AT&T’s Overstuffed iPhone Bills Annoy Customers
When Justine Ezarik, a video blogger in Pittsburgh, saw that a box from AT&T had been delivered to her doorstep a couple of weeks ago, she thought that perhaps she had been sent a complimentary accessory for her new iPhone. Instead, she found a 300-page, double-sided, excruciatingly well itemized bill.
Ms. Ezarik, 23, made a one-minute video that shows her flipping through the voluminous bill and posted it to YouTube and other video-sharing sites on Aug. 13. The video has since been viewed more than three million times.
For the last several weeks, iPhone users have been by turns amused or enraged over the sheer heft — some are the size of small novels — of the bills they are receiving from AT&T.
Yesterday, in response to Ms. Ezarik and scores of others, AT&T’s wireless business sent text messages to all its iPhone users to let them know that it will be sending them summarized bills from now on.
By yesterday afternoon, Apple iPhones around the country were displaying this text message: “We are simplifying your paper bill, removing itemized detail. To view all detail go to att.com/mywireless. Still need full paper bill? Call 611.”
As of Sept. 28, all of AT&T’s new wireless customers will be sent summary bills. And any customer who makes a change to an existing account, like adding a line, will begin to receive the summary bills as well.
Customers who prefer detailed paper bills will be charged $1.99 a month for each phone line to have these mailed. A spokesman for AT&T, Mark Siegel, said customers could switch to electronic bills and could have those summary bills available online to see the details of their activity.
The reason for the outsize bills is that AT&T itemizes not just every phone call, but every detail about every text message and Internet data transfer. Unless instructed otherwise, AT&T sent out detailed bills.
“It’s nonsense,” said Mike Brophy, 34, who owns a software company near Seattle and posted an item about his 64-page bill on his blog. “Ninety-five percent of the bill is just page after page of 1K data transfers, all with a charge of zero.”
Mr. Brophy also did not appreciate the amount of paper. “My bill was probably half a pound,” he said. “Just think of the fuel. It’s a real waste, not to mention information overload.”
Ms. Ezarik, who noted that AT&T spent $7.10 in postage to send her bill, got her text message late yesterday afternoon. She said she planned to switch to e-billing. "Looks like they may have got the message," she said.
Mr. Siegel said AT&T had been planning for months to switch to summary bills as its default billing mode, and decided to take action right away, partly in response to the outcry from customers.
“Because of the high data usage we have seen with many of our iPhone customers,” he said, “and the potentially voluminous bills that can cause, we thought it made sense to make this change for those customers now.”