Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Metro’s $20 Home Internet Has No Catches?

Metro by T-Mobile is a prepaid cell service provider (formerly Metro PCS) that also offers 5G home internet. In this commercial that began running last month, they promise an unbelievable deal — only $20 a month for internet service. And they say there are no catches and no “exploding bills.”



Click arrow to play commercial

No catches? Really?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Metro fine print

In order to get the $20 internet service you have to (1) qualify for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), (2) buy a monthly cell phone plan from Metro, (3) pay $25 the first month not $20, (4) sign up for autopay, and (5) be able to access the 5G service which is only available in certain cities/areas.

The federal program provides a $30 a month discount to those with households whose income is no more than 200% of the federal poverty level or if at least one person is on Medicaid, Section 8, or one of several other social welfare programs. Metro’s advertised $20 monthly rate already reflects that $30 discount.

On top of all that, this federal program is winding down this week and will no longer accept applications after February 7, 2024! The money for existing enrollees is expected to run out by May. And then, contrary to the Metro’s promise of “no exploding bills,” subscribers’ monthly bills will likely more than double.

Despite the FCC’s January 11 announcement of the end of the ACP program, Metro continued to run the commercials for their $20 internet service at least through January 26.

We asked Metro’s PR folks if it was fair to orally advertise “no catches” (1) when there were so many qualifications only disclosed in fine print, and (2) when the vast majority of viewers will not be eligible for the advertised price. The company responded in relevant part:

We are in the process of replacing this ad prior to the last day of sign ups. {A] key goal of this campaign [is] … to help educate millions of Americans … about a more affordable, flexible option for home internet. Of course, all the advertising always noted that ACP was eligible for “qualifying customers” in larger font.

I’m sorry, the net impression created by that ad is that Metro itself is offering $20 internet with no strings attached. The requirement of first needing to be approved for a federal program is anything but clearly disclosed (and certainly not in large type). It’s great if a company wants to promote a federal program to help lower income people with their bills, but just come out and say that’s what it really is.

In our view, then, this ad is extremely misleading as presented. We’ve asked the National Advertising Division (NAD) of Better Business Bureau National Programs to review the case.

What do you think of advertising like this?

Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Is This the Future of Consumer Journalism?

Last week, we examined what appeared to be a news story from USA Today touting discount site Temu.com. On closer inspection, however, that “story” may have actually been an advertisement, but it was not labeled as such.

This week we focus on another news story that popped up in MrConsumer’s consumer news feed recently. It was entitled, “The Nuclear Savings Rule: 10 Frugal Living Tips from the 1950s Era.”

It sounded like old-fashioned savings advice that might be of interest to Consumer World readers even today. Some enterprising reporter, I thought, must have done an awful lot of research to go back 70 years to find consumer tips from the ’50s.

Here’s that Go Banking Rates story to quickly browse — just look at the bolded tips.

AI Written Story GO Banking

Scroll down the story.

If you skip to the bottom of the story, there is a surprising editor’s note.

*MOUSE PRINT:

AI Editor's Note

Say what? This story was written by a computer using artificial intelligence and then fact-checked by a human editor. Wow! Or maybe I should say “oy.” Is this what journalism of the near future is going to look like — computers do the research and write the stories, and then a human double-checks them?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Updated every Monday!   Subscribe to free weekly newsletter.

Get a Free 55-inch HDTV*

Last week, a company called Free Telly came out with a once-in-a-lifetime offer: They are going to give away half a million 55-inch HDTVs for free in 2023!

Say what?

Free Telly

So what’s the catch? This novel TV has two screens: the main viewing screen, and then a second full-width but smaller screen below that will stream information like news and weather, but more importantly, interactive advertisements from which viewers can order merchandise or meals. And the content may be related to what is being viewed on the main screen. They also have the ability to collect a ton of user data via their privacy policy. And the TVs have a microphone and camera supposedly for voice commands and video calling.

Now a company like this is not going to willy-nilly send out 55-inch televisions with no strings attached. In fact, they have a detailed terms and conditions statement with a couple of interesting qualifications.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Free Telly terms

Many people have bigger or better TVs as their primary television and are not going to want to put this one in its place.

If you don’t play by the rules, you have to return the TV or you will be charged for it via the credit card you are required to provide.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Free Telly charge

Interestingly, the terms and conditions statement changed on its launch day last week. The previous version for beta testers spelled out the penalty for not returning the TV.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Free Telly penalty

Here are some more details about their plans.

Will this be a big financial success or go the way of MoviePass?