The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just completed a survey of wireless customers and a review of the “tens of thousands” of complaints made to the FCC every year, and they’ve reached a verdict: the FCC needs to step up and provide a better way for consumers to get help.
There’s a new Consumer Reports survey out that ranks cellphone companies by customer satisfaction, and to pretty much no one’s surprise, AT&T comes in last in all 19 cities surveyed. (Verizon came in first.) As AllThingsD notes, the survey “suggests that AT&T’s shortcomings are more widespread than the carrier would have us believe and not simply the product of a high concentration of iPhones in the country’s larger cities.”
Yesterday the FCC announced new, expanded rules enforcing net neutrality, and they’ve set aside the next 60 days for public debate. Get ready to hear all sorts of creative end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it arguments from opponents like AT&T. We’ve checked out the official document (pdf) and below we summarize the changes that are open to public discussion for the next two months.
Today Walmart announced that it’s launching its own wireless service, Straight Talk, on October 18th. The network will
piggyback on use TracFone’s wireless network. At launch, two pre-paid plans will be offered: a $30 package that includes 1000 minutes, 1000 text messages, and 30MB of data; or a $45 plan that includes unlimited voice, text, and data. 411 calls are free.
If you’ve been holding out on a phone upgrade or carrier switch until the Palm Pre comes to Verizon, you may need to give up the dream. The carrier has “reportedly ditched plans to offer the Palm Pre early next year,” says PC World. Apparently poor sales of the device at Sprint, combined with Verizon’s interest in upcoming Blackberry devices, killed any enthusiasm the carrier once had. Update: The no-Pre rumor may be false, according to these two analysts.
A new survey from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) compared annual costs around the world for consumers who have cellphones, and the U.S. is in the top three for most expensive. How expensive? DSLReports notes that “on average, the OECD found that Americans pay $635.85 on cell phone service, compared to $131.44 per year in the Netherlands or $137.94 per year in Sweden.”
Yesterday I was musing that Time Warner Cable was passing the cost of customer care off to other businesses, by requiring customers to take half-days or full days off of work just to wait for a cable repairman. Today I think I stumbled upon another hidden economic impact of bad customer service: it’s responsible for generating a lot of the “free” content online. The next time you’re reading an IMDB entry about “Damages” or “Big Love” for example, you can thank Verizon’s collection of angry, confused, and possibly insane employees, and all the idle time they create for a customer who has to deal with them.
Not content to let the RIAA get all the recent publicity for stupid lawsuits, ASCAP has sued AT&T over sales of ringtones, saying each time a ringtone plays it’s a public performance and royalties should be paid. Luckily (?) for consumers, ASCAP wants AT&T, not individuals, to pay—although we wonder what they’ll say when you take a track from your own library and make a ringtone out of it.
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.”