I’m New iPhone 6 customers will receive a rude shock when they suddenly discover that their AT&T monthly fee has more than doubled
AT&T has reached a new low.
Which, given the longevity of our family’s contractual relationship, is not an easy thing to do!!!
For readers new to my blog, I’ll put this into perspective for you. Last year, (in 2013), AT&T errantly billed my family $13,000 one month following a 2 week vacation to the Mediterranean Coast. After many, many, hours in ‘discussions’ with them, (and by discussions, I essentially mean being on-hold for much of that time), and plenty of concrete evidence supporting us, they finally did reverse the charges. But the process was excruciating, frustrating, confusing, and downright scary!!!
Yet, AT&T has managed to sink to new, even lower low for my family.
There are only 2 possible explanations. Either AT&T believes their customers are really ignorant, or they are just so blinded by greed that they don’t care who they abuse. (Yes, I meant to say abuse…what else can you call their Goliath-esque bullying!)
Before I try to address these questions, I need to explain what the ripoff actually entails.
Apparently, in Feb. 2014, AT&T changed their ‘arbitrary but contractual to it’s customers’ agreement for pricing yet again. At the time I did read something about it, but it was perhaps the 4th time in less than a year that AT&T had completely restructured their fee schedules, so quite frankly, I just couldn’t keep up with all the changes! But I should have, because it seems that this last change is at the heart of the current matter.
A Brief Description of the Problem
We were long term customers with AT&T. We began using AT&T as our wireless provider when we pre-ordered the very first iPhone through them. About a year and a half back we were told we were being rewarded for our years of loyalty by switching us to a new shared media family plan. There was only one catch: we had to give up our ‘grandfathered in‘ unlimited data plan. But the new plan would reward us with discounts. One discount per family member (really per cell phone line), that was subtracted from each individual’s monthly line charge. In essence, each line charge would be $15 a month instead of the normal $25 per month.
For our family of 4 this translated into a total savings of $40 per month, or $480 per year.
AT&T’s Hidden Agenda
In retrospect, AT&T was just laying the groundwork for their most current scheme. They needed us to drop the unlimited data to really enable them to charge us for more money in the future for every single aspect, or feature of our wireless plan. We weren’t heavy data users, so in theory, our unlimited plan wasn’t really costing them anything more. It just tied their hands a bit when it came to finding new ways to overcharge us.
After a series of failed attempts at better pricing schemes in 2013, they finally hit upon the ultimate vehicle in February 2014. It’s a combination of new plan alternatives, which individually, incur huge price hikes for established customers like us. But combined together, offer absolutely no possibility for families to keep a shared plan in place that is cost effective.
Details of Our New Family Plan
This is our reward! Under AT&T’s new changes to our family plan, we can never get a new cell phone. The new plan penalizes us if we ever choose to get a new cell phone, by eliminating our loyalty discount, then upping the standard monthly line fee too.
So, if we were to get a new cell phone, regardless of the initial cost (full price versus subsidized price), our monthly costs will increase 167% per cell phone line.
The price hikes are incurred in two ways. Not only will we no longer be eligible for our loyalty discount, but our monthly base fee per cell phone line will be increased another $15 a month!!!
Current line fee per line: $15 ($10 is discounted from the normal $25 monthly charge.
New price hike line fee: $40 (If a cell phone is upgraded, this new charge applies)
We’ll be penalized with these new charges each and every time a family member upgrades to a new cell phone, regardless of the type of phone it may be.
It could be an Android or an ios phone, but it could also be a Windows or Blackberry phone. It really doesn’t matter.
Annual Projection of AT&T Price Increase
The new fee structure for our family plan
New monthly charge, per phone, will go from $15 per month to $40 per month. For our family of 4, this will now cost us $160 per month instead of the $60 per month we were paying. Our annual line fee costs now are $720. They will increase to $1920.
That’s an increase of 167 %!!!
Was Our Media Share Plan Too Good To Be True?
Before you jump to the conclusion that we were under-paying previously, I should add that our monthly fee for our wireless family share plan is actually much higher than $60 per month. The $60 per month charge is just the base price charged to allow us the privilege of sharing data as a family.
