Wireless week reports that T-Mobile USA has dropped a plan to begin charging customers $1.50 per month to get a paper copy of their bill in the mail.
The wireless phone carrier had recently informed its 33 million customers that the fee would go into effect this past Saturday and apply to anyone who didn’t sign up for a paperless billing plan, in which bills can only be viewed on the Internet.
After an outcry from customers and threats of legal action, however, the company changed its mind. In a statement posted on a company Web page, T-Mobile said it had decided not to implement the fee, “for now.”
“Instead, we’ll be taking more time to determine the fairest way possible to encourage people to go paperless,” it said.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office had issued T-Mobile a warning over the planned fee, said in a statement that the company couldn’t legally impose new charges without giving customers the option of ending their service contracts early.
“My office will not sit back and let a company change its prices under the guise of “going green,'” he said.
T-Mobile’s main competitors, Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Nextel, all offer customers a free paper copy of a basic bill, but impose charges if customers want a paper copy of a more detailed bill with itemized calls.
T-Mobile USA, owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, has also been charging $3.49 for a detailed paper copy of a bill, and will continue to do so.
There is nothing wrong with T-Mobile’s motive but only in the way it was implemented. This ‘take it or leave it’ approach will always lead to consumer backlash and it is surprising that it was adopted, especially in such a litigation-mad market as the USA. Surely customers could have been given an option to stay with paper bills and be charged extra or move to eBilling at no cost, or even a discount as encouragement, over a period of months. I suspect that the cause has been set back years because of this move and hope that is not a deterrent to other service providers supporting the TM Forum’s ‘Kill the Bill’ Campaign.