Well, well, well. Just as I got done ratting out the mobile phone companies for various beat-downs, guess what I found out? Well, actually, I found out two things: one, I found out that I should be glad I don't have a monthly mobile phone service plan. I wouldn't even consider it. I have long realized (and apparently I am one of a very few) that it's the biggest rip-off since that "medicine" that made up a condition called "tired blood" and sold a remedy for it. Or maybe it's the biggest rip off since new automobile rebates. Or maybe it's...Oh, but I digress. Let's get on with the latest beat-down from a couple mobile phone services, which leads to the second thing I have found out.
Cingular (which ought to change its name to JUGular), and Verizon have both been tapped on the shoulder by some irate users who are wondering why they have been getting billed for a service called "Roadside Assistance". No, this is not something that covers your phone if you drop it by the side of the road (which most you ought to do with your phone plans), it's a thing that, if your car breaks down or you're stranded, you can call a special number on your Cingular or Verizon phone and get some gas, a flat fixed, your keys out of the locked car, stuff like that. Not a bad service really and at $3 a month it's cheaper than AAA (though I don't know what restrictions and limitations are on it).
The problem is, customers are starting to pop up all over these companies' service areas wondering how in the world this charge got on their bills, because they hadn't ordered it! Spin Specialists - I mean - spokespersons for both companies have said that the service is optional (which used to mean you got it only if you wanted it; in today's business world it can mean anything). The stock explanation seems to be that, as these customers upgraded or renewed their phone plans (which obviously said to these companies that those customers wanted to continue getting beat down), they were offered this service for free: for a 60 day trial. Now, we can play legalese here or we can act like we have common sense: The companies knew most people would be unlikely to actually use the service, and having decided on it without putting any more thought into it than allowed by the salesperson, they would likely forget to contact the company 60 days later to have the service canceled, and of course, billing would start after that 60 days. Now, most of your mobile phone billing statements, I am sure, are so complex and confusing, that most of you probably just shuffle the two, three or four pages around and find the bottom line and just pay it. Those billing statements are confusing for a reason, and I believe that this is one of them; so they can virtually hide the nickle-and-dime charges that are part of the overall beat-down! No use even trying to convince me that the billing statements couldn't be simpler and clearer.
Customers who discovered this charge called customer service and in one case I know of, a person was told, erroneously, that he had only been billed for the current month (and of course the company was quick to remove the charge, and the service, from the bill). The person had actually been billed this charge for over a year, yet the company said they could only credit a few months. Hmmmmm, really? Others were told, basically, "Hey, it's your fault, you are responsible for keeping up with your bill", which is of course true. However, the company, perhaps just within the bounds of legality, still took unfair advantage of their customers. I am convinced they knew exactly what they were doing.
Well, the upshot is, since they weren't telling customers the right thing, they are now going to have to tell their story to a judge! This is no more than right, let the court beat them down for a change.
A lot of times companies offer you a trial for some service they figure you're unlikely to use or even remember authorizing, but they will automatically start billing you when the trial ends, without telling you, which would be the courteous thing to do if they cared enough about you as a customer as their commercials make it seem. Sure, they told you at the beginning that you would start getting billed after the trial (they did, didn't they?), but if they did I'm sure it was very low-key. Well, I hope they have to give back every cent. AOL did some junk like this to me once; I guess some corporate spy was peeking in their windows when they came up with it. Tsk!
Excuse me, my prepaid, T-Mobile phone is ringing...