Call AT&T To Remove Unwanted Add-Ons, Lose Unlimited Data

Michael is one of the remaining unlimited data customers at AT&T Wireless, and got to keep this plan after upgrading to a shiny new iPhone 4S earlier this year. At least he thought he did. When he signed his new contract, he accidentally ended up with some add-ons he hadn’t requested, like roadside assistance and insurance on his phone. He called to remove these, and somehow this resulted in his losing his unlimited data plan and switching to a mere 3-gigabyte one.

He blogged about the experience:

I’ve had one of AT&T’s unlimited data plans since I first got an iPhone 3GS not quite three years ago. You can thus imagine my surprise when I checked my bill last month and discovered that I had been switched to 3GB/month limited data plan.

On the surface, this might not sound like a big deal. After all, both plans cost $30/month and AT&T recently announced that they would throttle unlimited data users who exceed 3GB/month. Nonetheless, I don’t like being switched without permission, and I’m not crazy about the possibility of overage charges with the limited plan.

Since I upgraded to the iPhone 4S back in January, I thought they might have screwed up my plan at that point. A quick review of my contract, however, revealed that I was still (supposed to be) on the “DATA UNLIMITED FOR iPhone W/VISUAL VOICEMAIL” plan. The rep had even highlighted it in yellow. I thus decided to call AT&T and ask for an explanation.

When I finally got a rep on the line, I learned that they had made the change on March 22nd when I had called in about another billing error. As it turns out, when I upgraded my phone, they not only renewed my contract, but they also added roadside assistance ($2.99/month), phone insurance ($6.99/month), and something called the “enhanced mobile protection plan” ($3.00/month).

(note that none of these charges were reflected on my signed contract)

When I called back in March, I had no trouble getting them to remove the unwanted services and credit me for the charges, but… They apparently took this opportunity to also switch me from my beloved unlimited data plan to a 3GB/month limited data plan. Without my permission.

Was this a simple mistake? Possibly. Or are they “migrating” people over from unlimited data plans (which AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson regrets having offered in the first place) if/when they get the chance to tinker with your account? Perhaps.

Either way, the rep happily agreed to restore the unlimited data plan — though she did need a manager to authorize the change. Aside from the time spent on hold, this was an easy fix. In fact, it almost felt too easy. Sorta like they’ve been making this “mistake” on purpose and are ready if/when people noticed and call in to complain.

Putting on my tinfoil hat: The fact that they were already in my account making changes gave them a bit of cover. If I hadn’t noticed the change, they would have succeeded in ridding themselves of an unlimited data plan. And if I had noticed (as I did) they could just chalk it up to human error.

My advice? If you have an unlimited data plan and you want to keep it, pop into your account from time to time (especially after making other changes) and make sure they haven’t taken it away from you — inadvertently or otherwise.

Most likely Michael is being paranoid here. We hope. But it’s always a good idea to log in to your account online or using your carrier’s account-maintenance app (if they have one) after a phone upgrade or an encounter with customer service in order to make sure that your account features are still set exactly the way you’d like them.

AT&T Downgrading Unlimited iPhone Data Plans?


Edit Your Comment

  1. bnceo says:

    I can see this happening on the CSR level in which AT&T is giving bonuses or points for CSRs who switch people off unlimited plans and then managers at these phone banks are using these shady tactics on doing as such.

  2. nopirates says:

    i’m still an unlimited user. i logged in to my account and did not see anything shady (well, anything UNUSUALLY shady, we’re talking at&t here).

  3. Extended-Warranty says:

    I’m pretty tired of hearing everyone boast on how they are “grandfathered” into unlimited data forever.

    No, you aren’t.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      U mad, bro?

    • rambo76098 says:

      I am – will never be buying a subsidized phone from Verizon again. Verizon’s only option to take away my unlimited data in that case is to terminate my service altogether.

      • bnceo says:

        Actually, since you are no longer under a contract, the terms and conditions can be changed, provided you are given notification of it. A contract guarantees you a certain term and conditions for the length of the contract. So in theory, yes they can take away your unlimited data. You are not entitled to it at all.

