Cell phone dead spots are a major pain. Now PCWorld has listed three (3) new ways to solve your cell phone dead spots. http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,138835/article.html?tk=nl_spxhow (10/25/07). This article will help consumers who are ready to get rid of their landlines and replace them with cell phone service. Up until now, consumers have been frustrated and fearful of relying solely on cell phone service even though it could be cheaper in the long-run.
After 17 years, you would think that Exxon/Mobil, the world's largest, and most profitable, oil company, would pay its considerable debt to Alaskan fishermen for the 1993 Valdez disaster. It hasn't, it isn't and it probably won't, ... all because Exxon is playing by the Golden Rule.
If you are an oil company, with unlimited cash, the Golden Rule goes like this: "He who has the gold makes the rules."
Since 1993, Exxon has spent billions of dollars avoiding payment in court with a strategy of stall, appeal, delay, and appeal. In 1994, a judge cut the amount of the $5 billion award in half, ruling that it was excessive. But for that much Gold, Exxon is willing to bend the rules.
Today, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Exxon's claim that the remaining $2.5 billion in punitive damages is excessive. Exxon/Mobil, no doubt, is counting on the fact that the current Supreme Court is the most pro-business court in U.S. history. A ruling is expected in June.
In the meantime, more than 6,000 plaintiiffs have died, waiting for a check from Exxon that may never come.
AT&T changing your contract terms and will start prorating ETFs and stop extending contracts...maybe
AT&T says in November it will stop extending your contract when you change phone plans and early next year if you enter into a new contract, or sign up for AT&T services AT&T will prorate its Early Termination Fee (ETF), but what isn’t AT&T saying in this announcement and who exactly will see these benefits.
I know, I know, we all cringe when we get that notice or read that news article that our cell phone company has changed one of the terms of the contract the Company had us sign when we signed up. Well AT&T is making changes again but these two you might like:
According to AT&T’s press release:
“Beginning in November, customers who change to any one of the company's standard wireless calling plans during the course of their contract will no longer be required to extend their current contract or enter into a new one.”
We assume this means that if your current plan for example is “Nation 2000 w/ Rollover Minutes” and you wanted to switch to “Nation 1350 w/ Rollover Minutes” that you would be allowed to make that change without extending the length of your contract.
Now does this mean you could change from an Individual Plan to a Family Plan or a Data Plan that is not as clear. The best thing for you to do is ask, if you want to make a change to your plan ask whoever you talk to whether an in store agent or a customer service represent ask them how it will affect your plan and it never hurts to have them put it in writing or an email.
And what about upgrading equipment, most people are likely to change phones before they change plans, yet AT&T’s statement is mysteriously quiet about equipment upgrades.
The second change to your plan according to the press release:
“…those customers who choose to exit their contract early will no longer be required to pay a flat early termination fee. Instead, that fee will be progressively lowered during the term of the contract. Beginning early in 2008, this early-termination policy will apply to new and renewing wireless customers who sign one- or two-year service agreements. More details will be forthcoming at that time.”
What does this mean? Well for one your current AT&T contract will not be progressively lowered, commonly referred to as prorated.” No your current contract will have to run its course and if you enter into a new one in 2008 then the early-termination fee will prorate.
So if you were considering switching to AT&T you might want to consider waiting until 2008. But you may also want to wait until AT&T makes further announcement because:
1. They have not said if they will raise the ETF.
2. They have not said what proration rate will be.
3. They have not said if they will also decide to change your contract and go back to the flat rate ETF if you will be allowed to terminate your agreement without paying an ETF provided you give notice of termination to AT&T within 30 days after the first bill reflecting the change.
In the Press Release, Paul Roth, President of Sales and Marketing for the company's wireless unit stated: "AT&T leads the wireless industry in the flexibility, friendliness and fairness of its practices, and the new policies we have announced today are the most recent examples of that leadership. Customers have told us they do not like one-size-fits-all approaches. They are right, and that is why we have made these important changes."
I am going to have to disagree with Mr. Roth I do not believe these two new policies are examples of AT&T’s leadership in having flexible, friendly, and fair practices. Nor do I believe they made these changes because the customers wanted them.
Lets look at the evidence.
First, Verizon Wireless has been prorating their ETF now for quite awhile. Guess we will have to call you #2 on that one AT&T
Second, Alltel (ok so they are like number 5 in the industry but still) has allowed customers to change phones or plans without having to extend their contract for a long time. Sprint-Nextel was recently sued by the Minnesota Attorney General over the practice, and Verizon well they beat AT&T to the punch again and announced way back on October 1 that starting on October 7 Verizon would allow customers to change plans without extending their contract.
