Cingular Responds

Cingular sent us this email in response to “Break Your Cingular Contract Without Fee, Thanks 2 Txt Msg $ Raise.”

    “Scott, Kelleigh <[redacted]> 5:25 pm
    cc: “Cohen, Rochelle” <[redacted]>, Siegel, Mark A” <[redacted]>
    date: Dec 20, 2006 5:25 PM
    subject: Correction requested

    Hello Ben,

    I am hoping you can help me. I would like to request a correction to the story that posted yesterday regarding Cingular’s plans to increase our pay-per-use SMS rates next year… “

    “While it is true that we are in the process of notifying our customers about an increase to our current pay-per-use SMS rates, it is not accurate that this allows customers to cancel their contracts without penalty of an early termination fee. Cingular only promised to let customers out of their contracts if we raised the price of a service they “subscribe” to. Pay per use SMS is not a service customers subscribe to. Pay-per-use SMS is an ala carte purchase much like other ala carte products we offer such as ring tones, games, graphics and videos.

    On behalf of Cingular, I appreciate your help in correcting the statement that was made. If we can be of further assistance, please let me know.



    Kelleigh Scott Beal
    Cingular Wireless;

Interesting points, which we will have to dissect shortly. In the meantime, how does Cingular’s position jibe with section one of the CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service?


We Interview Cingular About canceling Over Text Message Plans
What Cingular Tells Customers Canceling Over Text Message Rates
Cingular Foils Reader’s Attempt To Break Contract
Break Your Cingular Contract Without Fee, Thanks 2 Txt Msg $ Raise


Edit Your Comment

  1. kerry says:

    Last I checked people couldn’t send you unsolicited ringtones and bill you for them without your permission, but they sure can send you unsolicited text messages that you’re required to pay for, just like received phone calls. Until they make texting a pay-per-send only service it’s not really an option, now is it?

  2. RumorsDaily says:

    They charge you for receiving text messages? Really? Jeez, go with Tmobile… no income text message fees (at least none that I get charged).

  3. matto says:

    Hello Cingular

    I would like to let you know that as of now, my wife and I, long term Cingular subscribers over the last 7 or 8 years, will never again re-sign into contract for any reason. You have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are an organization of parasitic bloodsuckers and tiny-minded nickle-and-dimers.

    As soon as we can find a suitable alternative to your sub-par service, which shouldn’t be difficult, you can kiss our recurring $120/month goodbye. We hope your dimwitted SMS rate increases cover the throng of subscribers like us, who will leave in disgust.

    Thanks once again for the opportunity for us to mutually clarify our positions and policies, and have a wonderful Holiday Season.

    Your Vanishing Subscriber Base

    PS: I hope you all get herpes.

  4. Michael says:

    Just a little while ago, I called Cingular to cancel service using the SMS rate increase as leverage and I was given the “a la carte” spiel. As Kerry pointed out, though, no one is able to send a Cingular customer unsolicited games, ring tones, videos and so on, yet we are billed whenever we receive unsolicited text messages. I successfully argued that text messages, therefore, are an integrated part of my service contract, since I am *contractually obligated* to pay for them even if some idiot sends a message to the wrong number or spams me. The CSR helpfully offered to block text messaging completely, but I told him that that wouldn’t be acceptable either, because at some point in the future I might need to send or receive a text message. He must’ve been tired, because he didn’t argue with me beyond that and processed my penalty-free cancellation.

    I should’ve gotten more information from him, but all I can tell you is that his name was Josh. I would recommend to anyone else trying to accomplish the same thing to point out that by making you contractually bound to cover the costs of incoming messages, text messaging service *is* part of your contract and you have a right to cancel service based on the upcoming rate hike.

    Good luck!

  5. Michael says:

    I might add that since my phone was provided for almost nothing when I started my contract, I offered to Josh that I would be willing to return the phone to Cingular. He said that wouldn’t be necessary, however. I was already more than halfway through my contract. Your mileage may vary.

    Thanks, Josh… and I hope you don’t get in trouble with your boss.

  6. Kornkob says:

    From that customer code:
    “Provide customers the right to terminate service for changes to contract terms.
    Carriers will not modify the material terms of their subscribers’ contracts in a manner that is materially adverse to subscribers without providing a reasonable advance notice of a proposed modification and allowing subscribers a time period of not less than 14 days to cancel their contracts with no early termination fee.”

    Seems to me at 50% increase in rates for a pay per use feature is a material term that has been modified and is materially adverse to the subscriber.

