Surprise! AT&T Adds New $0.61 Monthly Administrative Fee To Wireless Customers’ Bills

Start up the chorus of grumbling and shine up your best “What in the what now?” faces: AT&T has just added a $0.61 monthly administrative fee to wireless customers’ bills. It’s totally great for AT&T of course, as reports indicate the move could bring in about $518 million in extra moolah for the company in 2014. So, yay for you, AT&T?

Heralded as the “Mobility Administrative Fee,” the new tariff actually went into effect May 1. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t notice, because we didn’t either. Anyone with Consumer and Individual Responsibility User (IRU) lines should see this fee tacked on.

But what is the fee for, anyway? And should we be grumpy about it?

Grump as much as you want, but AT&T claims it’s necessary to help “defray certain expenses AT&T incurs, including but not limited to: (a) charges AT&T or its agents pay to interconnect with other carriers to deliver calls from AT&T customers to their customers; and (b) charges associated with cell site rents and maintenance.”

An AT&T spokesperson defends the new charge by telling CNET it’s “consistent with similar fees charged by other carriers.” To that end, Sprint and Verizon charge $1.50 and 90-cent administrative fees, respectively.

Some readers are wondering, and appropriately so, whether this surcharge will allow them to get out of their AT&T contracts without an ETF. It doesn’t seem so, as Consumerist reader Eli writes that the common response to that question has been that because it’s a fee and not a rate change, it doesn’t count.

He says he was told by the Death Star itself: “The rate for the service is the same, ie if it was $69 a month before, it’s still $69 now. There’s just a new fee, which isn’t the same thing as a higher rate.”

Oh, okay…?