The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 23, 2013

Joplin woman benefits from legal settlement with cellphone company

JOPLIN, Mo. — An agreement between the Washington state attorney general and cellular company T-Mobile has worked to the benefit of one Joplin woman and could affect more of the company’s customers in the area.

Jane Daniels said she had a specific request when she talked with an employee at the T-Mobile kiosk at Northpark Mall in April.

“I don’t want the bill to be more than $50 (per month),” Daniels said.

She paid $107 at the store, which she said she thought covered the cost for the phone, but it turned out to be just a down payment.

Subsequent bills also were well above her $50 threshold.

While she later learned that her plan was $50 — the lowest-price plan T-Mobile offers — she also learned that she was making a payment on the phone, as well as paying for the insurance and a warranty for it.

She said she couldn’t afford that, so she canceled her service and took her phone back to the kiosk. She said the employee refused to take the phone and told her she would have to pay for it. The balance remaining on her bill for the LG Google Nexus 4 phone was $408.

According to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, T-Mobile earlier this year had launched a new type of wireless service plan, claiming to offer “no restrictions,” “no annual contract” and no requirement that the consumer “serve a two-year sentence.”

But, this new plan did not include a phone. Instead, the company provided the option for consumers to purchase a phone at a monthly rate over a two-year period. It also let customers bring their own phone or pay the entire cost of the phone upfront.

Many other cell providers subsidize the cost of the phone with the contract, typically for two years. T-Mobile charges for the phone and the plan separately, so when the phone is paid off, the customer’s bill decreases. But if the plan is canceled, the customer still has to pay for the phone. With other providers, customers must pay a fee, sometimes hefty, to cancel a contract early.

According to Ferguson, consumers who canceled their T-Mobile wireless service were sometimes left with a “balloon payment” for the phone and equipment that in some cases was higher than termination fees for other wireless carriers.

Ferguson found T-Mobile’s practice deceptive and said the company failed to adequately notify customers of the cancellation terms. T-Mobile’s offices are in Bellevue, Wash.

Ferguson said in an April 25 statement announcing the agreement: “My office identified that T-Mobile was failing to adequately disclose a critical component of their new plan to consumers, and we acted quickly to stop this practice and protect consumers across the country from harm.”

As part of the agreement, T-Mobile had to inform customers nationwide and offer refunds to those who purchased a plan and a phone between March 26 and April 25.

That included Daniels.

She said that when she took her phone and the postcard explaining the agreement back to the T-Mobile kiosk, it wasn’t honored initially.

Daniels then called the number on the card. When she did, a person she spoke with told her to return to the kiosk with the phone and it would be accepted.

She successfully returned the phone at the kiosk earlier this month, and part of her money was refunded. She was told that she would receive the rest of the money due to her in the form of a check from T-Mobile.

Daniels said the kiosk employee apologized to her for the problems.

The employee declined to speak with a reporter, referring questions to a corporate media spokeswoman. The spokeswoman didn’t return messages left by the Globe over the course of three days.

Agreement

UNDER THE AGREEMENT between T-Mobile and the Washington state attorney general, the company must make clear to future customers the consequences of canceling the service plan.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Pension funding improving, actuary reports

    An extra $1 million contribution by the city of Joplin last year to the Police and Firemen’s Pension Fund boosted the funding ratio of the plan by 2 percent, the plan’s actuary told the board Thursday morning.

    April 17, 2014

  • Special counsel to be appointed in ethics complaint against Neosho council members

    The Neosho Ethics Board on Wednesday voted to ask the City Council to appoint a special counsel to provide legal advice to the board’s remaining two members as they investigate a complaint against two members of the council.

    April 17, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Will new Earth-like planet have better cable offerings?

    When I read that astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like planet yet, I had a couple of deep scientific questions. First: What’s the Wi-Fi like? And: Are their TV channels better than ours? Hey, I didn’t get an “Incomplete” in college astronomy for nothing.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Christian ministry plans Missouri camp expansion

    A nondenominational Christian ministry is planning a $21.5 million expansion on land it owns near Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri, with a goal of offering gatherings beyond the traditional summer camps.

    April 17, 2014

  • 041714 School safe rooms4_72.jpg Joplin school district readies community safe rooms for storm season

    Thousands of Joplin residents will soon be able to stay safe during storms in some of the region’s newest shelters. Community safe rooms at Cecil Floyd, Stapleton, McKinley and Eastmorland elementary schools, which double as gymnasiums, and Junge Field, which will double as a field house, are expected to be open within the next few weeks, according to Mike Johnson, the school district’s director of construction.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 041714 Treble Makers.jpg Carl Junction ‘Treble Makers’ to sing at Springfield Cardinals’ stadium

    Next month, 75 Carl Junction sixth-grade students will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Hammons Field before a Springfield Cardinals game. And with more than 600 parents, family members and other residents planning to attend, the May 3 event has been dubbed “Carl Junction Day.”

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Public hearing set on posed TIF district

    Financial details of a proposed new tax increment financing district for the Silver Creek Galleria area will be discussed in detail at an April 28 public hearing, members of the city’s TIF Commission were told Thursday. Chris Williams, a TIF attorney representing the city of Joplin, told the panel the Thursday meeting was intended to walk commissioners through the public hearing steps.

    April 17, 2014

  • Volunteer projects spark two bills in Jefferson City

     moving through the Missouri House and Senate were inspired by a volunteer project in Carl Junction last year that stalled over a question of whether those volunteers had to be paid prevailing wage under Missouri law. “This bill is very simple. All it says is if someone is a volunteer, they won’t be forced to be paid prevailing wage,” state Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, told lawmakers during a hearing on his bill last week.

    April 17, 2014

  • Chairman of Neosho Ethics Board resigns

    The chairman of the Neosho Ethics Board unexpectedly resigned on Thursday as the board investigates a complaint against Neosho City Council members David Ruth and Steve Hart.

    April 17, 2014

  • CWEP receives top honor from national power group

    The Carthage Water and Electric Plant has received the top award for reliable electrical service from the American Public Power Association.

    April 17, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

Would you use a community safe room when the area is under a tornado warning?

Yes.
No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter