Yesterday, four U.S. Senators sent a letter to FCC acting chairman Michael Copps requesting an investigation into whether exclusivity deals between handset makers and national carriers are ultimately good for consumers, and they plan to hold a hearing on the issue on Wednesday, June 16th. They join a growing number of people and organizations, including the Rural Cellular Association (RCA), who say exclusivity deals benefit no one but the carriers and manufacturers.
For a while now, there have been rumors and speculation that AT&T was considering reducing its data plan by $10 per month in an attempt to be more competitive with other carriers. Today AT&T officially put the kibosh on that scuttlebutt, which is how I write once the cocktail hour kicks in on Friday. Says an AT&T spokesman, “We’ve been very happy with our pricing.”
T-Mobile is running a “flip your pearl” promotion right now, where you can trade in your old Blackberry for at least $75 (or another phone for $50) when you buy and activate a new Blackberry from them. Your trade-in phone will have to meet certain conditions for the offer to apply. [FlipYourPearl via IntoMobile]
Chris was surprised to find that T-Mobile didn’t cancel his account as promised a few months ago. What’s worse, the note on his account that mentioned his cancellation request was missing, and nobody at customer service would help him. Chri works for a “very large consumer electronics company” that he won’t name (we’re pretty sure it’s Apple) and thinks customer service is important, so he gave up on the CSR angle and instead came to our site to find contact info for T-Mobile executives. One EECB later, Chris is free from T-Mobile and the ETF they tried to apply.
Starting tomorrow, Virgin Mobile will offer all customers who sign up for $30 or more post-paid plans coverage under their free Pink Slip program, which means if you get laid off and can provide proof, they’ll pay your cellphone bill for three months, and you won’t have to put a Skype number on your resume.
The rumor was true—T-Mobile has started offering cheaper unlimited voice plans to existing customers. Matthew wrote to us, “The TMO loyalty plans are showing up on the site as of today…we just moved to the Unlimited Loyalty Family Plan at $89.99, which is $10 cheaper than the 2000 minute Family Plan we’d been on.”
IntoMobile says that there’s a leaked screenshot going around that suggests new pricing due March 1st from T-Mobile. Among the new plans: $50/month for unlimited anytime minutes, and family plans starting at $90/month with additional lines at $40/month. There’s also a rumored $135 credit if you add a line and move a number over from another carrier. Is it true? We’ll know in about a week.
T-Mobile came in first in a J.D. Power and Associates study of cellphone customer care performance, with 755 out of a possible 1,000 points. Actually, though, all the carriers came in above the 700 point range except for Sprint, which was in the 600s. [RCR Wireless]
If the website Boy Genius Report is correct, next week Verizon Wireless will start offering contract-free, month-to-month service. Pretty much everyone will be eligible for it, but of course you’ll have to pay full price for a phone or bring your own, there’ll be an activation fee that can’t be waived, and if you take advantage of any special offers that require a contract, you’ll have to switch over to a contract agreement. It’s supposed to start on September 21st.
The similar price increases, coming at similar times, Kohl said, “is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace.”
Airlines and surfers must be involved in some secret war, because how else can you explain why airlines are targeting them so savagely right now? Sure, snacks cost us $9, bags are $50 each, and seat belts will probably soon be auctioned off during the preflight check—but if you’re a surfer, you can expect to pay up to $200 each way to bring along your board, pretty much blowing out the budget of any surfer who isn’t Patrick Swayze.
If you’re thinking about getting that new 3G iPhone, you might want to hold off a few more months and see what happens with the other carriers. BusinessWeek has an article about how AT&T’s aggressive subsidizing of the iPhone will have a negative impact on handset makers and carriers, because it’s going to force them to increase subsidies and reduce service fees. Translation: good times for the consumer bold enough to stay off the iPhone train.
benpopken: How did the company track down which “Jessica” it was?
Reader Pam asked Jessica if she could port her landline to her mobile account, prompting the Sprint CSR to respond: “No, are you nucking futz?” Pam wasn’t expecting an abusive chat when she visited Sprint’s website to research a potential contract extension, but Jessica unexpectedly appeared with advice that wasn’t just rude, but also wrong.
A class-action lawsuit has been filed in California against Verizon and several third-party companies, alleging that they promoted illegal gambling by enticing customers to pay to enter contests in which there was an “infinitesimally” small chance of winning, reports RCRWireless. “The suit centers on 99-cent charges levied on wireless consumers who played contests associated with popular TV shows like ‘Deal or No Deal’ and ‘Sole Survivor.'” The plaintiffs claim that the contests were less promotional sweepstakes than “illegal lotteries designed to generate revenues far in excess of the value of the cash awarded.”
Viviane Reding, the European Union’s Telecommunications Commissioner, is our new wireless hero. She’s demanding that wireless carriers in Europe begin billing on a per-second basis rather than per-minute, because “at the retail level, the difference between billed and actual minutes appears to be typically around 20 percent.”
In a letter to Sprint, AT&T Mobility, and T-Mobile, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has asked the companies whether or not they’re going to start pro-rating their Early Termination Fee policies as promised, reports RCR Wireless. “Sens. Klobuchar and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) are co-sponsors of a sweeping wireless consumer protection bill” that carriers are against. In her letter, Klobuchar writes, “It is time for the wireless companies to adhere to the assurances they made to the American consumer and start pro-rating these fees.” In response, Sprint said by the end of Q2 2008, T-Mobile said the first half of 2008, and AT&T Mobility said nothing at all. (Verizon already pro-rates their ETF.)