Third, AT&T is making changes only after the introduction of the Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act in the U.S. Senate (an act AT&T opposes by the way). Which would require among other things that the Wireless providers prorate ETFs and provides point-of-sale notice and gives the customer 30 days to cancel when they extend contracts. See
Fourth, T-Mobile is also facing a lawsuit over non-prorated ETFs and SIM-locked handsets.
Is AT&T leading the way or did it just seeing the writing on the wall? My guess is the latter since both times their announcements followed the actions of some of the other wireless providers.
So watch for new announcements and decide for yourself whether these new policies are consumer friendly enough to make you want to switch or sign up with AT&T or any of the other wireless providers.
AND DON’T FORGET TO READ YOUR CONTRACT.
Fox 6 Reporter John Mattes nailed the issue with UCAN. http://www.fox6.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoIdfirstname.lastname@example.org
Verizon Wireless will provide customer calling records (incoming, outgoing, email, text messaging) to only its agents, affiliates and subsidiaries. The company alleged that it "does not sell customer information to third-party advertisers. Instead, it's giving your information to its business alliances. The company customer service told UCAN that the infomration was being gathered to study calling patterns, email patterns, and other patterns like text messaging for the sole purpose of learning what specific customers want most.
In your Customer Service Agreement, please carefully read the section called Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) where it states:
Your Privacy — IMPORTANT INFORMATION — PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BEFORE MAKING YOUR PURCHASE DECISION
In the course of providing services to you, we may collect certain information that is made available to us solely by virtue of our relationship with you, such as information about the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, and amount of your use of the telecommunications services you purchase. This information and related billing information is known as Customer Proprietary Network Information, or CPNI. (CPNI does not include your name, address, and wireless phone number.) Further, except as provided in this agreement, we won't intentionally share personal information about you without your permission. WE MAY USE AND SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU AND HOW YOU USE THE SERVICES: (A) SO WE CAN PROVIDE OUR GOODS OR SERVICES; (B) SO OTHERS CAN PROVIDE GOODS OR SERVICES TO US, OR TO YOU ON OUR BEHALF; (C) SO WE OR OUR AFFILIATES CAN COMMUNICATE WITH YOU ABOUT GOODS OR SERVICES THAT ANY OF US OFFER (ALTHOUGH YOU CAN CALL US ANY TIME IF YOU DON'T WANT US TO DO THIS); (D) TO PROTECT OURSELVES; OR (E) AS REQUIRED BY LAW, LEGAL PROCESS, OR EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES. IN ADDITION, WE MAY INCLUDE OUR OWN OR THIRD-PARTY ADVERTISING IN THE SERVICES YOU'VE PURCHASED FROM US, AND WE MAY SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU WITH AFFILIATES, VENDORS AND THIRD PARTIES TO, IN ADDITION TO THE ABOVE REASONS, DELIVER RELEVANT ADVERTISING TO YOU WHILE USING THE SERVICES. WE MAY COLLECT AND TRANSMIT INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES THROUGH APPLICATIONS OR OTHER SOFTWARE PRESENT ON YOUR DEVICE. IF YOU DO NOT WANT US TO COLLECT, TRANSMIT OR USE SUCH INFORMATION ABOUT YOU FOR THE ABOVE PURPOSES, YOU SHOULD NOT USE THE SERVICES; BY USING THE SERVICES, YOU EXPRESSLY AUTHORIZE US TO USE YOUR INFORMATION FOR THESE PURPOSES.
Verizon Wireless' announcement to share your information has consequences. If you pay online, the company has your email. If you text message, affiliates and/or the company will know from your records that you utilize this feature and will send you text messages. If the company and its affiliates know your calling patterns, you can get telemarketing calls on your cell phone. Isn't it amazing that everything today requires an OPT-OUT versus an OPT-IN? If we need and want these services so badly, why do we have to opt out to avoid them?
If you don't want to get ads on your Verizon cell, call (800) 333-9956. It wouldn't hurt to put every cell phone on the Do Not Call List at 1-888-382-1222, also! Remember, the FCC doesn't consider bothering us as "Spam" if we have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and fail to exercise the Opt-Out within 30 days of receiving the notice. Of course, you can do it at any time thereafter. But, who wants all the bother to get them to stop once affiliates, subsidiaries and agents have started bothering you. The company spokesperson did not have any answer as to how frequently we could be blessed by these sales pitches!
You’ve heard the saying: “There’s no free lunch.” Well, that is turning out to be true for many of the nation’s senior citizens who are being courted by investment firms in the form of free meals or free “educational” events that end up being mere sales pitches for their investment products.
