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iPhone Legalease

So you have your iPhone. If you are like me, never having owned an iPod before, you are still in awe of the audio/video features, but awkwardly adjusting to using your phone as a divining rod trying to locate the nearest ATT network. Between watching Grindhouse and trying to make a call, you probably have not had time to give carefully considered review to your ATT contract. And I would assume like a heroin addict outside the methadone clinic, you did not sit down and review the entire contract before activating your precious bundle of joy.

No worries. If you did not read the contract, or even if you did read the contract only to discover it made you feel like a Golden Retriever proofing the Magna Carta, Telecom Analyst Bruce Kushnick has done all of the heavy lifting for you and has unearthed some interesting bits of lawyer speak deep within the fine print. Here are just a few of his discoveries:

Customers Are Billed for “Network Errors” and “Network Overhead”.

One analyst wrote ”’Network overhead’ means all the bits used for any purpose whatsoever. If you resend a packet because best efforts wasn’t good enough then you are charged.”

Billed Even Though the Call Doesn’t Go Through.

According to AT&T, after 30 seconds it becomes a call, even if it didn’t connect to the called party. And in some cases, the network itself may take up the time to make the call a chargeable event.

Bogus Fees Added to the Bill: Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge

The “Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge” is a made-up charge that should have been included in the cost of service instead of a separate line item. Most carriers are charging this fee, even though it is not government mandated or a legitimate tax. By making it a separate line item, the phone company gets more money and doesn’t have to include this line item in the advertised cost of service. According to ATT:

“The Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge is a charge assessed by ATT and is not a tax or government-mandated charge. This charge is subject to change from time to time as the cost of compliance changes. [] The purpose of the charge is to defray ATT’s costs associated with payment of fees and compliance with various initiatives imposed by the government. Please note that costs may be incurred and charged prior to initiation of any of the respective services.”

From my lawyerly vantage, it looks like the worse the service is, the more money ATT makes. Perhaps I should buy some ATT stock to offset my monthly overage charges.

Brett Trout

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