  7. Antediluvian says:

    So what’s with the tinyurl quoted at the end of the email?

    I hate tinyurl because you can’t tell where you’re going and that’s bad. Please don’t use them.

  8. As a Cingular customer (and a happy one too!), I can tell you that Cingular does regard Pay-per-use SMS as a service, and if they tell you otherwise they’re telling you an un-truth. If you log in to your Cingular account online, and look at your list of services, pay-per-use SMS is listed as one of your services, although you cannot uncheck it. You can opt-out of the SMS service, however, over the phone.

    Don’t let Cingular do this to you. There are ways, and there are ways.

  9. randyest says:

    Antediluvian: If you’re looking at URLs to decide what is safe to click and what isn’t you’re living on borrowed time. Please consider getting a safe(r) browser and/or OS. You needn’t be afraid of URLs. Tinyurl or otherwise.

  10. Ben Popken says:

    Antediluvian, I used tiny url because the actual URL was the URL to one of our posts, far long then then our meager 522 pixel allotment.

  11. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Just a couple of random comments..

    If you receive SMS spam, you can request credit for each spam message. Just call customer service and ask.

    I think it’s awful that mobile phone providers even charge money for SMS. SMS messages use very little or no network resources, yet they charge a wad of money for text messaging packages or for per-use fees. Thieves indeed.

  12. bigroblee says:

    Just out of curiosity, why are you all so eager to break a contract you willingly went into? Like the feeling of getting over on a major corporation, or is this just the excuse you were looking for to jump ship? Oh, and Michael, WTF are you thinking, that you will find another carrier that won’t charge you for incoming text, or for that matter will keep prices static forever? If you hate contracts people, there’s a simple solution! Stop accepting the discounted phones, don’t be a cheap fucker, pay full purchase price, and get service with no contract! Simple, huh? Although, last I checked, Cingular, Verizon, and T-Mobile will only give you the unlimited mobile to mobile and nights and weekends minutes with a minimum of a one year contract. Good luck. Next time, again, DON’T ACCEPT THE DISCOUNTED PRICE ON THE PHONES, and then you can go no contract.

  13. homerjay says:

    Anybody that spells Kelly as “Kelleigh” has GOT to be a witch. BURN HER!

  14. RandomHookup says:

    Note to Ben:

    far long then then our meager

    12/21/06 01:56 AM

    Now what did you mother tell you about commenting when you haven’t gotten enough sleep?

  15. Smashville says:

    “Oh, and Michael, WTF are you thinking, that you will find another carrier that won’t charge you for incoming text, or for that matter will keep prices static forever?”

    There’s a small company called Verizon…maybe you’ve heard of it? They don’t charge for incoming texts.

  16. Pay per use SMS is not a service customers subscribe to.

    This is infuriating! This doesn’t make any sense!!! It’s like living with a 2 year old!

    If text messaging is a “service” that Cingular customers are not “subscribed” to. Then explain the following:

    1) How does a non-subscribed (not a Cingular customer) send and receive text messages using the Cingular network?

    2) In what way can a “subscribed” (Cingular customer) send and receive text messages without using the Cingular network?

    3) What color is the sky on your planet, and how did your species evolve this far without basic comprehension of goods and services?

  17. Ran Kailie says:

    DON’T ACCEPT THE DISCOUNTED PRICE ON THE PHONES, and then you can go no contract.

    Preach it!

    I had a two year contract, and I didn’t renew it, I bought my new phones full price, and used my two free service plan changes without a contract to fix my services.

    I also keep a text plan on my phones because I use them, and I turned off the internet option because I don’t use it. You have to be smart people, if you’ll use the SMS then get a plan, it ends up being cheaper anyway. If you don’t turn it off and let people know its off.

  18. acambras says:

    @bigroblee —

    I see you’ve copied and pasted your identical comment/rant to EVERY cell-related post in the most recent 3 pages of Consumerist.

    Afraid people won’t read it and get it the first time? You have to repeat yourself several more times? Who are you, some sort of wireless-industry troll?

  19. coreyk72 says:

    I sent this to Consumerist last night after seeing this BS from Cingular. I was hoping Ben would give it proper placement in a this thread as an update.

    Until then, read on:

    F–k them.

    Here’s what is in their terms & conditions for “GoPhone”, their prepaid service. This information for whatever reason does not appear for postpaid in their terms & conditions but I have the rate brochure for GSM FamilyTalk (my plan) and this exact same quote appears in my brochure:

    “If you cancel the Text /Instant Messaging service, you will not be able to send and receive messages, but Cingular does not guarantee all incoming messages will be blocked.

