Don't go ditching your landline for a fancy new iPhone just yet. Even thought Verizon has the latest iPhone available now on its network, you might not be able to call the one number you absolutely need in an emergency: 911.
According to Fierce Wireless, Verizon failed to about 10,000 911 calls in Maryland during the big snowstorms that hit the east coast in late January. These 10,000 calls were wireless calls and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to know exactly why these calls weren't connected. The FCC is demanding that Verizon report on the exact failings of its network to explain why so many emergency calls didn't connect.
As much as we like to plug the latest and greatest technologies--including wireless--there is something to be said for the tried and true standard POTS, or plain old telephone service. Sure, POTS can be susceptible to downed phone lines during storms, but many people keep a landline around in case of an emergency exactly like the one in Maryland. Even with AT&T's raising its landline rates in California, a landline could be the lifeline you need during an emergency. Now, if San Diego gets blanketed with snow, I think we have more to worry about than just phone lines. Can you imagine being in Balboa park in the middle of a snow storm?
You can read the Fierce Wireless story here, which has the to the FCC's document requesting Verizon's report.
Can't live without your landline? Gave up your landline ages ago and never turned back? Let us know in the comments.
The CPUC will be holding a series of Public Participating Hearings throughout March 2011 to discuss the definition of basic telephone service as telephone services have changed since the definition was first established many years ago.
Some of the proposal include changing to receiving unlimited incoming calling, access to emergency services, and lifeline services. You can review all of the currently proposed changes here.
Consumers interested in commenting can do so by attending one or more of the Public Participation Hearings. The San Diego hearing is on March 23 from 2pm to 7pm at the Al Bahr Shiners Center on Kearny Mesa Road. See the entire schedule here.
Consumers can also submit comments online or email comments to the public advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call the Public Advisor’s Office at 415.703.2074 or toll free at 866.849.8390. Comments can also be mailed in to the CPUC, PAO at 505 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, CA 94102. All correspondence should refer to R.09-06-019.
Success Story! We're pretty good at tooting our own horn, but this time around, we'll let the consumer do the talking. Here's a nice little note from a consumer we recently helped with an AT&T issue:
One day I tried to pay my phone bill and AT&T refused to take my money. After spending four hours on the phone with customer service in nonsense-filled conversations about how my account was blocked from accepting payments, I turned to UCAN. I got a call from an AT&T executive the next day, and instead of hanging up on me repeatedly, the customer service reps thanks me for "being party of the AT&T family." I don't know who these people know, but they get things done, and fast. Thank you again!
Do you have what it takes to be the next UCAN success story? Give the Fraud Squad a call at (619) 696-6966 or fill out one of our online complaint forms.
Here at UCAN, when we aren’t out escorting little old ladies across the street and saving kittens from burning trees, we like to read the terms of service of the various telecom companies. Terms of service, customer agreement, terms and conditions are all wonderful names for those multi-page documents you read every single word of and then sign saying that you have read and understand the thousands of words. What? You mean you don’t read every single word and understand it before signing things or clicking ok? Well, that’s alright, because not very many people do. However, terms of service (TOS) can hold the key to avoiding a charge or getting out of your contract. These documents govern your relationship with the telecom companies
As a new feature to our blog, we’ve decided to start the “Fun TOS Feature.” To us, Fun TOS sounds like a great carnival game you would play as a kid on a hot summer day at the boardwalk. But instead of being swindled out of your meager allowance by an oval basketball hoop and an overinflated basketball, our version of the game will give you some fun little nuggets that we’ve found during our extensive and exhaustive reviews of TOSes (TOSi?).
This edition of Fun TOS is brought to you by the letter Verizon. You may have seen our guide on how to cancel your cell phone, but selfishly these blogs are always from the consumer’s point of view. We never take into consideration how the company feels or if it wants to get out of the contract. Frankly, we didn’t know that these big companies wanted to break its contract with you. But, if the vibe just ain’t right, Verizon does reserve the right to cancel your contract.
