US Networks Accused of Overcharging PrePay Users
Published on: 16th Mar 2014
Two US mobile networks have been accused of overcharging prepay customers by rounding the duration of their calls to trigger an additional billing period.
The US networks, AT&T and T-Mobile US still charge for prepay calls by the minute, and if a customer makes a call appearing to last a few seconds longer than a minute, then they will be charged for the full two minutes.
An investigation by the Washington Post has however found that the networks are regularly, if intermittently, extending the duration of calls to trigger the additional minute of billing.
A complaint has been filed with the regulator by at least one consumer, which triggered the newspaper investigation, and they also found that on occasions, they would end a call at the 50 second mark, but it would show up on the billing record as having lasted, for example, one minutes and 2 seconds -- hence doubling the cost of the call to a full two minutes.
There seemed to be no exact pattern to the issue, and the most egregious example showed a call ending after less that 40 seconds being billed for 2 minutes worth of calls.
In a statement, AT&T said that billing was from the moment the Send button was pressed to when the network detected the call had been terminated. However, the newspaper testing found that the additional few seconds on either side of the call connection could not be explained in practice.
Various telecoms experts contact all expressed confusion about how the issue has arisen, or why such a glitch should exist.
Depending on how long the problem has been around, and how many customers are affected, if the networks are found to have had a fault in their billing platforms, the compensation costs could be immense.
On the web: Washington Post