    So, by their own admission TEXT MESSAGING IS NOT OPTIONAL. End of story.

    This BS they are spewing is quickly turning me into Erin Brockavich. It might be time to go class action on their ass.


  20. coreyk72 says:

    At the risk of sounding like a grade school kid, I think we should start call them….


  21. sodium says:

    bigroblee, you’re disproving your own point. people who sign a contract have the right to expect that the terms of the contract will be honored by the other party – Cingular. It’s CINGULAR who is “so eager to break a contract they willingly went into”.

    Just because you’re a big corporation doesn’t give you the right to enter into a contract, and then one day decide you don’t like it and change the terms of the contract.

  22. THANK YOU, sodium — That needs to be said a LOT more often. Like, to insurance companies, and banks, and every company out there ditching on its pensions…

  23. AcilletaM says:

    Except sodium, the terms of the contract you entered into with them allow the companies to do change the terms so you are really giving them permission.

    Recently upgraded my phone, still had a discount on the phone (though not as much if I would have hamstrung myself with a contract).

  24. methane says:

    Smashville: it must be the contract you have with Verizon. A guy I work with has Verizon and gets pissed as hell when people txt him because he has to pay for the incoming. Plus, we found out yesterday that verizon won’t let you download the google messenger or google maps client Java App. What’s up w/that?

  25. Law-Vol says:

    LAWSUIT! She used the “P” word to describe their ETF! Forward this to the folks who successfully sued Verizon over their ETF ASAP!

    A contract that provides for a penalty in the case of a breach is NEVER EVER EVER EVER enforceable.


  26. homerjay says:

    Can someone tell me why we don’t just all do prepaid? I mean, if you’re using the phone constantly thats one thing, but for most of us, prepaid makes sense and you’re not locked into shit.

    Am I missing something here?

  27. Ben Popken says:

    Law-Vol, can you offer citation for, “A contract that provides for a penalty in the case of a breach is never enforceable” ?

  28. Michael says:

    Oh, and Michael, WTF are you thinking, that you will find another carrier that won’t charge you for incoming text, or for that matter will keep prices static forever?

    No, that I can hardly make or receive calls with Cingular anymore.

    They were good for the first couple months when I signed up, and since then I’m getting dropped calls and poor signals everywhere. Changing phones twice didn’t help, and since they do not have a service quality guarantee, they would not let me cancel my contract without penalty, leaving this rate increase technicality as my only out. I think you’ll find that service quality is the main reason people wish to cancel their Cingular contracts — after all, if you’re getting great service, why complain?

    Better to get out and take a chance with a new provider than to stick with a company that has delivered a crummy connection for several months. I had already signed up with another provider a shortly before I cancelled — so far, so good — and would have accepted Cingular’s ETF if I had to, as I was going to end my contract regardless.

    I’ll happily keep a contract if I’m being provided a service worth paying for. I’m sure most people would, too. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes things go wrong after your grace period is over, and that some companies aren’t honorable enough to let you out of your contract when they’re not able to correct the issue.

  29. Michael says:

    Grr… just wrote a long comment and it didn’t go through. Kind of like trying to use my Cingular cellphone.

    “Oh, and Michael, WTF are you thinking, that you will find another carrier that won’t charge you for incoming text, or for that matter will keep prices static forever?”

    The short of it, since I don’t feel like typing all that again:

    Initially Cingular service was great, then it sucked, and despite switching phones twice Cingular couldn’t fix it. But since they’re no service quality guarantee, I had no penalty-free way to cancel my contract. This was my out. I’m sure you’ll find similar situations among the many other people who wish to cancel.

    Already signed up with a new provider shortly before canceling — so far, so good — and I would have accepted the ETF if I’d had to, as I would have ended my contract regardless. So what if I relied on a little loophole to accomplish what an honorable company would have let me do anyway? I was willing to be fair and give them their phone back. It’s in brand-new condition (nevermind that it’s a piece of junk).

  30. Michael says:

    Whoops… double-post. Somebody delete me.

  31. bravo says:

    homerjay, prepaid really does make a lot of sense if you’re not a user high volume user. through t-mobile you can get 1000 minutes for $100 and the minutes don’t expire for a year. one could “reload” his or her minutes using this a few times a year and probably cover their usage for an entire year.

    cingular prepaid sucks balls. they charge you a $1.00 daily access fee for each day you use your phone for a voice call and then charge you $.10 a minutes after that. Their other alternative is $.25 a minute w/ no access fee. On the bright side, they only charge their prepaid customers $.05 per SMS message sent and received.

    the only reason i have a cingular contract is because i go to f-ing town on the night and weekend minutes, and the free M2M minutes because my wife and parents have employer provided cingular phones. but it does seem like most people just assume that they have to sign a 2 year contract with one of the big providers in order to have cellphone service.

