Earlier this year T-Mobile announced they would be shifting all Smartphone users to a Pay-Per-Use data payment plan whether they wanted to or not. They would notify users by email or their September bill. The “feature” cannot be disabled through the device or via My T-Mobile.
Infuriating yes. Legal probably. Still going on? Sadly, yes.
MMi reader Eric Willden recently fell victim to T-Mobile’s underhanded tactics. Three of the five smartphones associated with Willden’s T-Mobile account started transmitting data. The problem, these three phones—iPhones no less— had no data plan attached to them. T-Mobile’s price for this pay-as-you-go access is $2 per MB.
Willden’s wife and kids—whom the phones belong to—reported that they started receiving email, and other data specific updates while driving around. Suspicious, Willden performed a #932 data check on each of their phones.
The shocking result: $150 in unwanted, and seemingly unwarranted data charges.
Willden immediately called T-Mobile to figure things out. Willden also had the foresight to record both calls made to T-Mobile. After sitting through 20 minutes of hold time, two supervisors, and two hours on the phone Willden got T-Mobile to block the Pay-Per-Use data as well as refund the $150 charged to his account.
Listening to Willden’s phone calls, T-Mobile’s reps outlined only two options at first. One: Willden could add the Pay-Per-Use block and pay the $150 in data charges. Two: Willden could choose a data plan for the phones to operate on and have the $150 overage dropped and a monthly data plan put in its place.
Judging by the hoops Willden had to go through T-Mobile is hoping most smartphone users don’t have the gumption to pursue a refund and data block on their Pay-Per-Use devices thereby securing another paying data plan customer.
A quick search through the T-Mobile support forums and I found a number of threads with similar stories to Willden’s. T-Mobile alerted customers of the changes to their plan—whether those customers received or understood the alert is another story—and informed them the changes would take place 30 days from the notification which was on 9/18. Problem is, T-Mobile decided to charge many of these customers for the pay-period between 9/19 and 10/18 even though the charges weren’t supposed to start till the billing cycle after 10/18. T-Mobile reps gave these individuals the same run around T-Mobile subjected Willden to, attempting to push them into a data plan to get the enormous data charges wiped from their account.
T-Mobile has effectively activated Pay-Per-Use data plans on thousands of their subscribers phones, a disproportionate amount of which are iPhone owners using unlocked phones on the network. Again, it might be legal, but surely it isn’t best practices. Thousands of uninformed users will likely incur a mountain of data charges unknowingly and be subjected to the run-around Willden and others have been subject to.
My advice to T-Mobile customers worried they could be affected by these data charges is to check your bill, run a #932 data check, and if the charges are there call T-Mobile immediately. Do not accept their “Two Options” either. Demand a refund, if the person you’re talking to can’t give it to you, ask for someone who can.
Also, act fast. The change is now affecting all smartphones on T-Mobile's that previously did not have data plans attached and at $1.99/MB can get expensive quick.
Source: Eric Willden, T-Mobile Support Forum