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UPDATE from Cingular: Oh, heck no!

December 22, 2006

The Consumerist, the blog that broke the news about Cingular‘s text-message rate increase and the loophole that lets users out of their contract penalty-free due to the changes, had an interesting text-message (irony there) conversation with a Cingular mystery man about the issue.

Cingular logoThe mystery Cingular rep, named “JackLeaker” by the blogger, Ben Popken, says that Cingular has been quickly circulating talking points to all of its customer service departments, telling the agents to DENY any request to cancel contracts.

Here’s the logic, direct from the Cingular anonymous mouth:

JackLeaker: customer care is a huge organization and word spreads slowly
JackLeaker: just wanted you to be aware.
benpopken: I’d be happy to look at the talking points.
JackLeaker: Q. Since Cingular is raising its rates, are customers entitled to cancel service without paying an early termination fee?
A. No, that doesn’t apply here. This is simply a pricing change for pay-per-use text and instant messaging, which is an optional service. It’s similar to buying a ringtone – that’s optional as well. It’s not part of your monthly rate plan.

Customers who pay for text and instant messages on a per-use basis are generally those who use text messaging occasionally. Frequent users generally purchase packages or bundles, so they can send and receive messages for as little as a penny each.
JackLeaker: direct from our KMS systems
JackLeaker: probably violating my non-disclosure agreement
JackLeaker: but it is legal approved scripting for speaking with customers, so I’m not so worried
benpopken: Thanks for that
benpopken: Curious though
JackLeaker: about?
benpopken: Is a user asked whether they want text messages when they start service?
JackLeaker: Sales will attempt to upsell a potential customer on an SMS Package (for which they are commissioned)
benpopken: Let me reprhase. Does a customer have to opt in to start receiving text messages?
JackLeaker: they do not have to opt-in, no…but they can opt out of sending and receiving
JackLeaker: just like Mobile Internet capabilities are enabled on the phone
JackLeaker: and if you do not subscribe to a plan, you pay per KB
JackLeaker: same with MMS as well
benpopken: Right. Then I don’t see how your legal team can consider it an optional service.
benpopken: Because a customer does not opt-in to start it
JackLeaker: Because adding or changing your SMS package doesn’t effect your contract terms…
JackLeaker: for example…
JackLeaker: let’s say I start service with no SMS Bucket
benpopken: If they’re on an SMS plan, I understand that the etf-free cancellation won’t work
JackLeaker: and six months from now, I want to add one
JackLeaker: that will not extend my contract
JackLeaker: as the company does not consider it a change to T&C’s
benpopken: We stated in the post that it doesn’t apply to people on SMS plans.
JackLeaker: right right…
JackLeaker: and that’s absolutely correct
JackLeaker: that’s Legal’s way of avoiding letting anyone out of contract
JackLeaker: I can’t say that I agree with Legal on this
JackLeaker: and it’s not the first time I’ve disagreed with them since the merger

The Consumerist blog is also getting reports of customers being outright pwned by Cingular phone service reps.

The blog also has the scoop on the official excerpt on the situation from Cingular’s computer system:

Q. Since Cingular is raising its rates, are customers entitled to cancel service without paying an early termination fee?

A. No, that doesn’t apply here. This is simply a pricing change for pay-per-use text and instant messaging, which is an optional service. It’s similar to buying a ringtone – that’s optional as well. It’s not part of your monthly rate plan.

Customers who pay for text and instant messages on a per-use basis are generally those who use text messaging occasionally. Frequent users generally purchase packages or bundles, so they can send and receive messages for as little as a penny each.”

The blogger’s advice? ESCALATE! Go up the levels until you get to the top of the management food chain! I’m betting this is heading to court somewhere.

Any volunteers? I smell class-action….

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