T-Mobile is right; postpaid billing is a nightmare


T-Mobile is right; postpaid billing is a nightmare

Watching T-Mobile Un-carrier Next announcement earlier today was, at the very least, entertaining. I find CEO John Legere’s bold demeanor relatable – I think a lot of people do. A lot of that has to do with his shamelessness in talking to others how he probably normally would, curse words and all, but I also think most people can also relate to his plight to break down the oftentimes bizarre normalcies we have come to expect from the mobile industry.

By now, Legere has introduced 13 Un-carrier moves for T-Mobile. For the most part I would say that all of them caused a positive change in one way or another, including today’s introduction of Un-carrier Next. While I don’t agree that all of the changes that came with today’s announcements will benefit everybody, but are beneficial to some. I was particularly impressed with the addition of KickBack, a $10 monthly refund that customers can get if they A.) have T-Mobile One, B.) use less than 2GB of data, and C.) pay their bills on time, all of which seem like reasonable prerequisites to me. The refunding of unused mobile data is a feature of Project Fi that I really liked, and it’s nice to see a major carrier adopt that idea.

However, the segment of the event that I resonated with the most was the topic of just how complex smartphone bills can be. As a former telecom sales rep and now a customer, I can confidently say that the way postpaid billing is conducted is a giant headache for just about everybody.

As a sales rep, billing problems were a common reason why people came into the store. They wanted to know what an activation fee was for, or why a vague “surcharge fee” was so high. Most of the time there wasn’t anything I personally could do other than the occasional one-time credit, which did little more than put the problem on hold rather than solve it. A bigger problem came with creating accounts, where we could guess what the customer’s future bills could be, but there wasn’t a real way to tell for sure because of – you guessed it – taxes and fees. A ballpark estimate was usually given and it wasn’t uncommon for some people to lowball the estimate in order to make the sale.

As a customer, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the same thing happen with other companies, but I was. I remember signing up for a new plan with a different company and asking what my bills would look like. We were given an estimate. The estimate was, of course, lowballed. I can’t recall the exact numbers, but I remember being told that we would be paying somewhere in the high $100’s each month, but we ended up paying $230 or so every month for 4 lines with shared data and a couple of installment plans. After talking things over with a company rep, it turned out $230 was a good deal because after discounts were factored in, the monthly bill should have been $117 higher. Lucky us.

Truth be told, I wasn’t that upset about the price. I was upset that it wasn’t made clear to us what the price would be before we agreed to the service. I was upset at the fact that, for some reason, prepaid plans are able to be as simple as that, while postpaid plans are always so much more complicated. Because of those experiences, I find myself in favor of T-Mobile’s move to be “All In”, and hope that the move proves to be one of the more effective ones that other major carriers end up adopting.

Readers, what are your thoughts on T-Mobile’s Un-carrier Next moves? Are you happy with the changes, or were you hoping for something different?

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