November 14th, 2008 Verizon Wireless began mandating that all phones considered to be Smart or PDA%u2019s would require a data plan. As of January 2010, Verizon will no longer remove data plans which were added to numerous new customers without their knowledge.
September 6th, 2009 AT&T Wireless (formally Cingular) began requiring that any Smartphone or PDA would require a $30 unlimited data plan (separate from the cost of a messaging plan). Customers that owned a Smartphone/PDA prior to this date would be grandfathered in and allowed to keep their current plan. Like Verizon Wireless, AT&T has stated that if a customer who was grandfathered into the new terms wished to upgrade or purchase a new Smartphone/PDA, they would be charged the $30/month data plan fee. AT&T claims that this would provide better customer service and allow customers to have more predictable bills. I can understand AT&T wanting to provide more predictable bills for their customers using data, but there should be an option for non-data users. Most Smartphones/PDA%u2019s have the ability to turn wireless activity on/off so non-data users don%u2019t accidentally incur data charges. Furthermore, if AT&T is going to offer an unlimited data plan then it needs to be truly unlimited. If you read the fine print it is actually capped at 5gb/month.
Not only has AT&T mandated a Data Plan for Smartphones, but also a messaging plan for Quick Messaging Devices. Effective January 18, 2010, AT&T customers activating or upgrading to Quick Messaging Devices (QMD) will require a Messaging Unlimited plan; however, a minimum Messaging plan with Data Unlimited can be substituted. Customers who activated these devices prior to January 18, 2010 are not affected. New activations and upgrades require one of the following messaging plans when activating or upgrading to a Quick Messaging phone:
I need a messaging plan so I%u2019m not as concerned with this requirement, but where is the choice for people who don%u2019t want or need these additional services? You either pay for unlimited messaging or you can limit the amount of text messages as long as you add an un-necessary data plan? These cell phone companies are telling customers what they have to include on their plans or they cannot buy the phone they want or use the features that are important to them. Why are we allowing them get away with this?
I have been an AT&T customer since 2004 and have a family plan with 3 phones (all 3 considered to be Smart). I pay for our basic service and a text messaging package. Our current bill is $120-$130/month depending on whether or not someone has gone over their minutes/text messages. The monthly cost for the 3 of us to upgrade to new Smartphone/PDA%u2019s would be $210-$220/month!! This is an outrageous charge and completely useless to someone who doesn%u2019t use the internet or check emails on their phone. Advocates of the data plans claim that Smartphones/PDA%u2019s are specifically designed for browsing the internet and that it%u2019s pointless to own one if you don%u2019t intend on using the data plan. I disagree and have several reasons for needing a Smartphone/PDA rather than a traditional texting phone.
1. Smartphones offer the functions of a mobile phone and a PDA in one device with the ability to sync with PC%u2019s.
2. Smartphone/PDA%u2019s are usually equipped with operating systems that allow users to install third party software, applications and use Microsoft Office.
3. Microsoft Office is crucial to many who need to be able to view and edit business/school files; don%u2019t forget PDF files.
4. They also come packed with tons of useful (and better) features, including a speakerphone, keyboard, Bluetooth, an infrared port, camera, multimedia features and cheaper flash memory cards.
5. Smartphones have become superb for mobile entertainment, from picture and music playback to games and video.
6. Smartphones are increasingly Wi-Fi capable which relieves the strain or the need for a data plan when accessing the internet.
I spoke to CSR: Candace Crawford on Monday, February 08, 2010 and she tried to give me as many excuses as possible as to why I would be required a $30 data plan. Her final answer was this was %u201Can AT&T policy that went into effect September 6th, 2009 and that anyone wanting a Smartphone or PDA would have to carry the $30 data plan in order for the phones features to work%u201D. This is not true and when questioned about how the features would stop working - there was silence. After a few moments of silence the CSR asked what features I was looking for in a phone and could not suggest a non-Smart/PDA phone that had Microsoft Office or was capable of handling third party applications. She then went on to tell me that %u201CMicrosoft Word wouldn%u2019t work without the data plan anyway because you have to connect to the internet%u201D. That statement is false! My current Smartphone that was grandfathered in can view and edit documents without the internet as can all Smartphones. There are numerous phones (along with all its features) that work without a data plan and this is just another way for companies like AT&T and Verizon to rip people off.
AT&T has also claimed that by requiring a data plan, they are able to offer customers phones at a subsidized price. Yet these same phones have been offered at discount prices (often free) long before this requirement went into effect. Customers were offered phones at the subsidized price in return for signing or extended a contract - which is still a requirement. So many AT&T customers have resorted to purchasing unlocked phones at the full price. Much to their dismay all the carriers can now use the IMEI information sent over the voice network to ENFORCE this policy. This means that people who were grandfathered in could be slapped with a mandatory unlimited data plan anytime their SIM is detected in a Smartphone during a %u201Cdata sweep%u201D. This can be found in the AT&T Wireless Service Agreement:
Data Plans: An eligible data plan is required for certain devices, including iPhones and other designated smartphones. Eligible data plans cover data usage in the U.S. and do not cover international data usage and charges. If it is determined that you are using an iPhone or other designated smartphone without an eligible data plan, AT&T reserves the right to add an eligible data plan to your account and bill you the appropriate monthly fee.
This is not for customer satisfaction, this is for major profit and it is a policy that hurts the free market.
These new mandatory plans sound a lot like the Anti-Trust Law of Illegal Tying and we need to put a stop to these unfair and illegal practices. Tying is when a company requires %u201Ca sale or an agreement to sell one product or service on the condition that the buyer purchases another (unwanted) product or service. The only way the buyer can get the one product is to also purchase another product that he or she may or may not want.%u201D A data plan is not required nor is it needed for many customers. These companies are guilty of setting adversarial rules to extract value from its customers, rather than to provide value to them.
Send Complaints to:
Federal Communications Commission
The FCC was not as helpful with the mandatory data plans, but if you file a complaint they will require AT&T or Verizon to respond to your complaint.
Federal Trade Commission
I have not gotten a response from the FTC yet, but they deal with Anti-Trust Laws which are what I believe are being violated.