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June 15, 2015

PayPal Gets Its Wrist Slapped by FCC for Violations

Filed under: Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:49 am

  In May, PayPal sent its customers an email notifying them of forthcoming changes to the PayPal User Agreement because eBay and PayPal are becoming separate companies.

One section of that revised agreement announces changes to how the company can contact you.

In short, it provides that you automatically give permission to PayPal to call or text you, via autodialed or prerecorded call, on any telephone number (cell or landline) you have given them or that they can find for you, for almost any purpose including to sell you stuff and to collect debts.


1.10 Calls to You; Mobile Telephone Numbers. You consent to receive autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages from PayPal at any telephone number that you have provided us or that we have otherwise obtained. We may place such calls or texts to (i) notify you regarding your account; (ii) troubleshoot problems with your account (iii) resolve a dispute; (iv) collect a debt; (v) poll your opinions through surveys or questionnaires, (vii) contact you with offers and promotions; or (viii) as otherwise necessary to service your account or enforce this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. The ways in which you provide us a telephone number include, but are not limited to, providing a telephone number at Account opening, adding a telephone number to your Account at a later time, providing it to one of our employees, or by contacting us from that phone number. If a telephone number provided to us is a mobile telephone number, you consent to receive SMS or text messages at that number. We won’t share your phone number with third parties for their purposes without your consent, but may share your phone numbers with our Affiliates or with our service providers, such as billing or collections companies, who we have contracted with to assist us in pursuing our rights or performing our obligations under this User Agreement, our policies, applicable law, or any other agreement we may have with you. You agree these service providers may also contact you using autodialed or prerecorded calls and text messages, as authorized by us to carry out the purposes we have identified above, and not for their own purposes. Standard telephone minute and text charges may apply if we contact you.

It also provides that if you don’t like it, you can cancel your account:



There is just one small problem with all of this. It is illegal. PayPal cannot just impose all these terms. With respect to robocalling, for example, they have to get your express written permission to allow it. They also have to tell you that you are not required to agree to these terms and they cannot deny you services or terminate your account if you opt-out. Oops.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is the much too polite letter that the FCC sent to PayPal last week:

Click top right corner to enlarge.

Because of the uproar created about the calling changes even before the FCC letter was sent to PayPal, the company posted a link in their blog to opt-out of being called. In relevant part, the post says this:

You can choose not to receive autodialed or prerecorded message calls by clicking here and contacting customer support.

MrConsumer clicked that link and only found the means to contact PayPal by phone or email message. There was no specific opt-out choice. So he filled out their form, using the closest relevant topic (changing/updating account information) and said that he wanted “to opt-out of all calls and texts from PayPal.”

What did he get back from them? An automated, non-responsive answer, that in essence says to write again. Great work, Paypal.

PayPal answer


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June 8, 2015

The Price They Advertise is Not the Price You Pay

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

  Enough is enough. Isn’t it time that cell and cable companies stopped advertising seemingly low monthly prices for their service, while tacking on a multitude of junk fees, undisclosed charges, and taxes that significantly boost your bill?

Recently the Huffington Post did an exposé, using Verizon FiOS’ new pick your own channel bundle for $74.99 as an example. When you added all the other charges, you actually had to pay over 60% more than the advertised price.


Huffington Post
Click to Enlarge

There were equipment/HD fees, FDV administrative fee, broadcast TV fee, regional sports fee, franchise fee, USF fee, federal/state/local taxes, etc. There could also be installation fees, activation fees, and early termination fees depending on the offer.

Verizon is certainly not alone in tacking on all these fees. Comcast and Time Warner are equal opportunity offenders, as are the wireless cell companies.

Is it any wonder that these types of companies rate low in customer satisfaction surveys and on trust indices?

Maybe there needs to be a requirement, like airfares, that a single all-inclusive price must be the amount advertised, and not these bait and switch prices.


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July 28, 2014

New Program Trades Your Privacy for Rewards

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

 With great fanfare, Verizon Wireless launched its new reward program last week called Verizon Smart Rewards.

You collect points for signing up, for being a loyal customer, for amounts paid on your bill, for signing up for paperless billing, etc. And those points can be used for discounts on meals, merchandise, gift cards, entertainment and more.

This is what the homepage for Smart Rewards looks like at launch:

Smart Rewards

It explains how the program works: you sign up, your earn points, and you redeem rewards. Simple. Oh, they left out just one thing. See that sentence at the bottom that we outlined in yellow?