That’s right, Verizon can break up with you! And it doesn't have to pay you an early termination fee (ETF) or even take you out to a nice dinner. Listed below is our favorite reason Verizon can use to dump you, but we must caution you that this is for entertainment purposes only and we don’t endorse using this method to coerce Verizon break up with you.
What Are Verizon Wireless' Rights to Limit or End Service or End this Agreement?
“We can, without notice, limit, suspend or end your Service or any agreement with you for any good cause, including, but not limited to: ... (2) if you, any user of your device or any account manager on your account: (a) threaten, harass, or use vulgar and/or inappropriate language toward our representatives.” http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/globalText?textName=CUSTOMER_AGREEMENT&jspName=footer/customerAgreement.jsp
Again, this is for entertainment purposes only, so don’t go calling up Verizon and harassing them with vulgar or threatening language. Seriously, it’s better to take the high road and treat all reps with dignity and respect, no matter how frustrating it can be to deal with them.
But, on the other hand, there is something vulgar about being stuck in a two-year service contract, isn't there?
Has Verizon or any of the other wireless phone companies broken up with you? Let us know in the comments.
It’s simple enough to verify the cell phone minutes you’ve used each month, but what about your data usage? This is the question on our minds after we found out about the latest lawsuit that AT&T is facing.
AT&T is being accused of systematically overstating data charges and incorrectly logging the time of data connections. Patrick Hendricks, an AT&T iPhone user, hired an independent consulting firm to investigate AT&T’s billing practices.
For those who aren’t familiar with data usage on phones, the firm likens the situation to a car and a gas pump. This CNET article (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-20030151-94.html) explains that AT&T’s data billing system “is like a rigged gas pump that charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car’s tank.” In one instance the consulting firm found a 50KB website that was logged as a 53.5KB website according to AT&T’s billing system. If you’re on a limited data plan, those little overtures can add up to big charges at the end of the month.
Or worse, you could be charged for data connections that you couldn’t possibly have initiated. In another experiment, a consultant experienced “phantom data transactions.” He bought a new phone, turned off all services, and was still billed for 35 data transactions equaling 2,292 KB of data. CNET likens this to a “rigged gas pump charging you when you never even pulled your car into the station.”
This lawsuit raises an issue that we at UCAN are very concerned about: what resources do customers have to independently track their data usage? It’s difficult to fudge minutes used, but data usage is a different ball game. You can request an itemized bill, but that still only tells you what AT&T judges your data usage to be - - as the lawsuit indicates, that number may be skewed in their favor. Do you really want to *gulp* trust that AT&T is telling you the truth? This style of metering that lets the utility solely determine the usage is problematic for consumers.
There are a few applications available to independently track cell phone data usage. Our plan is to test them out and blog our results and recommendations. Until then, be sure to keep a watchful eye on your purported data usage.
Get out of your T-Mobile contract for free! (maybe) - T-Mobile raising its Canadian text message rates
As any good running back knows, you need to exploit any weakness in the defense. In football, this means the smallest opening in the defensive line could mean a game-winning touchdown. In the realm of cell phone service contracts, a small rate change could be the opening you need to get out of your seemingly impenetrable contract. T-Mobile just might be the next cell phone company to give up a touch down.
To be fair, this issue probably should have had a comparison to hockey, since T-Mobile’s rate change has to deal with text messages to Canada. But, I don’t know squat about hockey and would probably end up insulting somebody who regularly wields a large stick, so I’ll stick with football.
T-Mobile sent out text messages to some of its customers in the end of January stating: “Beginning Feb. 23 messages to Canada from the US will be charged as international messages ($0.20 per message)." This is great information to have, but what does this mean to the consumer?