This problem has become so pervasive that The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and AARP held a “Senior Summit” to focus on these practices that, in some cases, have left seniors with full stomachs but empty pockets.
Why are senior investors such attractive targets for these schemes? The Associated Press reports that an estimated $16 TRILLION -- three quarters of the nation’s consumer financial assets -- is held by households headed by persons 50 and older.
The SEC, now on full alert about the growing problem in California and other states where there are large numbers of retirees, has put together the following tips for seniors to consider before exposing their hard-earned money to possible investment fraud. Investors will find more valuable information by going to the SEC Web site at www.sec.gov
Seniors — Beware of Investment Seminars
No Free Lunches
INVESTMENT SEMINARS ARE DESIGNED TO SELL
Although you have been invited to an “educational” program or investment “workshop,” never lose sight of the fact that the sponsor's goal is to sell investment products to new customers. Don't be taken in by laims of “urgency” or “limited space availability" for the seminar.
BE ALERT TO POSSIBLE SCAMS
Investment seminars are legitimate sales practices. However, some seminars may involve fraudulent sales practices such as sales of fictitious products and outrageous misrepresentations of risk and return. You should always thoroughly check any product before investing.
THE SEMINAR'S SPEAKERS MAY BE BIASED IN THEIR PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS
Although seminar solicitations generally focus on the speakers, they may not include the name of the firm or product sponsors. Product sponsors, like mutual fund companies or insurance companies, may fund the seminar with the expectation that their products will be sold to the attendees. Always get a disclosure about any products that you are thinking about purchasing, including information on fees paid by the product sponsor.
ADVERTISING AND SALES MATERIALS MAY BE MISLEADING
Advertising and sales materials may include misleading or exaggerated statements about the safety, liquidity or anticipated rates of returns. Sales materials also may make comparisons between dissimilar investments or services. Some firms fail to disclose that they have paid for positive testimonials from other customers.
“EXPERTS” MAY MISREPRESENT THEIR QUALIFICATIONS
The education, experience, and other requirements for receiving and maintaining a "senior" designation vary greatly and in some cases may be a marketing tool. Always thoroughly evaluate the background of any financial adviser before you hand over your hard-earned money.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS MUST BE SUITABLE FOR YOU
Products are not “one size fits all.” Make sure that any investment you make meets your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizons.
DON'T BE A VICTIM OF “BAIT AND SWITCH” TACTICS
Unfortunately, too many seniors have replaced existing investments with investments that are unsuitable or have steep sales commissions, high surrender charges or tax consequences.
Source: “Protecting Senior Investors: Report of Examinations of Securities Firms Providing 'Free Lunch' Sales Seminars.” (Joint Report of SEC, NASAA, and FINRA, September 2007)
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Government Accounting Office says the FCC is giving inside information to major phone companies. When corporate moguls inside the "beltway" are given private information, it provides an unfair advantage to pitch what they want to legislators who unknowlingly are lead to believe the companies are smart enough to read their minds. The crime is that it gives consumers no advantage. It's as if a powerful person in a lawsuit has access to the judge to learn what he/she is thinking and to take this unique opportunity to establish a decision before the "common person" and his/her counsel have a chance to present the case. In the case of the FCC, lobbyists working with any FCC officials in secret discussions result in both the FCC and the lobbyists cheating the system. The article relates a couple of instances where an FCC staff person was fired in 2000 for leaking documents to a lobbyist. There's a legal time for discussion and a time where all parties are to keep their mouths, notes meetings and other means of communications on an issue totally silent.
Can the common person or the major company provide the most money in contributions and other special events? This question needs no answer in words because this answer is crystal-clear in almost all decisions made over the past few years where rulings are in favor of big industry and not the rest of us.
Your AT&T phone plan may be changing. This link directs you to the September 2007 rate changes. It includes information on what services and plans have changed or are obsolete whether you liked what you had or not. For example, an AT&T residential and business service was withdrawn as of 9/19/07. Up until that day, you were always able to call and get the "time of day". It's discontinued. Click on the link to see other changes to plans and services you once enjoyed. Mergers did bring us one thing and it wasn't market competition between companies. Mergers brought us reduced company choices, increased technology and marketing, increased "hold" times for customer service, fewer regulations to protect consumers and a great deal of billing confusion for customers who were "migrated" from "old AT&T" (Legacy T) to the "new AT&T. Check your bills very closely to make sure every service on your bill is exactly what you ordered. If not, write a letter to the company ASAP instead of calling and contact the UCAN Fraud Squad at 619-696-6966 or fill out a complaint form online and one of us will email and/or call you.
