Cingular MMS and Wireless Internet Fraud ~ NanoThoughts 1.0

Friday, November 11, 2005

Cingular MMS and Wireless Internet Fraud

Cingular does a lot of things right, unfortunately MMS and "data transfer wireless internet" charges aren't one of them. This will be a slightly technical post, but it could be exposing what is a massive overcharging of Cingular users who utilize the MMS and wireless internet capabilities of their cellphones. (Skip to the ****s if you want the gist of what is going on.)

Cingular offers MMS messaging service.
stands for Multimedia Messaging System, which is a souped up version of SMS, which is just for text. MMS allows users to send images, audio and video attachments and/or little mini webpages instead of just plain old text SMS messages.

Cingular also offers data transfer or wireless internet capabilities. You can read or whatever on your phone, download the latest 50 Cent ringtone, whatever.

I have a promotional package deal where I get Unlimited MMS messaging, both incoming and outgoing for $2.99/month.

My wireless internet charges, however, are $0.01/kilobyte. Because "surfing" the web on your phone requires kilobyte usages in the 100s, I don't do it. It's not worth it. If I really wanted to do it, I would get a deal.

MMS messages DO use Wireless internet bandwidth, but they ARE NOT subjected to the $0.01/kb usage fee. This is .

What is the cost for Multimedia Messaging?
Cingular charges on a per-message basis with no additional airtime charges. Several pricing options are available. You can either pay per each multimedia message, or you can purchase a package of messages at a lower per-message charge. If you plan to send or receive more than 12 multimedia messages per month, the package is a better option. No matter which pricing option you choose, you can send a single message to as many as 10 people for the cost of one message.

*********** Basically, what is going on is that when sending an MMS message, sometimes, but not always, the data size of the MMS will be subjected to the $0.01/kb usage fee. Considering most of the MMS messages have JPEG attachments from the phone's camera, and are rougly 300 KB in size, you can see that these erroneous charges can start to add up. I have had close to $100 in such erroneous charges over the past 4 months. At first, I couldn't fight back, because their customer service representatives would just say "We don't know what you're accessing there." i.e. that I was actually the wireless internet for 300KB at a time. Let me tell you, that would be a lot of text based perusing!

$25/month of erroneous charges and Cingular has . Of course, not all of those are MMS sending freaks like myself, but you can do the math that this is potentially a huge problem in the making.

How I decided to fight back: I started Carbon Copying myself to every picture MMS I sent. I CCed my gmail email address. So, tonight when I called to dispute the charges, I was ready when they said "But there's no proof that those wireless internet charges are the same as the MMS messages." When I explained that I CCed the messages to myself, I was informed that email headers can be forged. Disregarding the fact that the "Resolution" representative just insinuated that I was a forger, I doubt Google's infinite storage capacity, where those emails would be (and are) sitting could be "forged" so easily by someone such as myself. (Btw, before I got to the "Resolution" rep, I was given the high pressure "take it or leave it" tactic of accepting a one time credit of half of the erroneous charges {along with the stipulation that no such credits would be forthcoming in the future, and that my decision to "escalate" the call would result in the immediate of the revocation of the amazingly generous "half credit" offer.} I felt like I was in a used car dealership.)

Anyway, it got to the point where the resolution rep decided to pass it to the technical guys to see if such a thing could occur and I offered to forward all of my CCed emails so that they could see it themselves.

I'm still waiting for "resolution" and my ticket to go through. I will update this situation. If you are from cingular, please email me at the address listed on my profile. Thank you.


heatkernel said...

Fight the power.

Anonymous said...

RE: BEWARE of Data Transfers and aol/im charges, laughing, Cingular tried to tell me that my 14 year old son is accessing this...hmmm, how does one perform this feat 24 hours a day (20 days in a row)virtually 2-3 times per minute???? Wow, scientists around the world would want to "study" my son! Wow, even in the dentist chair!(Btw,I had his phone in my purse, yet the bill shows he was sending multiple AOL/IM's). Word of caution, study your billings.....demand credit for erroneous charges!