Our Current Plan
Our current actual monthly wireless bills vary from $250-$300 per month.
Annually they range from $3000 to $3600 currently for our family of four.
Do you think we’re currently underpaying for our wireless plan?
Our New Plan
With the price hike, our new monthly fees will be around $350-400 per month.
Annually that translates to from $4200 to $4800 for our family of four.
The best case scenario is that we’ll pay $1200 per year more!
What does our $3000-3600 a year currently buy us?
We have unlimited voice and texts for four cell phones. We share a 10 to 15 GB data plan, between 4 cell phones and 3 tablets. (We’re currently at 15GB’s because we increased it when we traveled this summer, to avoid huge overages from roaming and less access to WiFi, but oftentimes we forget to set it back to 10GBs.)
I was told that this isn’t really a price increase. It is essentially just a new way they are giving us more flexibility for our plan. And that this is actually a good thing. It’s aimed at letting us purchase our new devices outright for more than double what the upgraded device charge would be. But it seems, regardless of what price we chose to purchase a new phone for, our monthly fee’s will be the same, so this argument doesn’t hold water.
Anyway you cut it, we are paying 167% more per month for the privilege of getting newer hardware. My current 16GB 4s iPhone is really on it’s last legs both in terms of support by Apple, and functionality with new ios’es. I had to spend hours searching for files to remove in order to upgrade to a limited-use version of ios 8. It has more problems than just these, but I don’t want to bore you with those details. So ultimately, at the end of it’s life, I’ll own an obsolete phone that’s exclusively locked to AT&T, which I’ve paid for probably 3 times over what I would have, had I purchased it outright at full price (which I don’t believe was even an option way back then).
I cannot fathom how AT&T thinks they can deceive customers enough to actually believe that this new price (gouging) scheme will benefit them!
One More Thing About How AT&T Is Forcing Customers Into This New Fee Structure
I desperately needed a new phone, and had been waiting for a very long time for Apple to release a new larger-screened option. When they finally did, I was elated! I even stayed up most of the night that they went on sale so that I could get mine ASAP. I pre-checked my eligibility through Apple’s website and was all ready to order mine once the inventory was available for sale there.
Shockingly, the day and time of my order, September 12, 2:37am, was exactly the same day that AT&T started the price increases for our family plan. I hadn’t even received the phone yet, but was already being charged for it’s use!!!
It arrived on the promised date of September 19th. But we were out of town when it arrived. It wasn’t until September 23rd that we got back and I was able to open it. This is when I discovered the price hikes and so I didn’t activate it. I called AT&T instead. The information in the article is pretty much verbatim what they told me on the phone that day. But at no time during my conversations with AT&T did anyone suggest to me that I could just return the phone and go back to our original fee structure!
The Escape Clause
Unbeknownst to AT&T, I did read the fine print when I agreed to their terms while purchasing the new iPhone 6+. I knew I had 14 days to try it out and decide. What I didn’t realize was the clock began ticking for that 14 days the moment I placed the order. This is a very sneaky, underhanded way for AT&T to implement their price hikes!
I’m returning my new iPhone to Apple today, September 25th, on the 13th day…just to be on the safe side.
Anyone Who Ordered the New iPhone 6/6+ Should Know That They Have 14 Days to Return And Revert Back To Their Old Contract
The 14 day countdown begins the minute you place your order!
I hope that this blog post helps someone else to avoid being overcharged by AT&T too!
Here are links to a few articles that explain a little more about AT&T’s new plans:
This CultofMac Article describes more of what’s occurring for iPhone 6 customers.
This article from 2013 describes the alternative plan available to us…what AT&T calls their Next Plan
Update on September 26th
Well, the good news is that the Apple store took back my iPhone 6 and AT&T has now reset my family’s media share plan back to the original fee structure. But I still need to check our bill and see if they have removed the additional charges.
What was interesting though, was that they told us at the Apple Store,, that if I bought the phone outright for the full price, AT&T wouldn’t increase our monthly line fees. This is in direct conflict with what we were told by AT&T reps in several conversations.