"...the Cubic phone could save 50% to 90% off your per minute international roaming rate."
I don't call London and I don't call France, but I always jump at a deal when I get the chance. Ha ha, that was lame. But according to a recent article written by David Pogue in The New York Times, there now exists "A Cellphone Without Borders." I don't really know what that means. Did cell phones ever have borders? If these theoretical borders were eliminated, wouldn't they charge one flat rate no matter where you called? Because to me that's what "no borders" means. Apparently not to David, but that's a topic for another post.
Cell phones still have borders, but thanks to a new company, Cubic, the price of those borders could come down dramatically. Cubic is attempting to leverage the communciations potential of the Internet to cut the costs of roaming international cell phone calls, much like the way Interent phone companies like Skype, Vonage, and Jajah have reduced the cost of international landline calls (see our Internet phone company comparison and review post). The difference is that the Cubic phone works like any regular cell phone and calls do not need to be initiated or routed through your computer.
For $135 or $219 (Windows Mobile) you can get the Cubic cell phone and MaxRoam SIM card. Depending on where you want to call and your current carrier, the Cubic phone could save 50% to 90% off your per minute international roaming rate. Yeah, pretty good stuff. The Cubic phone works in over 160 countries and, similar to VoIP, you're allowed to pick a local number for your phone. Unlike most VoIP plans, Cubic lets you pick up to 50 local numbers in cities around the world. That means if you have family or friends in Glod, Kazakhstan and you pick a number in Glod, your family and friends pay local rates when they call you. Double good stuff.
But the Cubic phone isn't all good and double good stuff. Calls aren't placed like normal cell phone calls. Well, they're sort of placed like normal calls, until the part where you wait for a call back when you're told that your call is being placed. The Wi-Fi calling option also leaves a bit to be desired. For an extra flat montly fee you can receive ulimited calls from Internet hot spots, or place them for a cent a minute...pretty much turning your cell phone into a VoIP phone. The drawback is that unlike the T-Mobile HotSpots plan, the Cubic phone drops your call if you move out of the hot spot. Basically, asking you to pretend that you are not on a cell phone....which was the whole point of using a cell phone instead of a computer. Last, because the phone essentially does not know what country you are in, you must enter a country code and area code every time you dial out, even if it is a local call.
BUT THE BEST PART IS....You can buy the Cubic MaxRoam SIM card without purchasing the phone. But, the real question is, did you skim this post for the most important text? Or, are you just attracted to bold caps? Well, either is fine by me, because who can resist bold all caps text? Not me, that's who. The MaxRoam SIM card will work with any GSM phone (only T-Mobile and AT&T in the U.S.). However, the phone must be "unlocked" (see our guide to Unlocking your Cell Phone). What this means is that you can use your normal cell phone when travelling overseas (as long as you have switched out the SIM card) and pay up to 90% less than standard roaming rates. And that's what I call: triple good stuff.
Note (10-2-2007): The MaxRoam SIM card currently costs 30 pounds (yes, English pounds). At the time of publication for the NYTimes article this meant the SIM card would cost $40. Due to the dollar's rapid depreciation in the past couple of days, the SIM card now costs slightly more than $60.
Apple recently cut the price of the iPhone by $200 so that it will sell better during the holiday season. Steve Jobs apologized for, "disappointing some of you." I guess the "you" would be the iPhone fanatics that paid $600 for their hardware and expected the price to remain prohibitively high for some time. As a show of good faith, Jobs is offering a $100 Apple store credit to anyone that purchased the iPhone at the full retail price of $599. What Jobs isn't saying is that Apple has a pricing policy that allows customers to get a full refund on the difference of any price cuts within 10 calendar days of the purchase date. If you bought the iPhone in the past week at full retail, take advantage of the following policy:
Should Apple reduce its price on any shipped product within 10 calendar days of shipment, you may contact Apple Sales Support at 1-800-676-2775 to request a refund or credit of the difference between the price you were charged and the current selling price. To receive the refund or credit you must contact Apple within 14 business days of shipment.
Have you been receiving debt collection phone calls and messages from 800-684-8429? If so, you are not alone. A UCAN member recently filed a complaint regarding incessant phone calls and messages she had received about someone else's debt from the number 800-684-8429. The calls appear to be made on behalf of HSBC Bank, or Orchard Bank, a banking and credit provider. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors must honor any request to cease telephone communication and contact you only in writing.
- Tell HSBC to quit calling you and Stop Debt Collection Harassment using our sample letter.
- If HSBC is calling you about a debt that you do not owe, send them a Collection Agency Debt Dispute letter.