Cell phone bills are a tough pill to swallow each month, often reaching well into the hundreds-of-dollars range for families or even individuals. Regional and prepaid carriers offer some relief, but users who need nationwide coverage and a wide variety of handsets to choose from often have no choice but to pay a premium. According to documents recently obtained and published by the American Civil Liberties Union, consumers and business users aren’t the only ones overpaying wireless carriers for service. Read on for more.
A series of documents detailing the rates each of the four major U.S. carriers charge law enforcement agencies to execute cell phone wiretaps was unearthed last month, and as Forbes reports, the rates are fairly surprising — or perhaps unsurprising, considering how much consumers and businesses pay.
According to the documents, T-Mobile charges law enforcement agencies a flat fee of $500 per “target” to execute a wiretap on a mobile phone. Sprint charges a similar $400 fee along with a daily fee of $10 capped at $2,000 for ongoing monitoring. AT&T bills law enforcement $325 per tap plus $5 per day for data monitoring and $10 per day for voice monitoring, and Verizon Wireless charges $750 per month to tap a cell phone.
Other services incur additional fees, Forbes reports. Carriers charge between $30 and $150 for access to a target’s text messages and voicemail, for example, and the companies bill between $30 and $150 per tower per hour to monitor the numbers of every user accessing a certain cell tower. To track a target’s location, carriers charge as much as $100 per day.
Both Verizon and Sprint confirmed to Forbes that the companies do not charge police in the case of emergencies. AT&T and T-Mobile declined to comment on their respective wiretap policies.
Phone line worker image via Shutterstock
AT&T is increasing the fee charged when subscribers upgrade to new handsets on contract beginning this Sunday. BGR has been informed by multiple readers via email that AT&T has sent them notices regarding the increased fee, which had previously been $18. ”Because the overall costs associated with upgrading to a new device have increased, effective Sunday, February 12, 2012, AT&T will change its upgrade fee from $18 to $36,” AT&T said in a note to dealers obtained by BGR. An AT&T spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A portion of the memo follows below.
UPDATE: AT&T has confirmed the change. “Wireless devices today are more sophisticated than ever before. And because of that, the costs associated with upgrading to a new device have increased and is reflected in our new upgrade fee,” an AT&T spokesperson told BGR via email. “This fee isn’t unique to AT&T and this is the first time we’re changing it in nearly 10 years.”
Verizon Wireless on Friday announced that it is canceling plans to charge a $2 convenience fee to customers making one-time bill payments online or over the phone. The carrier announced earlier this week that the new fee would allow it to continue providing subscribers with the option to make one-time payments using its web-based and telephone payment systems. Following a rash of negative press and customer complaints, Verizon confirmed that it will scrap plans to introduce the new fee next month. “At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers, Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead said in a statement. “Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time.” The carrier’s full press release follows below.
Verizon Wireless Will Not Institute Single Payment Fee
Verizon Wireless has decided it will not institute the fee for online or telephone single payments that was announced earlier this week.
The company made the decision in response to customer feedback about the plan, which was designed to improve the efficiency of those transactions. The company continues to encourage customers to take advantage of the numerous simple and convenient payment methods it provides.
“At Verizon, we take great care to listen to our customers. Based on their input, we believe the best path forward is to encourage customers to take advantage of the best and most efficient options, eliminating the need to institute the fee at this time,” said Dan Mead, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless.
Verizon Wireless will begin to roll out a new convenience fee on January 15th which will add an additional $2.00 fee to customers who make single bill payments online or by telephone. Verizon claims the fee will allow the company to continue to support these payment options, however the fee is waived for those who pay by electronic check or enroll in Verizon’s AutoPay service. Additionally, customers who pay their bills in the store, online through a bank, or physically mail a check to Verizon will be not be charged the new fee. The telephone and online single payment fee will be disclosed up-front and throughout the transaction, Verizon said.