Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

August 20, 2007

AT&T Wireless: Surprise Terms & Conditions

Filed under: Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

AT&T logoThere are so many options when picking a cellphone and cell plan, it can be overwhelming. But at least you have a choice and can call the shots. What you don’t have control over is the terms and conditions imposed on you by the cell company. Whether the terms have been clearly disclosed or not, they govern your use of the service.

AT&T’s terms and conditions statement is over 7,700 words!

Here are some of the little surprises they have tucked into the fine print:


1. Although most plans promise “roaming charges  — $0.00”, the truth is you better not roam too much.

“Off-net Usage: If your minutes of use (including unlimited services) on other carrier networks (“off-net usage”) during any two consecutive months exceed your off-net usage allowance, AT&T may, at its option, terminate your service, deny your continued use of other carriers¿ coverage, or change your plan to one imposing usage charges for off-net usage. Your off-net usage allowance is equal to the lesser of 750 minutes or 40% of the Anytime Minutes included with your plan. AT&T will provide notice it intends to take any of the above actions, and you may terminate the agreement.”

Translation: If you roam more than 40% of the time, you will either be charged for roaming, or your account will be terminated.

2. You will be charged for unanswered calls:

 “Unanswered outgoing calls of 30 seconds or longer incur airtime.”

3. You could be charged twice for one call.

“You may be charged for both an incoming and an outgoing call when incoming calls are routed to voicemail, even if no message is left.”

4. Seven thousand words of terms and conditions is not enough.

“See Wireless Service Agreement for additional conditions and restrictions”

Okay, AT&T, where did you hide that online?  I really would like to read it.

5. Our telephone services are for talking only:

“If AT&T finds that you are using an unlimited voice service offering for other than live dialog between two individuals, AT&T may at its option terminate your service or change your plan to one with no unlimited usage components.”

6. Our unlimited data plan is not unlimited:

“AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny Service and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network “

Each carrier has its own set of one-sided terms and conditions, and many of AT&T’s restrictions are not unique just to that carrier. For additional consumer nasties in AT&T’s fine print, visit TeleTruth.

Share this story:


• • •


  1. You could probably fill a year with mouse print of cell phone providers.

    How ’bout Verizon’s “unlimited” broadband that’s actually capped at 5 Gigs, and prohibits streaming your favorite radiostation online.

    Seems a contradiction to me. How do they get away with that?

    And to all y’all ‘you should have read the temr before you signed’: I recently spent 3 hours in 2 stores to get my new PDA from Verizon, including a 53 min “EZMove” number change. I apid particular attention to when you receive your terms and conditions. The terms and conditions ARE your receipt. So without a purchase you DO NOT get the terms and conditions. Could I have asked for them? Yes. Did the store clercks ask me if I wanted to read them? NO. did they even mention them? NO. Do you sign for the terms and conditions at the same time as you sign for your credit card? YES. Therefor: can someone be completely unaware of the terms and conditions? YES. Does that constitute misleading? To me: YES.

    [Why did I spent 3 hours in 2 stores? Verizon is the only provider with a decent network, so I don’t really have a choice of provider – long live the free market]

    Comment by Jasper — August 20, 2007 @ 7:42 am
  2. I personally don’t use such plans. I have a cellphone for when I really need to use it and yet it
    is not such a dire “emergency” that calling 911 would be apropriate (which you can usually do with
    an unactivated phone!). I have a “phone in a box”. Those aren’t all they are cracked up to be

    The ads give the impression that you can just buy the phone and use it whenever you want until the
    minutes are used up. People who don’t have one try to tell me that it works that way. It doesn’t!
    You have to call in and activate it, then you get only 15 days of service. You have to add minutes
    on a regular basis to keep it it active. [they have to pay a monthly line charge themselves!]

    Still, I can get a year of service for $99, that’s $8.25 a month for a phone that is there when I
    really need it, and I have over 1000 minutes accumulated. It would be expensive if I used it every
    day, but I don’t.

    Comment by John A Elson — August 20, 2007 @ 8:31 am
  3. It’s actually 4 gigs now – it used to be 5. Soon, unlimited broadband will equal 10KB. After that, they will charge you extra.

    Comment by Chris — August 20, 2007 @ 8:44 am
  4. BTW, that $99 gets a year of service but only 300 minutes…

    Comment by John A Elson — August 20, 2007 @ 8:51 am
  5. @ Chris: Yeah, probably the same will happen as with TXT messages. When introduced, they were 5 cent to send, and 2 to receive. Now it’s 15. That’s completely in line with logical economics, that prices increase when a product gets used more. Has nothing to do with a lack of competition in a ‘free’ market.

