AT&T Billing Problems

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 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!

5 thoughts on “AT&T Billing Problems”

  1. I would recommned you look at your device closer and your usage. IE: What apps are running, What Version of iOS. Also you could get someone at AT&T to run some detailed CDR report to show usage. And or request they monitor your usage and identify the data in question. Send me an email for more tips….

  2. I’ve had 3G on my phone long before iPhone was ever conceived. And then one day I received AT&T bill for over $6000. I of course refused to pay it it took 3 months and me almost going to collection before someone at the office of the president finally agreed with me that the bill was wrong, but even then their corporate mentality did not allow them to cYcle the bill they still wanted $800 from me. I paid it because I figured fighting it in court would cost me more, obviously they figured the same and that’s why they wanted that much. Typical monopoly corporate behavior.

    I decided to comment on this post because all of the charges were from a 3G windows mobile phone in the middle of the night that was dialing and doing who knows what without our permission and nothing we set up should have been using it. Just as a clarification, we called before and during the placing of this phone in service to ask to be put on unlimited $15 dollar plan (at that time that was the price) and we were told we don’t need it and are not using any data “according to their records” all while billing us at around $300 to $600 per night. Their explanation was that maybe we actually did get up at 3am and used $600 worth or data on the 3inch screen over slow connection that we knew costs lots of money instead of getting up and using 24inch big screen PC with 20 times faster unlimited Internet connection across the room.

    That was a reasonable argument for 30 plus representatives and supervisor over this 3 month ordeal, even with all the clearly keep records on our part.

    Did I mention that I’m still stuck with AT&T because we need to use iPhone for our work?

  3. I have two recommendations that could be easily tested.

    1. Since 3G is obviously a faster network, try putting your iPhone in EDGE mode and see if data is transmitted. If the iPhone detects that it is in EDGE mode, then it might decide not to send the data because of slower connections. Also, switching to EDGE during the night, when you are not using your iPhone will also save you some battery life, which may not matter if you are charing it during the night.

    2. What happens if you turn off all data at night? If you go to Settings > General > Network, turn off Cellular Data. Is any data uploaded?

    The reason I mention both of these suggestion is that I have started to personally think of my iPhone 4 as a computer. While I always it on me, I’m not always actually using it. So in order to save data and battery, I turn off the various features that I’m not using. For example, I routinely turn off 3G and bluetooth. I only turn on bluetooth when I get in my car or when I have my headset on. I also only turn on 3G when I am watching videos or during things that actually benefit from the 3G network. Reading e-mails, browsing Facebook, and my RSS feeds for just fine on EDGE.

  4. thanks guys.
    I’m just turning it off at night for now. So far its solved my problems. I still wonder why it’s happening and hope at some point I learn why… also hope others aren’t getting overages charged to their acct for it…
    Good luck!

  5. Thanks for the post! I just got my Iphone4 and have nothing but problems. No Sim card, proximity sensor was messed up so the mute kept going on and no one could hear me, screen not flipping when turned sideways, you get the picture. Well I decided to check my bill and sure enough the data is going out after midnight just like you guys said! I have had it for 5 days and things keep getting worse.

    IF THE APPLE CUSTOMER SUPPORT SAYS YOU NEED A NEW SIM CARD YOU HAVE TO GO TO A CORPORATE OWNED STORE. I went to where I bought my phone, and they could not help me. They said the corporate stores are the only ones that can issue a free replacement sim! Also make sure if you share the minutes that the person who is named on the account is with you. My wife is the billing name, same address, and they told me she had to come in to get it!

    So in total I have been to my local AT&T store twice, the corporate store once, and the Apple store once. About 60 miles in travel and hours of time. So far the worst purchase I ever made!

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