AT&T Billing Problems

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This is a guest post written by community member Bradley Wind. I have not edited any part of the original email, other than for spelling or grammatical corrections.

Hey Chris…

I have enjoyed your work for years and finally have a reason to contact you.

Not sure if you’ve been following this issue already or not, so forgive me if it’s old news to you (I know this has been an issue since at least June 2010). I’m hoping possibly you have some better answers than what I’ve received already.

In July, my wife and I finally switched over to an iPhone with the release of 4… yes, even with all the negative death grip news surrounding its release. We started receiving notices that our 200MB data plans were at 75% and 90% about a week ago. This stunned us as we barely use the data on our phones except to check email and use a few small apps.

I’m nearly always on a WiFi network when I’m using my phone so my data minutes should not be getting used up much… ditto for my wife. When I checked my acct to see what could be the culprit, I noticed there was phantom data being sent from our phones in the wee hours of the morning and middle of the night… when we’re both asleep. I called and got a cs rep on the phone in billing, who kept me on hold several times while she consulted her manager.

Meanwhile, I started Googling the problem.

I found several sites almost immediately and when the cs rep couldn’t give me answers I asked to speak directly with the manager, who couldnt give me answers and so gave me to a tech service rep. Sorry if this is too much info but in any case I was googling and reading while on hold and transferring all that time… and found a few interesting links:

You’ll notice – especially on the 46 page thread of the Apple forum – that no one has gotten any straight-forward response.

There is, however, a LOT of denial, finger-pointing and general run-around happening.

That was exactly my response from Michelle Pounders (tech rep from ATT – third person I spoke with during the 1hr30min call).

Well, at least she was honest and said they haven’t pinpointed it exactly yet. She said they’d need a task manager hired to review all the items for why it is happening and they don’t have one. Who knows if she is well informed or not.

All she said was that I’d need to rule out all the applications I have on my phone but no answer for the fact that I update my applications via iTunes and what kind of application is SENDING out 50mb files (or more, as others have experienced on their phones).

So, by now, several months after this has been reported, you’d think they’d have a clear idea as to what is doing this exactly. Of course not!

She said she was aware of the links I quoted from and had read them. This only confuses me more and makes me think people at ATT don’t really know what’s happening – or care.

Michelle said that it’s like trying to figure out when a CPU of a computer is being over taxed and you need to find out what software is doing it.

I said I understand that. What I don’t understand is why ATT & Apple haven’t figured this out enough to send out a report to all customer service reps (and OWNERS!) with a clear reason for what is happening or how to prevent it.

She said I needed to turn off as many apps as I could and then test each one. I said I have 2 daughters under the age of 3 at home, a full time job, barely any downtime as it is, and definitely no time to test applications as she’s suggesting. If she’d read the forum posts at the Apple and ATT site, she’d see others had done the testing. If this were a case of an app causing the issues, they should be able to answer which ones specifically were causing the problem by now.

Originally, I was concerned our phones had been hacked because the data wasn’t being received by our phones – it is being SENT in the middle of the night – huge files. Again… I run WiFI at home. Why is my phone specifically not using my home/office WiFi for these huge files? Well, because the phone is asleep like I am at those hours.

If it’s some kind of aggregation of usage from throughout the day, why are they charging it at night in one lump sum when most people/phones would be in sleep mode?

Why wouldn’t it just get billed when it’s actually used? More concerning and puzzling: why is being billed at all, since I use the phone over a WiFi connection and NOT their 3G one? How can I possibly track what my actual usage was when I couldn’t even tell when I used it (that is, if that’s the real reason large files are being sent from my phone in the middle of the night…)

I offered to send her (Michelle) the links like I have to you but she wasn’t interested. She claimed to be aware of them. I also made sure they documented my call so that if I get some kind of overage fee, I’ll be able to say that I called and was not given reason, nor could I find out on my ATT.com Data Usage Details what my actual usage is/was.

I thought someone like you might have better info to provide or be able to use your blog to pressure someone to get on it. Thanks!