Why didn’t I get the AT&T discount that I was promised?

When Suzan French wants to add her daughter to her family mobile phone account, an AT&T representative promises that it won’t cost any more than she’s already paying. But once she makes the change, her AT&T bills go up by $10 per month. Can our advocates help French get this additional amount to go away?

Question: I recently added my daughter to my AT&T mobile phone account after canceling her plan with Verizon. AT&T had notified me that I was “eligible for an upgrade,” so I contacted AT&T to inquire whether I could use this promised upgrade to add her to my own account.

I engaged in a long online chat with an AT&T customer service representative named Steve, who repeatedly assured me that I could make this change without incurring any additional charges and that I would receive a discount on my bill. But AT&T has charged me an additional $10 to $15 each month since I authorized the change. Isn’t this some form of false advertising or bait-and-switch?

Can you help me get AT&T to stop these extra charges and give me the discount that it promised me? — Suzan French, Washington, D.C.

Answer: AT&T offers a variety of data plans that vary in monthly plan and access charges based on a number of different factors, which can confuse both customers and company representatives as to which plan, and what specific charges, apply to a customer’s account. And that seems to be what happened when you tried to add your daughter to your account.

Here are excerpts from the chat you had with Steve, who apparently tried to tell you about several different plans and options in one chat.

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Steve: Today I will be more than happy to assist you with your services
Suzan: Hi. Thanks, you too. I just canceled my daughter’s Verizon plan. … What are the options for putting her on a plan with me?

Steve: Let’s check the best options together in order to add her device to your account.
Suzan: Unlimited data. The plan is over 2 years old
Suzan: It says I am eligible for an upgrade. What exactly does that mean?
Steve: Oh, well, upgrade means that you can get a new device and pay it with our monthly installment program.
Steve: You can keep the same phone number and the same data plan.
Suzan: But there is no discount for doing so, correct? I mean, I could go to [an] Apple store and buy one myself.
Steve: Yes, correct, the upgrade option is just an option in order to get a new device when you be [sic] ready.
Steve: Now [I’m] talking about adding your daughter to the account.
Suzan: Okay, so let’s say for now we are both keeping our phones.

Steve: In this case I have an offer for you today
Steve: Bringing her own device [sic] we have the activation fee of $25 waived
Steve: You won’t need to pay in order to activate her device
Steve: So in this case the process will be [to] just get the free SIM card and add her device to the account
Suzan: Great, thank you. And isn’t there a discount if you autopay?
Steve: No, to be honest the only plan that has the autopay discount is the unlimited plan
Suzan: Unlimited choice, plus or both?
Steve: Both
Steve: You can get [a] $5 [per] month discount with both unlimited plans when you enroll with autopay for 1 line, and if you have 2 lines or more, enrolling with the autopay will save you $10 [per] month
Suzan: So then the total price for unlimited choice will go down to $130 per month?
Steve: Correct
Suzan: And that’s total monthly price including taxes?
Steve: You are right. I did the math including all the fees

Suzan: Steve, my total monthly bill for both of us is going to be $130, correct?
Steve: Correct!
Steve: You can be totally sure of that

You agreed to the upgrade based on these assurances from Steve. But after four unsuccessful calls to AT&T over the next five months, asking that this amount be removed from the charges and offering your transcript of this chat. you asked our advocates for assistance. (Executive contact information for AT&T Mobility, which handles AT&T’s wireless telephone services, appears on our website.)

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Our advocates reached out to AT&T on your behalf. We learned that you’ve been incurring the $10 monthly charge because you had not signed up for the autopay feature, which wasn’t clearly communicated to you during your chat with Steve. AT&T has agreed to credit you a lump sum of $70 for the months you were charged the $10 fee. In addition, AT&T will apply a $10 discount to your account when you associate it with a bank account for autopayments of your invoices.

Update: Although our case notes suggest that French was not signed up for autopayments, French has informed us that she was.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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