  32. kerry says:

    Ingen Angiven said:

    They charge you for receiving text messages? Really? Jeez, go with Tmobile… no income text message fees (at least none that I get charged).

    That’s weird, T-Mobile says they’d charge me for incoming if I didn’t have an unlimited package. Also, a friend of mine on T-Mo makes me give him 10 cents for every pointless text I send him, because one month his bill was like $10 extra from silly texting. Maybe it’s a regional thing?
    Also, didn’t Sprint or Verizon let customers leave when they raised their texting rates? Why does Cingular think they’re special?

  33. pestie says:

    Hey, now, homerjay, don’t go dissin’ the Kelleighs of the world! I have a good friend named Kelleigh who’s been in my life for many years. She’s sweet, smart, beautiful, and… Well, OK, her mother is a little bit crazy, so maybe that’s where the odd spelling came from, but still…

  34. Antediluvian says:

    [Sorry this is long, but randy struck a nerve.]
    [Executive summary: just makes sense, don’t use tinyurl, users should know where they’re clicking.]

    randyest says:

    Antediluvian: If you’re looking at URLs to decide what is safe to click and what isn’t you’re living on borrowed time. Please consider getting a safe(r) browser and/or OS. You needn’t be afraid of URLs. Tinyurl or otherwise.
    12/21/06 12:29 AM
    Randy, I strongly disagree.

    I use a “safe(r) browser” on a safe(r), well-tightened, well tweaked OS. I work in IT, and have for many years. I know what I’m doing when it comes to surfing safely. And I want to know exactly where I am being taken when I click on something. I do not consider wanting that extra information to be “living on borrowed time.” I consider it vital data so I can make an informed decision. Is it the only thing I’ll consider? No, of course not.

    I’ll consider the source, too. In this case, it was a tinyurl included in quotes as if sent by Cingular. Turns out, it wasn’t. [As I gather, Cingular sent the full URL and Ben converted it for formatting reasons.] I’ll place more value in a tinyurl offered by Ben than one offered in a random email from Cingular with no explanatory text. But I still want to know where it’s going.

    Slashdot includes domains of links posted by users in brackets after the link so the poster can’t mislead people into clicking on places they shouldn’t.

    Is the link going to a PDF file? An MPG movie or a ShockWave file? Something that maybe I want to open in a new tab, rather than in this one? Or maybe it’s an .avi file and I want it opened in IE because of the way it handles them.

    If I’m going to an affiliate-connected link, I want to know if someone’s getting credit for my clicking. I want to know if I’m clicking on a possible porn site while at work (think vs, or goatse) or if, it’s misentered and I need to fix. I want to know if someone says this link goes to that it doesn’t go to, or

    I think it’s responsible behavior as a user to pay attention to my clicks.

    Phishing is possible primarily because people don’t look at the address of the links they’re clicking, but at the text of the link. PAY ATTENTION TO THE STATUS BAR, FOLKS.

    In Firefox, turn off the “feature” that let’s Javascript “change status bar text” and “turn off the status bar” and watch what shows up there when you mouse over a link.

    Anyone who doesn’t pay attention to links is asking for trouble.

    Yes, it’s not the only way to protect yourself, but without a doubt it’s an important factor.

    So yes, I will be wary of URL’s, and very much so of ones that are not revealed to me. It’s my web browser, so I want to know where it’s going.

    In addition, you learn a lot about how sites are organized and can often fix incorrect links or find ones you might have missed by watching the structure of the URL’s.

    Okay, done now. To all you good people in the midwest, sorry we said “fuck” so much.

    Ben: why not make it a live link rather than plain text? It wouldn’t exceed the width limitations and people could still see where it was going.

    And in this instance, the tinyurl was quoted as being sent by Cingular.

  35. Icon says:

    9. Promptly respond to consumer inquiries

    I have emailed Cingular three times in the past and never received a response from them.
    Ever get over charged, or a billing screwup on their part. This has happened several times and they do not give refunds or a credit on your bill.
    At the moment I use a GC83 air card for internet, during the evenings, when cell calls take up a lot of service, my internet service is cut back to where sometimes I can’t even get online. (I have received several BS answers from them on why this happens). I am waiting for another provider to start providing service in my area, then I am going to drop Cingular like they drop my connections.

