With more than 56 million subscribers, Cingular has a popular thing going, but not everyone likes the service they get from the company. A group of disgruntled customers has now slapped the mobile phone giant with a class action lawsuit over claims that they’ve been ripped off.
The story goes like this: back when AT&T Wireless was still a going concern and its customers were still gruntled, everything was great. Then Cingular came along and bought out AT&T Wireless. AT&T customers thought that they would simply keep their current plans, phones, and quality of service, and everything would be hunky-dory. And then the disgruntlefication set in.
AT&T Wireless customers allege that after the acquisition, Cingular began to make their lives difficult. According to the lawsuit (PDF), Cingular pressed them to move to more expensive plans, began degrading their service, and often charged them an US$18 “transfer fee” to become Cingular customers. Those who were upset at the new arrangement found that quitting their contract early came with a hefty termination fee. The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights (FTCR) heard the cries of the suffering masses and got involved in the issue.
“Cingular promised AT&T customers it would ‘raise the bar’; instead, it lowered service quality, forced AT&T customers to move to Cingular, and then raised prices,” said Harvey Rosenfield, a lawyer for FTCR. Pam Pressley, FTCR’s Director of Litigation, said, “AT&T customers all over the country have complained about Cingular’s conduct. But Cingular gave people no choice: put up with the problems, pay to transfer to Cingular, or pay $175 to get out. Too bad it takes a lawsuit to protect people. Hey, Cingular: ‘can you hear us now?'”
Cingular recently lost another high-profile case against it, this one involving the claim that it intentionally signed up more customers than it could handle. The company is on the hook for millions in fines and refunds in that case, an example sure to comfort the newest round of litigants.