        • RickScarf says:

          Yup, this is right. You are only on an unlimited plan while the contract is effective. Once you’re out of contract, they have every right to raise prices and you have every right to switch carriers without penalty.

          (also let me boast about my awesome grandfathered unlimited plan, I’ll stick with AT&T as long as they let me keep it but I’m jumping ship if they discontinue it)

      • RayanneGraff says:

        If they’re anything like Sprint, they CAN force you into a new data plan if you try to activate a phone via web.

    • eccsame says:

      I am. For as long as I’m with AT&T I am grandfathered in to an unlimited data plan.

  4. Jamie All Over says:

    I called in to AT&T to clean a few things up on my Mom’s AT&T account (switch down minutes, remove some old phones, etc.) and when I went into work (Best Buy Mobile), I noticed they had added random features like ringback tones and navigation (on a flip phone…)

  5. CrazyEyed says:

    I don’t understand how the poster, Laura, thinks Michael is being paranoid. It’s called being informed. I’d be fu*king pissed and throwing a shit fit if I found out that happened to me.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      Yeah, I read that & was like… uhh… o.0

      It’s not just ‘being paranoid’ to be wary of something that has actually happened to you. I’ve had my number automatically signed up for that bullshit for $9.99/mo & I had to have T-Mo reverse the charges. But I guess I’m just ‘being paranoid’ by keeping an eye on my bill now…

  6. Blueskylaw says:

    You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Some customer service rep got a nice little bonus for killing a grandfathered plan whether it was “technically” deserved or not.

  7. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    I don’t think he’s being paranoid. We’re hearing more and more stories from AT&T customers about having their unlimited plans yanked away from them without their permission in sneaky underhanded ways. And then to have the CEO himself state that offering them in the first place was a mistake? Oh yeah, they’re gonna use every trick in the book to screw you out of your unlimited plan. It happened to a friend of mine, who is now a T-Mobile customer.

  8. homehome says:

    You should always look in your account each month anyway. That’s common sense.

  9. teamplur says:

    Nothing he can do now to get it back. What he should have done is go online and just remove each one manually. It warns you online if the change you are making will result in loss of a grandfathered plan, BEFORE you make the change…

    • teamplur says:

      HAHA, didn’t read the whole article, and just now saw that he DID in fact get his old plan back. That’s pretty impressive. Either way, be more careful next time! :)

  10. cantiloon says:

    Next time, do your changes online.

  11. vastrightwing says:

    This BS happens with most of the carriers. I used to HATE making any changes to my Sprint plan because they added “features” without my knowledge at every opportunity and screwed up my plan. It always took months to get it all fixed. Sure, they did it without whining, but it was an awful process every stinking time. So yea, this is standard practice. Now I’m on Family Mobile and so far so good.

  12. Starfury says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I prefer to do my web surfing on my computer…the one with the high speed (20mbit) connection and 22″ monitor instead of some handheld device with a tiny screen.

    • Brenell says:

      Yeah, but I hate having to lug my desktop computer around everywhere when I want to browse the internet to kill some time.

    • icerabbit says:

      I understand what you’re saying, but when it comes to mobile data, it isn’t all about reading on the phone, you know.

      Some of use like to have some entertainment while we commute, work out, … I typically listen to a foreign language radio station on the iPhone while jogging and going to the gym.

      There are fitness apps that track your workouts.

      Phones can be used for navigation.

      One may watch a little news during lunch break.


      It isn’t all about reading consumerist on a tiny screen ;)

    • brinks says:

      Agreed, but lots of us have locked-down Internet at work, or like to browse when we’re somewhere other than a desk. I prefer a keyboard to a touch screen that doesn’t agree with my fat fingering, but it’s the least convenient option much of the time.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      My SGSII on T-Mo gets up to 30mbps :3

  13. brinks says:

    I have both unlimited data AND a low minutes plan that AT&T no longer offers. Guess I won’t be calling in for any reason.

  14. Overheal says:

    Go to General > About > Usage > Cellular Usage.

    Are you using anywhere near 3 gigabytes of data?