For those of you who’ve read our How to Cancel Your Cell Phone guide, you know that a change in your cell phone contract that is “materially adverse” to you can get you out of your contract without paying a hefty early termination fee (ETF). So is T-Mobile’s new text message change one that is “materially adverse” to you that will let you out of your contract? Maybe.
Why the wishy-washy answer? Because each company defines a materially adverse change differently. Here is T-Mobile’s take:
5. Our Rights to Make Changes. This provision, which describes how changes may be made to your Agreement, is subject to requirements and limitations imposed by applicable law, and will not be enforced to the extent prohibited by law. Your Service is subject to our business policies, practices, and procedures, which we can change without notice. WE CAN CHANGE ANY TERMS IN THE AGREEMENT AT ANY TIME. YOU MAY CANCEL THE AFFECTED LINE OF SERVICE WITHOUT AN EARLY TERMINATION FEE (if applicable) IF: (A) WE CHANGE YOUR PRICING IN A MANNER THAT MATERIALLY INCREASES YOUR MONTHLY RECURRING CHARGE(S) (the amount you agreed to pay each month for voice, data and messaging, which does not include overage, pay-per-use or optional services (such as 411, or downloads), or taxes and fees);
(B) WE MATERIALLY DECREASE THE SERVICE ALLOTMENTS WE AGREED TO PROVIDE TO YOU FOR YOUR MONTHLY RECURRING CHARGE; OR (C) WE MATERIALLY CHANGE A TERM IN THESE T&Cs OTHER THAN PRICING IN A MANNER THAT IS MATERIALLY ADVERSE TO YOU. WE WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH AT LEAST 30 DAYS’ NOTICE OF ANY CHANGE WARRANTING CANCELLATION OF THE AFFECTED LINE OF SERVICE WITHOUT AN EARLY TERMINATION FEE (WHICH IS YOUR ONLY REMEDY), AND YOU MUST NOTIFY US WITHIN 14 DAYS AFTER YOU RECEIVE THE NOTICE, OR AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED IN THE NOTICE. IF YOU FAIL TO TERMINATE WITHIN THE RELEVANT TIMEFRAME, YOU ACCEPT THE CHANGES. http://www.t-mobile.com/Templates/Popup.aspx?PAsset=Ftr_Ftr_TermsAndConditions&print=true
This sounds all fine and dandy, but the trouble lies with how T-Mobile characterizes the service. Just because T-Mobile changes its Canadian text message rates doesn’t mean that it necessary affects you. T-Mobile may take the stance that only its customers who text Canada will qualify to get out of their contract without an ETF. If you don't text Canada, it doesn't matter if the rate goes up to $1 a text (which hopefully it won't) because it doesn't increase your monthly recurring charges.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to get out of your contract. When it's fourth and long with 5 seconds to go, you don't just give up! You fight until the end! Well, I guess you could punt, but that isn't the fighting consumer advocate way. Sometimes all it takes is finding the right customer service rep to work with you and is willing to put up with your whining, begging, and pleading long enough to cancel your contract.
So give it a shot and let us know in the comments if you were successful. And to carry the football analogy all the way home, get out on the field and give em all you've got! GO TEAM GO!
First remember this notice if for a very limited number of customers. If you were an AT&T residential wireline long distance customer in California who paid a Universal Service Fund Charge between August 1, 2001 and March 31, 2003 you may be entitled to a class settlement. From the statement on the class website http://usfjudgment.com/index.html a settlement could be as low as $5.00 per valid claim or as high as $1,000 per valid claim. The total award will depend on the number of claims submitted.
If you are a class member and object to the settlement you can still send an objection until March 18, 2011. It should be mailed to:
United States District Court for the District of Kansas
United States Courthouse
500 State Avenue
Kansas City, Kansas 66101
If you believe you are entitled to benefit under the settlement you must submit a claim form via mail by April 29, 2011. You will need to know your AT&T phone number from the time period and will either need to provide a copy of your bill from the period showing you paid the fee or sign and submit an attestation stating you no longer have the relevant billing records but personally paid AT&T charges during the class period.