The Apple employees we worked with were so sure of this that they were trying to figure out a way to return the phone and then immediately put it back into inventory again so that I could repurchase it at the full price. Because the 6+’s are sold out everywhere right now. But ultimately we chose not to do that because we don’t really want to pay the huge price increases that AT&T had applied to our account, and we thought it would be prudent to let the dust settle first!
So what I’ve done instead is ordered the same phone through Apple’s website, but the T-Mobile version, which at this point in time is the only sort-of unlocked version being sold by Apple. T-Mobile uses the same GSM cellular technology that AT&T does, so we are going to try something suggested to us, which is to get the phone then visit an AT&T store to put the phone onto our account but keep our same fee structure.
The advantage of doing it this way is that when our contract time is completed, we would then own an unlocked phone which we could use anywhere (anywhere that uses the GSM technology that is). If we obtained the full price version from AT&T, it would always remain locked to their network. They are supposed to unlock phones quite readily when your account is in good standing…but we have not had any good outcomes from our attempts to unlock our old phones with AT&T despite our account having always remained in good standing. So we’ll see what happens and I’ll update here when it arrives.
I should receive the new iPhone 6+ October 6th!!!
Update October 4, 2014
Yesterday I received my new T-Mobile iPhone 6+!!!
I spent the better part of the day backing up my old 4s to iTunes and messing around with my iTunes media on my PC trying to consolidate older library’s from my early days of owning an iPod (one of my kids setup it up for me on their own Apple ID). I finally managed to get that straightened out enough to feel confident that much of my very old media is still intact, but that had to occur before I could restore the new iPhone 6 and put back on some really old apps that I’ve come to rely on. It just reminded me how much I dislike iTunes and Apple ID’s!
After spending the entire day on it I finally completed the restore process and I actually have a working iPhone 6+ with pretty much all of my stuff in it! It’s as amazing I’d hoped it would be, which fortifies me to complete my last step…getting cellular service on it. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I should give T-Mobile a try or pursue exploring if AT&T can find a way for me to stay with them and continue on our family plan.
I understand that activating with T-Mobile is no picnic, but I still have my functioning 4s so I have time to figure out the best option for me. As I was researching my options I ran across a great series of articles explaining, much better than I am able to, all of the ins and outs of AT&T’s complicated alternatives. So I’m linking to the first one that I read, from which you’ll be able to access the others.
The AT&T Family Share Plan’s vanishing discount – don’t get burned
I ultimately decided to give T Mobile a try, primarily to test out ios 8 continuity features (I was led to believe some of these wouldn’t be available on AT&T until 2015), but also to let the dust settle with our family share account in the the hopes that I’d be able to add my new iPhone to the existing plan without invoking the new fees and charges. It turns out that the problems I’d read about regarding activating the new T Mobile SIM were accurate, so I wrote this brief guide outlining my steps for activation.
Update Regarding Unlocking Old iPhone with AT&T
While discussing my initial problem with an AT&T customer service person, I brought up my frustration with having tried so many times to unlock any old iPhone through the AT&T website dedicated for this task. She ended up submitting a written request for me to do so. I’m really happy to report that this process did finally work! My earlier attempts had all been through the website where, after filing the appropriate paperwork I either never heard back from them or received a canned response type of reply stating that there was a problem with my request, but offering no course of action to resolve it.
I can’t say with 100% certainty that my phone is now unlocked, until I try a different SIM in it, but I followed the steps and everything seemed to go smoothly. So I wanted to share my successful strategy with others who might be considering unlocking an old phone.
Please feel free to leave me comments below:
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this issue where I’ll research the alternatives and offer suggestions for AT&T’s victims!
September 26, 2014 at 12:09 am
We have a ‘Grandfathered in’ plan with AT&T too. You certainly cleared up a lot of questions we were wondering about. Thank you for the heads up.
September 28, 2014 at 11:34 am
Your very welcome. It’s really nice to hear that we aren’t the only ones. In talking to AT&T I got the distinct impression that we were in the minority! Thanks for visiting too. :-)