  15. fieldy920 says:

    Customer service reps (at least where I worked anyway) were actually given commission on any and all features changed to the account that resulted in a higher MRC (Monthly Recurring Charge), the catch was that a customer had to keep this feature for 60 days before a rep got that commission and it was by no means a small amount ($2.00/feature was average). It happened all too often that reps would add a very small feature that wouldn’t be noticed right away in hopes that the 60-day period would be up before it was removed.

    The requirement for a supervisor to add the unlimited plan is pretty normal, CSR’s are unable to add plans back on that are expired, thus needing the override to get the unlimited plan back.

  16. Nathan says:

    I work for AT&T Mobility as a CSR.

    First, since the comment has been made several times, there is no incentive for an AT&T rep to change any customer from unlimited to a tiered plan. No bonus, no tracked stat, nothing. They don’t get credit for “selling” the new feature. There is no pressure internally to switch these customers at this time.

    Second, I would love to see the account memos for this. Generally, if I see an unlimited plan changed inadvertently, it occurs at a store during an upgrade. During the upgrade process, the selling rep has to select which features should be present on the line, and since the packages both have the same price it can be easy to mix them up. I’m not saying that’s what occurred, because he said they told him it was changed when he called to remove those other features. He’s absolutely correct in stating there was no reason to even touch the data plan. I’m just intrigued about what the memos state.

    • Ekopy says:

      I also work for AT&T Mobility as a CSR.

      It’s interesting to see why this happened at all. Like Nathan said, there is no incentive to sell a customer on a tiered plan when they have the unlimited data. It’s just considered a lateral feature change and does not trigger any sort of commission or stat increase.

      There’s generally no reason to touch the unlimited data on the account for anything with a few exceptions. When changing from a phone that is 2G (GMS) to 3G (UMTS) or 4G (HSPA+ or LTE)… there is a different code for the data plan that must be provisioned for the specific phone otherwise you could have a phone with a data plan that doesn’t work. That would generally be the only time we would edit a data plan. If not done correctly then that could result in the data plan being lost in error, but if that’s the case then you would have a valid reason for getting the expired feature added back on. This also happens a lot when people order online and don’t realize what they need to select to keep the grandfathered data plan as it gives you a list of all data plans available to you.

      As for the contract “in writing,” that can change at any time. Unlike other carriers, the rate plan or features are not tied to the contract and changing them does not extend the contract or set it in stone by any means. A new Customer Service Summary is ALWAYS generated with the new changes to the account. AT&T’s contracts are simply there to prevent people from jumping ship when buying discounted equipment from us. It’s a contract to have service with us for 2 years or pay an ETF…. and that’s all it is.

      Also AT&T has true grandfathered features unlike Verizon who treats their loyal customers like crap and forces them out of their grandfathered features. AT&T has had a grandfathered rate plan/feature clause since the dawn of eternity and has no plans to screw people out of that.

  17. galaxirose says:

    I think it’s just paranoia. I’m on an unlimited plan and when I called recently to add joint unlimited texting for both myself and my boyfriend, the CSR specifically told me unsolicited “You have an unlimited data plan, I want to make sure you don’t lose that while we’re making these other changes, so this might take a bit longer.”

    My guess is that their system isn’t really structured to handle unlimited data any more so unexperienced CSRs mess it up a lot.

  18. dush says:

    The problem is when companies give incentives to their employees to commit anti-customer actions.

  19. Jawaka says:

    So what I’m reading here is that AT&T made a billing mistake and then corrected it when the OP called them about it.

  20. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Not an AT&T issue, but I have (will dump it soon) a T-Mobile $30 a month (plus another $15 a month to tether — f*ckers) for 5 GB plan on a Samsung Exhibit II. I’ll be dumping it soon because the data simply cuts off for no apparent reason. I live in a metro area and there’s plenty of data left for the month and yet, I’ll be checking email or reading the news and ‘FIZZT!’ It dies.

    I hope T-Mobile enjoys these last few days of my money, because at the end of this month I’m done.

  21. verymegan says:

    I called AT&T once to remove data from my plan (I had downgraded my phone) and to add unlimited texting. They kindly left the data on and did not add unlimited texting.

  22. SloppyJoe says:

    Sounds like cramming to me.

    “Cramming” is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.