The wonders of deregulation, profiting customers as always: AT&T shows its contempt for consumers.
AT & T buries customer rights in 2,500-page 'guidebook'
Judging from the phone company's voluminous new online customer manual, if you have a problem with your bill, too bad.
David Lazarus for the Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2008
AT&T has sent customers an 8,000-word service agreement that, among other things, says people will be given 30-day notice of price increases only when "commercially reasonable" and that you can't sue the company.
Oh, and if you don't like AT&T's terms -- providing you can make your way through the company's 2,500-page "guidebook" -- your only recourse is to cancel service.
Two years ago, regulators voted to give phone companies more freedom in pricing and marketing decisions -- thus opening the door to AT&T's new agreement. The rationale was that this would create a more competitive marketplace, which would benefit consumers.
However, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates concluded in a recent report that "significant rate increases" have occurred since the market was deregulated.
Witteman said a key problem with AT&T's service agreement is that the company doesn't list all the terms and conditions that apply to customers. Rather, AT&T says customers must review a separate "guidebook." That guidebook is available only online ... and runs about 2,500 pages.
"You also agree to pay for all charges for services provided under this agreement even if such calls were not authorized by you." The analysis said this "is in direct violation to cramming laws," which protect consumers from having unauthorized charges placed on their bills.
Under the provision, the analysis concluded, "AT&T, or any other billing agents, could impose unauthorized phone calls on a consumer's bill." It said consumers would have "little chance in both avoiding and fighting against this type of fraud."
Verizon Communications Inc. is also preparing to inform regulators of services it wants to remove from regulatory oversight before offering them to customers.
AT&T includes a provision that says customers are "waiving the right to a trial by jury and to participate in a class action" and may resolve grievances only by arbitration.
Consumers who want to comment on the AT&T or Verizon service agreements can e-mail the PUC at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 849-8390.
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