AT&T expands 'video bill' service

The AT&T logo is seen atop a paper phone bill. A new video service aims to explain to customers where their money is going.

It sometimes seems there is nothing as complicated as a cell phone bill. AT&T says it's come up with a solution. The company is going to make monthly statements available as videos, customized for every customer.

“Even I don’t understand some of the things on my bill,” admits Joan Engebretson, executive editor of Telecompetitor, a website that focuses on the telecom industry.

AT&T didn’t get back to us, but Weston Henderek, with Current Analysis, says the company is finally acknowledging wireless statements are too complicated. Which brings us to the video bill...

“If a customer can hear it explained via voice, it’s going to be easier for them to understand,” Hendrek says. “Or at least the perception will be it is easier to understand.”

According to Henderek, smart phones have made wireless statements even harder to figure out.

“Customers know they’re using data, but it’s difficult to understand exactly how that’s billed for,” he explains.

That’s especially true if you have more than one phone line. James Breen, a senior analyst with William Blair and Company, notes a video bill could come in handy if Mom, Dad and the kids are all on one statement.

“And you do get that occasional, you know, $400 bill, it’ll make it easier to figure out who the culprit is, on the family side,” he says.

According to Breen, the video bill is part of a trend. Consumers don’t want to have to figure something out. Why follow a recipe when there’s a YouTube of someone baking?

“Instead of having to read how to cook the cake, they actually show you how to do it,” he says.

If this technology works for cell phone bills, it may have other applications… The only thing more inscrutable than a wireless statement is a doctor’s bill.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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The challenge with this service is that it fails to answer the real question. The video uses generic explanations that, for instance, explain that a charge is "one time" without explaining what this SPECIFIC one time charge might be. As long as AT&T fails to address the question "why does this SPECIFIC bill confuse this SPECIFIC customer" then it won't matter how cute the presentation is.

James Taylor

It's embarrassing to see such right biased corporatism faux-like junk stories coming out of a LA public radio organization. The problem with the gobs of charges on your phone bill DOESN'T need video explaining - it screams for elimination. Anyone with half a brain for awareness would have caught david cay j0hnson's recent interview on newshour.

Fed universal service charge, regulatory charge, administrative charge, gross receipts surcharge.Some of the amounts are small enough that you go, well, I'm not going to complain about a 59 cent federal access surcharge, you know.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: But here's a little thing to think about that.If you could get everybody in America to pay you one penny a day, at the end of the year, you would have $1.1 billion.

If you can get a dime, you're going to have $11 billion at the end of the year.If you can get a dollar, you are going to have over $100 billion.

DATE: Nov. 28, 2012
How Fine Print on Your Bills Helps Big Companies in Taking More of Your Money


David Cay Johnston: If you go to France you get the same package for the equivalent of $38 a month and you don't get two country calling, you get worldwide calling to 70 countries. You get live TV from all around the planet and your internet is 20 times faster uploading and 10 times faster downloading.

Why do I have to spend time educating "marketplace"?????
Are they seeking to become an arm of faux news?
What a lousy program!!!!

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