    Comment by Jasper — August 20, 2007 @ 12:18 pm
  6. I’ve never had any problems with Cingular (the New AT&T) Do you guys have a
    particular grudge against that company since you seem to feature them

      Edgar replies:  Going back over a year and a half of stories, there were two related to AT&T; two related to Sprint; three related to Cingular (before AT&T took it over); and one about Amp’d Mobile.

    Comment by Myra — August 20, 2007 @ 5:37 pm
  7. @ Myra: I don’t think this website is aimed particularly against any company. It is against mouse print. Unfortunately, there is virtually no company left that allows purchases without mouse print being involved. It is sad that while we are more educated than ever, most still don’t have the tools to understand all the contracts they need to sign to have a life.

    Comment by Jasper — August 21, 2007 @ 8:38 am
  8. Not to get too far off-track, but I’m still tryign to determine if cell phone plans are ALL just a mass conspiracy designed to grab your money as quickly as possible.

    For the longest time, calls were 25-cents per minute (and often up to 40-cents per minute), this as home usage for long distance was dropping to record lows near 5-cents per minute.

    I guess the cell companies are trying to pay for the satellites that transmit this, but it seems to me that greed has taken over and i suspect that the cost and upkeep of these transmissions costs them well under 5-cents per minute and they are still charging excessive amounts (although they try to hide it with unlimited plans at $40/month plus lots of extra hidden fees that realistically bring it up to $60/month.) How may minutes of calls do you make per month? (Hard to tell on an unlimited plan?) divide that into your monthly bill to see if you’re paying the low rate that you’d get at home. Is that extra amount worth the cost of mobility? Maybe, but not for me (someone who makes less than 30 minutes of calls in a typical month–including calls from home.)

    I might tolerate some of these annoying telecom mouseprints if the companies actually gave me a plan that was reasonabnle (10-cents per minute) rather then the current ones that cost me the equivalent of $2 per minute of phone usage for the way I use the phone.

    FYI I currently use TracPhone just for those “emergency calls” and it costs me about $10/month and my total minutes go up every three months–because of my lack of usage–when I extend my service for 3 more months and get 60 more minutes…or whichever minimal plan they offer at that time. THe per-minute cost is steep (about 35-cents per minute) but i get the convenience at a reasonable monthly rate.

    Comment by RS — August 25, 2007 @ 12:29 pm
  9. I will never touch anything that has AT&T written on it with a 10ft. stick.
    They deliberately cheated me a couple times. People BEWARE!
    This is the corporate culture of AT&T.
    20 years ago they charged $2.50 a min. for overseas calls which probably cost under 5c a min. to make. As mobile service in general, take 1 year contract and run it as long as you want, I have mine with T-mobile for more than 3 years. At least it will give you an ability to drop the suckers at your will.

    Comment by runner — September 1, 2007 @ 4:44 pm
  10. The US is lagging far behind other developed and even under-developed countries when it comes to cel-phone technology. Because of corporate greed and a lack of action by our government, companies are allowed to lock us into contracts, lock phones to their networks and charge us all manner of outrageous fees.

    We’ve got GSM, TDMA, CDMA and who knows what other standards out there, which means the phone you use while in one area may not work when you move to another area, yet you’re still locked into the contract. Other countries allow you to buy phones, activate them with whatever carrier you choose, terminate your contract anytime you want and there is one industry standard for service, so the phone/carrier you have will work anywhere in the country.

    What AT&T is doing is pretty much the industry norm. I’ve been writing my government officials for years concerning corporate gouging of consumers, wireless carriers, cable TV service providers, ISPs, debt counseling services, you name it. Our government leaves us unprotected in return for huge campaign contributions and other perks from these companies.

    Comment by Trina — September 5, 2007 @ 10:00 am
  11. Cingular/ATT has no problem enforcing their contracts when it favors them. I had negotiated a contract with them, which they honored for part of the contract. After that they changed the plan (without notifying me) and of course the changes were in their favor.

    When I called and asked about what happened to my plan, I was told that they could not provide those services because they do not have a way to do it. LOL.

    They tried to claim that my plan was ‘bonus’ minutes and as such bonus minutes are no longer given once the contract is fulfilled. Only problem was that I was still within the time period for the original contract.

    Next they tried to tell me that the contract did not exist. I faxed them a copy along with numerous emails involved in getting the plan activated in the first place. In neither the contract or emails is the word ‘bonus’ every mentioned.

    They initially offered a thousand extra rollover minutes. I got them to give me 5,000 rollover minutes because of the minutes that I had been cheated out of by them not honoring ‘their’ contract.

