Support Marketplace

Are you getting ripped off by AT&T or do you just not understand your phone?

Telephone bills, which contain information for an AT&T customer, lie in a pile May 12, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.

At issue are charges for data usage on smartphones that people aren't knowingly incurring. For customers on limited data plans, these charges can add up and count against their monthly allotment, possibly running them into overage fees. The situation has led to a lawsuit against AT&T. As part of the lawsuit, an experiment was conducted where a new phone was set up, running no apps and with no push notifications or email. Left alone for 10 days, the phone incurred 35 different instances of data usage, for a total of 2mb of data. We get details on the suit from Chris Foresman of Ars Technica.

The lawsuit has also caught the attention of at least two U.S. senators: Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who have sent an open letter to AT&T looking for answers. They want to know why these charges are taking place and, if they're mistakes, why they always favor AT&T. If AT&T contends that the charges are not mistakes, the senators say they want answers about how customers can verify that this information is accurate. We talk to Sen. Klobuchar, who says this issue is particularly significant in light of the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. That merger would create a wireless landscape where two companies control 80 percent of the nation's wireless business so, she says, it's important to establish transparency now.

For its part, AT&T says that these were not phantom charges and there were no billing mistakes. We talk to AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, who says phones are constantly connecting to data networks for updates on things like weather, sports scores, and other functions that don't necessarily need a person there to make the connection happen. He says customers can always check their data usage online or by text message and get up-to-date accurate information.

Senator Klobuchar says such assurances from AT&T are not enough.

Also in today's program, a new study offers some rather depressing numbers for people who use mobile devices as part of their jobs. On average, those people work 240 more hours per year than the workforce in general.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...