  36. Morgan says:

    Gotta agree with Antediluvian. I like to know where I’m going before I click on a link even if it’s unlikely to damage my computer.

  37. Antediluvian says:

    Thanks Morgan.

  38. -A- says:

    For all of you with problems with cingular’s customer service.

    GO INTO YOUR LOCAL STORE. The sales associates arer much more helpful than the idiots on the phone. If you want something done right you have to put a little effort into it. You will have much better luck with an “in-person visit”.

    The people on the phone are more worried about their call times or length (they get rated on this) then helping you with a lengthy problem.
    I have never had a problem in the store, as long as i had a VALID concern.

    For all of you with immediate “call failed” problems, try dialing the area code, if you are using one of cingular’s roaming partner’s towers this is required for proper routing of the call.

  39. -A- says:

    Cell phones are just like any other electronics… you get what you pay for. If you take a FREE phone your not usually gonna get the best service. Shell out a few bucks, get a quality product, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Cheap phone = bad phone. (with the exception of nokia phones) they have a higher standard for their manufacturing.
    If you buy a cheap motorola, samsung, LG, etc. you wont be as pleased as if you spent a few extra dollars on the next step up. Their is a huge difference between the entry level phones, and the mid level or high level phones.
    What people dont realize is that they are signing a 2 year contract.. the phone is going to need to last you almost 2 years.
    Sure 100 bucks for a phone seems like a lot, but it’ll probably last you 2 years. Get the free phone, have it break after a year, and you’ll have to buy a new one at full retail price (they only give you the discount when you sign a contract, and you cant sign a new contract when you just signed one!!!! That would make the contract meaningless!)

    People have the wrong idea’s about cell phones. The company is providing you service (thats a connection to their network, nothing more) they have phones in the stores to streamline the process of signing up for service. Think of it this way, you dont ask your landline company to give you a free phone when you sign up, and if you break your phone, you certainly dont demand that they give you a new one at no cost. You go to a store and buy a new one!!!

    Oh, and by the way cell phones DO NOT WORK EVERYWHERE! Every network has their trouble areas, find a company that can provide you the service you need, and quit complaining. Chances are, any company you go with, somewhere along the line, is going to piss you off. You are going to run into a problems, technology is NOT PERFECT.

    Be a smart consumer… and you’ll be happier.

  40. mr.b says:

    fwiw: it pays to be lazy sometimes…

    originally signed up with att wireless on a 2yr plan in november 2003. that plan expired around the time cingular bought/merged with att wireless. have just continued paying my [now very affordable] monthly rate, and am under no contract…cingular is required to honor the terms of my contract as they existed at the time i enterd into the contract with att wireless. surprise to me, i figured that they’d increase my rates ASAP. but they haven’t. so my monthly bill stays at 2003 prices, i don’t pay a cent for incoming texts and my outgoing texts will stay at 10cents each…no notice of any increase in my monthly itemized bills.

    lucky for me i guess…or maybe it’s cingular rewarding my loyalty? doubtful. am too lazy to get a new plan as long as my current phone unit works well. if/when my now 3+ year old phone [sony ericsson t616] starts to fail, will just purchase an unlocked gsm phone off ebay and swap my sim card…no new contract and will continue to pay 2003 prices.

  41. irfan says:

    you cant blatantly say in store reps are better. Ive had awful instore service. I lost my phone so i bought an LG from them for $350. The phone sucked so I took it back in 5 days and upgraded to a SLVR for an extra $50 ($400 total) with a 30 day return policy. a week later (2 weeks from initial LG purchase) my friend hooks me up with a deal from another store, so I return the SLVR to cingular.. (before someone tells me I shoudl be happy cingular gives a 30 day moneyback offer… if they didn’t, I would have just went to the next place that does. They arent doing any favors. Almost every store in the USA offers 30 day money back)

    so…i should get 400 back.. but the idiots wanted to only refund me $50 since thats how much I paid at the time I upgraded to the SLVR from the LG (which was $350). I explained a dozen times, politely, that I had actually paid $400.$350 for the LG, then $50 EXTRA for the SLVR.. but his response was “ya they messed up last time. They should have refunded the money then charged a new 400. I can only refund 50”. Now who in their right mind would just let them keep 350? not me, so 10 minutes later I asked to speak with his manager then he went into the back and magically fixed the mistake.

    moral of story: in store reps can be just as dumb and over the phone CSRs. some are very nice tho, but you can have idiots anywhere.