    I’d really would like them to honor the contract that they sent to me along with the additional features mentioned in their emails. I feel totally screwed by ATT.

    Comment by Richard B. — September 6, 2007 @ 12:40 pm
  12. I first started out with Bell South in June of 1999. Then it sold to Cingular I’m not sure what the Date was, but then At&t bought out or merged whatever with Cingular. The contract that I have had for over 8 years all of a sudden is no good. I made a trip to Pennsyvlvania in August and when I got my cell phone bill it said I had roaming charges of $160.00. Needles to say that blew my mind!! I called to see what was going on and they said that I plan did not include long distance roaming charges! I said I had had that plan for over 8 years and had never hbeen charged roaming charges that I was paying for nationwide calls and that took care of the roaming charges. Then she proceeds to say that I can upgrade my plan and I told her that I was not wanting to talk about upgrading that plan or changing I wanted to know why all of a sudden after 8 years or so that I was being charged roaming charges. She said there must have been a cliche in the system or something, because I should have been charged all along!! Well, you just don’t know how mad that made me!! And she went on and on about what she could do for me as far as changing my plan. This plan was grandfathered in in June of 1998!! I said let me talk fo someone else I am not satisfied. She gave me the RESOLUTION DEPARTMENT WOW!!! He could not explain why I had this plan for over 8 years without charges, because he said I should have been charged all that time. I argued and argued with this guy. I told him that I had just went to the beach Myrtle Beach to be exact and that I used my phone then he said well when your bill comes out thenn I will take the charges off that he could not see it at that time, which was bull and that he would call me back when he could see my bill and that he would take those charges off and that he would call me on the 10th of October and asked what was a good time and I told he that I worked at night to call me at 12:00 pm. Needless to say, I got a phone call from a customer service rep. saying that he took off those charges, but that they could not do it again. That he had discussed changing my plan!!! I had went to a home office At&t in my area the same day that I talked to them and discussed the situation and one of the guy’s in the office said that he rememered the plan even though it was old and that had happened to someone else he knew and that it was just a way of trying to void my plan!!!! Well, I told them this should make my contract void because they were not abiding by the contract for which I had for over 8 years and all they said was we will discuss that when I call you on Oct 10th, 2007. There was no discussion beacuse I was in the bed because they did not call me when they said they would. I want OUT of this contract!!!!I still have 1 year in November according to them. I should not have to pay $175 for terminating the contract when they LIED to me!! I told them I was going to tell everyone I know NOT to sign up with At&t and I will every chance I get. I hope that more and more people complain as I did. This is not a very reliable service. And half of the time I lost call’s daily due to the phone just shutting off in the middle of a conversation. I thought that and the fact that they are not honoring the contract is enough to void the contract? P.O’d in Bristol, Tennessee!!!

    Comment by freida s. — October 14, 2007 @ 11:09 pm
  13. ATT does not appreciate long-term customers.I have been a customer since 1989. I went in the store to buy a cell phone today and was told I would have to either sign a new 2 year contract or pay $200 above the cost that I would pay if I did not do a contract. You would think they would appreciate a long-standing customer by not requiring a contract. The store manager and a supervisor for the wireless company refused to budge. Does anyone know of a company that does appreciate long-standing customers?

    Comment by Sheryl Allen — November 26, 2007 @ 10:38 pm
  14. If you really want a good cell phone provider – T Mobile prepaid is reliable and cheap. 1000 minutes good for 1 year for $100 and that also qualifies you for Gold Rewards.

    Comment by Mark J Smith — November 28, 2007 @ 10:12 pm
  15. I ordered a cell phone from AT&T. The “deal” was, since I have a line phone and DSL I can get the BUNDLE for less than $98 a month on the senior plan. That means no texting or internet, just a phone, with 200 anytime minutes and 500 N&W minutes. (over limit charges are $0.45 a minute)The monthly cost would be $26.99. My line phone and DSL was costing $68 monthly. She said “The total would be less than $98 including a couple of dollars more taxes.” I bought it. They then “updated” DSL to Pro and added many more features to my line phone that I will never use. Now the actual cost of the cell is $44.00 a month. I have been loyal to ATT for 40+ years, until the contract up.