May require enrollment in Verizon Selects, which delivers more relevant advertising using anonymized information about customer use of Verizon products and services, interests and demographics.

You have to enroll in some advertising program called Verizon Selects? Huh?

Well, delivering relevant advertising is the result of the program. What you really are agreeing to is to allow the company to observe your Internet surfing habits on your smartphone, where you shop, what apps you use, what your location is, where and whom you call, and more. In essence, in return for getting rewards, you are allowing Verizon to track you.

But it doesn’t say that there. What a silly (or very deliberate) omission. And when you go to the registration page, all the introduction says is:

Verizon Selects personalizes the content and marketing you may receive from Verizon and other selected companies.

Still, you have not been informed what this Verizon Selects thing really is. It tells you the result of their tracking — getting more relevant advertising — not that it is a program to track you. Only when you scroll down to the terms and conditions agreement section, do they spring it on you, and ask you to agree to it.


Verizon Selects
[size reduced to fit space]

It seems to us that Verizon should be upfront about the precondition that you must agree to be tracked in order to sign up for the rewards programs, and clearly disclose that on the first page of the offer.

Customers will have to decide whether they think the rewards they are offering are worth allowing the company to track your smartphone usage. Incidentally, Verizon tells us that once you sign up for the rewards program and the tracking program, you can cancel the tracking part and still keep earning rewards.

Note: Edgar Dworsky is a member of Verizon’s Consumer Advisory Board.


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April 7, 2014

MetroPCS: “All 4G Phones Only $29” ?

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:21 am

 MetroPCS has been advertising a “$29 for All Sale” where “All 4G phones on our nationwide 4G LTE network are now just $29.”


MrConsumer thought what a great way to get a high-end 4G-LTE cellphone like the Samsung Galaxy S 4 for only $29 since MetroPCS does not require contracts. And, it might be able to be used on T-Mobile’s network.

Upon clicking the “Shop 4G Phones” button, one gets a surprise.



Only three phones are listed, and not one of them is a high-end 4G-LTE phone. But all 4G phones are supposed to be $29, no?

Well, apparently, MetroPCS makes a distinction between a “4G” phone and a “4G-LTE” phone. (LTE refers to the newest fastest, network protocol for data.) But the advertisement specifically says that all their $29 4G phones run on their 4G-LTE network. How can that possibly be true, because only an LTE phone can run on an LTE network. A conventional 4G phone, as all the ones above are, cannot run on an LTE network.

MetroPCS has exactly one phone for $29 that runs on their 4G-LTE network, but it is not shown on the above page. It is that ultra famous, Huawei Vitria.

We asked MetroPCS for an explanation, and the PR firm representing them responded:

“While we believe that our website describing our $29 phone offer was fair and appropriate, it’s always important to us that we are as clear as possible in our marketing and advertising. As such, even though this promotion ends on April 9th, we have made some changes to the way we describe this on our homepage and elsewhere on our website.”

Lo and behold, the advertisement that proclaimed that all the 4G phones that run on their 4G-LTE network are $29 has mysteriously changed, including noting that the $29 price was “after rebate”:


No longer do they claim that the $29 phones operate on their LTE network. Don’t you just love a company that denies anything is wrong, but then, just coincidentally, changes its offending advertisement.

Until that change was made, only one letter separated a “phone” sale from a “phony” sale.


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December 2, 2013

Sprint Student Free (?) for All

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:53 am

Best Buy recently sent out an email making an astonishing offer on cell service for students:

Sprint student offer

They are providing a year of free service. That means free unlimited calls, texts, and 1 gig of data ($10 extra for unlimited data). What a deal!

It says however, “with purchase of phone at Student Activated price.” What’s that?


Sprint student prices

The prices being charged by Best Buy for the phones appear to be full price, the same as what Sprint itself would charge. In some cases, the price appears to be $50 higher than buying from Sprint directly. The benefit for the student, however, is a free year of service, without having to sign a two-year contract.

So is this a good deal? The less expensive of the two Sprint plans that the student is required to sign up for is $70 a month (plus fees and taxes) if he/she had to pay for it. So that is $840 saved for the year, but the student is paying full price or slightly more for the phone. On the other hand, if the student were to get a fancy phone free from Sprint during a promotion, he or she would have to pay that $840 for service. So it appears that the student could save a little by taking advantage of the student offer, but not hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

Presumably in year two, the phone might be able to be added onto a family plan at discounted monthly rates, and then the savings would increase (or maybe just get onto a family plan to start with to save).


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