UCAN was not involved in this lawsuit, but wanted to let our friends here in California know about the claim opportunity.
Eventually, we had to jump on board and talk about the Verizon iPhone. It is great that now consumers have a choice (which we love here at UCAN), but if you are a current AT&T customer does it make sense to jump ship and head to Verizon? Sure, Verizon is offering a couple of extras to sweeten the deal, including a trade-in program and an unlimited data plan (maybe).
Have you taken the plunge and switched to Verizon for your iPhone needs? Staying strong with AT&T? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Has DirecTV lured you into a bad deal and left you high and dry? You may be in luck.
Attorney General Brown announced that DirecTV has agreed to pay $13.25 million to settle allegations of misleading sales and marketing practices. The multi-state settlement comes after 1,136 complaints received by the California Attorney General office alone. DirecTV’s many misdeeds include:
- Conning customers into signing extended contracts by disguising them as boilerplate service documents during routine repair calls.
- Failing to deliver promised channels and programming.
- Changing the terms of promotions through “introductory pricing.” Most notoriously, DirecTV offered a two year deal at $29.99 a month but failed to disclose that the second year would be at regular price ($53.99 to $63.99 a month). And if you wanted to get out of this deceptive “two year” deal? You were slammed with an early termination fee.
Now for the good stuff. What are you, the consumer, going to get from this settlement? Here’s the nitty gritty:
First, the agreement requires DirecTV to take several measures to improve its service to consumers. DirecTV must clearly state all costs, services offered, length of contracts, terms of cancellations, and refunds. This is the minimum we would expect from any reputable company.
A little better: some swindled consumers may be eligible for a refund. The California Attorney General’s office is currently reviewing consumer complaints back to 2007. If you believe you were misled by DirecTV you have until June 9th to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office and get your slice of the settlement. California residents can file a complaint by clicking this link.
Although we’re happy to see DirecTV get their hand slapped, many believe that the settlement doesn’t go far enough. Specifically, the consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, who is in the process of suing DirecTV, was caught off guard by the sudden settlement. They contest that the settlement gives DirecTV too much control over the confusing claims process and doesn’t guarantee a monetary remedy to affected consumers. In contrast, Consumer Watchdog’s lawsuit seeks refunds for all consumers that had early termination fees wrongly debited from their bank accounts or credit cards.
Consumer Watchdog intends to proceed with their class action lawsuit and we here at UCAN couldn’t be more pleased. If you have an issue with DirecTV or any other telecommunications company, let our Fraud Squad know. You can file a consumer complaint on our website by clicking this link.
First off it is important to note the emails UCAN is receiving are SPAM. Why are they spam, because they are unsolicited messages for which we have not taken any action to receive and no one we know is purposely sending us information from the site.
So let’s investigate! Fanbox is not just known as Fanbox; it is also known as MobileGuard and SMS.ac. What do we know about SMS.ac it is a company that has gotten in trouble with regulators before. In 2007 for instance the company was fined £175,000 in London and was barred from providing services until it became compliant with the rules there. Remember spam text messages are cramming and you should not have to pay for such charges. Alert your carrier if you receive such messages and if they won't refund your money consider filing a complaint with us if you are in California and if not try your state utility commission or the FCC.
In 2009, Heather Myers with San Diego 6 ran a story about frustrated former employees who had not been properly paid by Fanbox.com. The article noted at the time there were at least 20 complaints with the California Labor Board against Fanbox for unpaid wages.
The Better Business Bureau currently rates the organization an F and it takes a lot to receive such a poor rating from the BBB.
Plus a quick search around the internet shows a lot of complaints about fanbox services including this 2008 article from TechCrunch.
Nothing we have seen suggests anything about this company has changed since these last reports were out there.
So be careful San Diego and know that when you receive SPAM you can report it to the FTC.