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The Infuriating Cell Phone Racket

Alternet - If you're not angry with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint -- America's four national wireless providers that reportedly control 90 percent of the market -- then here's some ridiculous news to raise your righteous ire.

Perhaps you'd be interested to know about one of the most outrageous cell phone scams? It's simple: Charge customers for being forced to listen to 15 seconds of unnecessary voicemail instructions reminding them how to leave a message after the beep. According to New York Times technology writer David Pogue, if Verizon customers leave voicemails or check their messages twice a day, the mammoth New Jersey-based telco takes in around $620 million. In return, you lose wasted hours of your life and have to pay for it.

Speaking of Verizon, have you heard about the representative who refused to shut down a dead man's service, even though his daughter produced a death certificate and needed the account closed so settlement of his estate could proceed? Or the rep who tried to collect an overdue $308 bill from customer Al Burrows by threatening to, and I quote, "blow your muthafucking house up"? Do we need to even talk about AT&T's various controversies, from censoring Pearl Jam to allegedly helping the National Security Agency unlawfully monitor the American people's communications?

The telco giants' latest disgrace, according to a recent Federal Communications Commission report, has been given the egregious name of "bill shock" (PDF). Which is a misnomer, actually: it's certainly not shocking to find, as the FCC explains, that "30 million Americans -- or one in six mobile users -- have experienced...a sudden increase in their monthly bill that is not caused by a change in service plan." It's even less alarming to discover that "nearly half of cell phone users who have plans with early termination fees (ETFs) -- and almost two-thirds of home broadband users with ETFs --don’t know the amount of the fees they’re accountable for." Read more.


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