    Comment by Bob Thiele — August 5, 2008 @ 1:10 pm
  16. Watch out for AT&T. I was on St. John in the US Virgin Islands and my plan called for no roaming charges in US Virgin Islands. Depending upon where I was driving on that island I picked up AT&T service or service from other providers off island including marine services. AT&T charged me several $1000 in roaming charges, demanded payment in the middle of the billing cycle and threatened to terminate my service while I was still there. I paid with my American Express card so service would not be terminated and then disputed the charges through the proper channels at American Express. American Express investigated and AT&T agreed to issue a credit. HOWEVER, the very next month AT&T put the same charge back on my bill. This has gone on for several months. I have found representatives at AT&T to be unprofessional to say the least and the company continues to act unethically each time they agree to a credit with American Express and then reissue the same charge the following month. AT&T knows what is going on here. I was not the first victim nor will I be the last of their unfair practices and deceit.

    Comment by Paul Grover — August 24, 2008 @ 10:09 pm
  17. my company just switched from unlimited usage on our at&t wireless to a limit of 5 gigs per month. We’ve been told that if that amount is exceeded, our cards will be shut off automatically and will not be re-activated until the next month, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
    To prevent this from happening, i need to know how many minutes 5 gigs actually is, so that i can track my usage and not have my internet shut down as it is required for business. Anyone know what the conversion is?

    Comment by Bill — April 18, 2009 @ 8:10 am
  18. I have been with att- cingular-bellsouth for almost 15 yrs. on the cellular service-
    I am GRANDFATHERED in on certain features that they do not offer anymore- every time you call you get a different call center – they seem to be nice out of canada and the carolinas
    – be persistent and they usually will honor the plan-ask for someone that has been with the company for a few years –
    it is getting harder- they keep wanting to change my plan to get me off the grandfathered features-
    i was told calling in puerto rico would be on my plan but they hit me with roaming charges- I called and they credited it back – south fla. has metropcs – not the best but getting better – but $35 unlimited in/out calls ANYTIME- but you have to buy the phone- you can buy other phones besides from them – you have to ask – also I bought a phone at walmart and put my att sim card in it and it works fine- got to stay ahead of the game -a letter to corporate about rude employess with names and date of call helps quite a bit…
    they want to create a monopoly on the market

    Comment by sunrise45 — July 28, 2009 @ 10:22 pm
  19. ATT does not appreciate their customers. I signed up for the bundle plan in November of 2009, which included cell phone, home phone and internet services. I was also informed that I would receive a $200 rebate, which I never received. It was also explained to me that with my plan that my cell phone mobile to mobile included any ATT land line. Nevertheless, that was also untrue and I incurred overage charges. Needless to say, they did not bundle until Februay and I was charged for that service. Long story short,I was flabergasted to see a bill for $400.00. I have been on the telephone with countless representives trying to come up with a some type of resolution. This went on for 8 months and several hours trying to resolve this issue, mind you I was still making payments. One month the issue would be cleared up and the next month they would be trheatening to terminate my services. One representive apparently entered into the computer that I had paid $400 (not true) and it came back insufficent funds. I have truly been on a merry-go-round with this company; however, the issue continued to go unresolved. ATT ended up turning off my cell phone (without notice), and one by one disconnecting all of my services two days after I made a payment for $150.00 which were the current charges. Every month since I had the service, I was on the telephone with a representative disputing the charges. Therefore, I conclude that ATT does not value or appreciate their customers.

    I went into an Altel store, and overheard a lady complaining about an overage charge of $200 for text messages. Keep in mind, she never denied that it was not true (she had a teenage daughter). Altel took off the charges, and offered the lady a $20 plan for no limit text message to avoid future overages. Ofcourse the lady left the store completely satisfied. Now, there is company who value’s and appreciate their customers.

    Comment by L Lucas — August 22, 2009 @ 12:30 am
  20. There is alot of fine print but I must say that I was VERY pleased recently with AT&T and their service response. I opened my bill which is typically $120 and the bill was for over $800. I was a little freaked out to say the least. We have three phones on the plan. One was added for my in-laws to use while traveling back and forth to dotors appointments. Recently, they had a grandson move in and started using the phone and was texting like crazy. Their phone did not have a texting plan. I called AT & T and the associate was very helpful. In the end they charged me one month for unlimited texting which cost me $20 bucks versus the additional $700.

    Comment by David — September 2, 2009 @ 9:06 am
  21. Can anyone tell me why I have an AT&T wireless phone that can’t receive calls from AT&T land line customers in my local calling area? It started happening about 2 months ago out of nowhere. All other land line carriers and wireless carriers can get through with no problem. The wireless side of AT&T say it’s a carrier problem for the people who are trying to call me. Um, hello, the carrier is AT&T. Why doesn’t the switch recognize my cell number and how can I get AT&T to fix it?

    Comment by birdied — August 26, 2011 @ 12:49 am

Comments RSS

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by: WordPressPrivacy Policy
Copyright © 2006-2018. All rights reserved. Advertisements are copyrighted by their respective owners.