AT&T is threatening to terminate the accounts of a pair of iPhone users because they’re costing the company too much money.
“AT&T is firing us as iPhone users,” says Penny Alexander, who lives in Dadeville, Alabama, with her husband John.
In late November the Alexanders received a letter from AT&T saying that because they didn’t live in an area directly serviced by AT&T’s network, more than half their calls were being routed through another company’s network. Thanks to roaming charges, the pair are costing AT&T too much money.
“This situation is rare,” the letter said, “but when it happens, our operating costs increase significantly which makes it difficult for us to keep our rates affordable for all other customers.”
Penny Alexander says she and her husband are effectively being terminated. They will be unable to use their iPhones at home, but will still be expected to pay $140 in monthly service charges.
“Why didn’t they tell us this when we signed up, before we invested time and money in all the software and devices?” she says.
AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom says the company is not “firing” the Alexanders. Their account will not be terminated, but they will be restricted from roaming on another company’s network.
“More than half of the wireless voice usage on one of their lines has been in an area not directly served by AT&T for several months in a row,” said Bloom in an email. “What we’ve said to them is that we will be roam-restricting that line to work in-network only. We will not terminate their service.”
Bloom notes that AT&T’s national plans stipulate that customers must live inside an AT&T-owned wireless coverage area to curb excessive off-net or roaming fees. The situation is extremely rare, Bloom said. “It is not an issue for more than 99.9 percent of our customers.”
Penny Alexander has been an iPhone user since the summer while her husband has owned an iPhone since the device was launched in July, 2007. The pair have not moved to a new house since owning their iPhones.
“If AT&T took us a customer they should have to keep us as iPhone users,” she says. “We are both just really sick over the prospect of having to lose our iPhones.”
Alexander says her husband has contacted both AT&T and Apple, to no avail. She says the Apple representative was flabbergasted at the situation.
Apple customer cervice “was in disbelief of what they were hearing,” she says. AT&T offered to reimburse the cost of her iPhone but not her husband’s older model.
Alexander says she knows of two other locals who have also been roam-restricted by AT&T. One got mad and left for T-Mobile, while the other has since resigned with AT&T, she says. They don’t want to reveal their identity in case they get terminated again.
At the very least, Alexander said AT&T should unlock their iPhones and allow them to take the devices to another carrier.
“If they don’t want our business then there should be some agreement that we can take our accounts and our iPhones to another carrier who is capable of servicing the area we live in,” she says. “This is just not fair to the consumer.”