Swindled by AT&T: My $1723 iPhone Bill for working on “Tabloid”

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I’m sorry, but this isn’t a film post, a memoir, a musing, and it’s definitely not funny. 

I went to the Toronto Film Festival for 5 days and 4 hours and received a $1524 AT&T bill for data charges on top of the $199 paid for the first 200 MB. A total of $1723.

I am very angry about this and would greatly appreciate it if any of my readers would tweet this and post it on FaceBook.  

I’ve learned since that bills like these are a commonplace with AT&T. (See the videos below.)  Here’s why:AT&T-Charges-blueThe 200MB plan is pro-rated by the dates of the monthly plan, which in my case was Aug 17th to September 16th. In order to get all 200 MB I had to backdate to August 17th  Otherwise I would have paid $199 for 50 MB.

I knew in advance I was going to use a lot of data because I was going to be working at the Toronto Film Festival setting up publicity for “Tabloid,” a new movie by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris. I would always be on the run, needing to receive phone calls and email everywhere and at all times.  Worse, when I got there I discovered there was no wireless—only wired—internet service in my hotel room and the interview suite that was used for Mr. Morris’s interviews.

iPhone-blueI was told that the AT&T iPhone app worked in Canada by an AT&T operator. The application had a line graph that tracked international usage. But as AT&T cannot finish their accounting for international charges until 90 days after the data is used, it’s impossible for them to display charges they haven’t received yet. There’s no possible way it can work and they know that.

If AT&T hadn’t provided the app, I wouldn’t have been comforted by the low readings it was providing me.   I wouldn’t have had any idea how much data I was using, and that would have put the fear of God into me.  Still,  I did try to turn the data off—via “Airplane Mode” and changing the settings—but this shut off the phone too. What I didn’t know, and no one told me until afterwards, is that if I turned off “roaming” I could have had telephone service without data. I didn’t imagine that it was possible to use a phone in a foreign country without turning roaming on.

prey-blue When I got on my plane in Canada, the AT&T app said I’d used 120 MB, but after I got home apartment in New York it was a heart attack-inducing 300+ MB.   20 minutes after I shut off my international plan, I received an email and text from AT&T stating that they were suspending my already canceled international data planAND domestic data plan.  The email falsely claimed that I had ignored an earlier text  and email about excessive usage sent to met while I was in Canada.  An operator later confirmed that no such email
or text had been sent.

Eventually I found a sympathetic operator who filed a 4-page application for a full refund.

On Friday I received a text saying  there would be no reduction of any kind.  An  operator confirmed that there would be no explanation for the denial or any possibility of reconsideration.


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