In the past year, AT&T and Sprint agreed to pay $18 million and $17.5 million to settle claims that they imposed unfairly high fees on wireless customers who wanted to end their contracts. The settlement provided former AT&T customers with as much as $140 back, if they canceled thier cell phone contract just before it was about to expire. Part of the reasoning behind the settlement was that these early termination fees bore no relation to the carrier’s actual costs. On January 26, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Communications, Inc., T-Mobile USA Inc. and Google, Inc., asking whether they give customers adequate notice about early termination fees.
Despite these settlements and letter requests from the government, some of these companies continue to cheat customers with outrageous fees and continue failing to provide customers with adequate notice concerning fees. One fee in particular, the Restoral Fee, stands out as an unconscionable practice. According to an AT&T customer service representative, these claims are charged when a customer’s account is suspended and reactivated. What is the time frame that AT&T abides by before suspending an cell phone? Is it 90 days without a payment? 60 days? One missed payment? The answer is …. it depends on the customer. There is no standard policy – AT&T decides when to suspend any particular account.
AT&T also charges a late fee of $5 for failing to timely pay a particular bill by a specific date – typically one week after the bill is due. So, you can be hit with a late fee of up to $5 if you fail to pay your cell phone bill within one week of the due date. If you pay within one week, you are not charged a late fee, but if you fail to pay within one week, you will be charged a $5 late fee. And, you not only risk being hit with a $5 late fee, you risk being charged with suspension of your entire account. No more phone service.
How long does it take for AT&T to suspend your account if you are late on a payment? You are probably thinking, well, if I miss several payments, my account probably should be suspended. However, it doesn’t take several months of missed payments to suspend your account. It takes days. One late payment. You mistakenly put in a “2” instead of a “1” on your bank’s electronic bill payment. One bill that got lost in the mail. If you are several days late on a payment – wham – your phone is shut off, and you have to pay over $40 to turn it back on. According to the AT&T customer service representative I spoke with, the actual date of the suspension depends on the customer. In other words, AT&T decides when to suspend your account. Then you are hit with a $36 fee plus applicable taxes. I hope AT&T likes you – maybe you will only get hit with the $5 late fee.
If your cell phone company shuts off your phone without notice and charges you a large restoral fee, you may have a legal claim for a refund.