (2) if you, any user of your device or any account manager on your account: (a) threaten, harass, or use vulgar and/or inappropriate language toward our representatives; (b) interfere with our operations; (c) “spam,” or engage in other abusive messaging or calling; (d) modify your device from its manufacturer’s specifications; or (e) use your Service in a way that negatively affects our network or other customers. We can also temporarily limit your Service for any operational or governmental reason.

      • Shadowfax says:

        I know that other companies are doing that, but for now Verizon appears to be keeping the unlimited plan unlimited. According to their website, a new unlimited plan, required for 3g smartphones, is the same that I’m paying now, and has the same language to describe it, including “no overage charges,” “heavy internet use,” and “unlimited data.”

  13. evilpete says:

    ” rounded up to the next full-kilobyte “

    lovely…….

  14. NumberSix says:

    A gigbyte? that’s not even “virtually” unlimited.

  15. tasselhoff76 says:

    “‘Too bad Eric, you were trying to game the system by overusing an unlimited plan when we all know there is no such thing.’” My Sprint plan is unlimited…..

  16. P41 says:

    Make double sure the unlimited covers data, not just voice. Most likely they tricked you. If they forgot to pull this scam then send them a nice (registered) letter telling them to fix it because this is: false advertising, deceptive business practice, breech of contract, mail fraud (if anything came through the mail) and extortion. Be sure to report them regardless.

    If they fail to refund you for the service they failed to provide, write them another letter telling them due to their breech of contract you are no longer bound by any terms of the contract and don’t pay them any more. If you want to head of later collection problems, sue them for the maximum in small claims court. (The judge might give you the extra $4900 to teach them a lesson)

    For extra effect, be sure to photocopy the postal receipt number onto the letter itself.
    PS Any ambiguity in the contract prevents enforcement to the contrary.

  17. Aaron Anderson says:

    Hello, FTC, where the **** are you? This “unlimited” BS has got to stop.

  18. BlazerUnit says:

    I’ll bet you anything that ‘Eric’ is being shut down because he’s using too much data with his HTML-enabled smartphone. The Simple Mobile website specifically mentions ‘Unlimited Mobile Web’ (not unlimited data) in its $60 Unlimited Everything plan. Unlimited data and unlimited mobile web are clearly not the same thing. If he were using a ‘simpler’ phone using a WAP 2.0 browser (browsing mobile sites), they’d have left him alone.

  19. Destron says:

    Still, 1GB of data is a LOT for a smart phone with average use, I use the hell out of my phone and if I don’t tether it or do any other crazy stuff with it I use about 300MB a month.

    I vote he was streaming the hell out of some porn.

  20. ryan444123 says:

    I use(d) virgin mobile which resells Sprint bandwidth. It’s $60 a month for 5GB of internet. It’s a dongle you connect to your laptop computer and it worked amazingly! I never came close to the limit though….so couldn’t tell you what would of happened.

  21. Eric says:

    I have 3G service again this morning. Thanks consumerist!

    Replies to the other commenters:
    I hit the limit mostly due to Pandora and Xiia Live free app streaming bassdrive.com. Watch porn on my nexus one? LOL.

    They are using T-mobile equipment. That means any sim card phone works, but if you want 3G it needs to be a T-mobile phone. For example on the nexus you have to get the T-mobile version. You can use the AT&T version or the unlocked iPhone, but you won’t get 3G.

    I already am switching to T-mobile. It’s a bit more expensive, but at least it’s clear on their terms of service that they cap at 5GB.

    The BBB website wouldn’t take my complaint due to technical issues on their website. There is no Simple Mobile in the list of cell phone providers, and when you try to file a complaint with the local BBB it errors out because the business isn’t in their listing of businesses, at least with the contact info on SM’s website. I tried to contact the BBB by e-mail to report this issue and they haven’t responded yet. I filed with the FTC, but their response was simply that they don’t handle individual cases.

  22. paperchase10 says:

    First off your getting 1gig of data which is alot for a cell phone, if your surfing the web on your cell phone more then that you need to find a job or get a laptop with mobile internet service.

    I mean really why complain your getting nationwide 3g service no contract no credit check no deposit yeah its not really unlimited but honestly its alot of data for a cell phone. People that complain are the ones that want to tether. Yeah they are some faults with simple but the majors have theirs to, my opinion I will deal with simple because their no contract no credit check and my bill is $60 FLAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Shelly+ says:

    I signed up thinking it would be worth the savings. My account got shut off after I downloaded about 3 GB of media and software files. No warning, just shut off of voice and data. 2 calls to customer care to no avail.

    I very carefully read the terms and conditions. Very snaky. Basically, at some point they are able to define your usage as in violation of the terms and conditions and revoke your account. However, they do not publicize the limits. Customer care claims “there is no GB number” at which a violation occurs.

    I’d stay away. The value proposition is very specific. Yes, it is a lot cheaper than monthly TMobile service but there is no roaming ability to the AT&T network, and their terms and conditions are not well defined as to what exactly you are buying and they are providing.