I was happy to see this press release hit my inbox today from the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights with the news that a federal court has rejected AT&T/Cingular’s move to dismiss the case against them over their practice of providing “rebates” in the form of highly restrictive debit cards. I’ve personally experienced this ploy, and found it extremely annoying and I think it crosses the line of responsible advertising. I remember very well buying that phone from Cingular, and walking out of the store a little shell-shocked over the difference in the advertised price of what I was buying and what ended up getting charged to my credit card, with the promise that the rebate “had to be processed, and would arrive in the mail soon.” I also clearly remember my dismay at getting a VISA debit card as my “rebate” and the many hoops that I had to jump through to use it simply as a credit on my next Cingular bills. I know we could fill pages with the shady marketing practices that the major telco carriers engage in, but this one is a personal pet peeve of mine and I’d love to see it stopped. This is clearly deceptive advertising and I’m glad the federal judge didn’t let them off the hook on this one.
Cell Phone Rebate Lawsuit Against Cingular/AT&T May Proceed, Court Rules;
Firm Advertises Cash “Rebate” But Sends “Reward Card”
Santa Monica, CA — A lawsuit charging that Cingular (now AT&T) engages in false and misleading advertising when offering “rebates” on cell phones may proceed, a federal court has ruled.
The suit, brought under California’s consumer protection laws, states that the cell phone company promised to pay rebates to people who bought cell phones, and advertised discounted prices that reflected the promised rebate. But instead of getting a rebate check, purchasers received a “VISA Reward card” that can only be used under numerous restrictions and for a limited period of time. By the time consumers found out they were not getting a rebate check, it was too late to cancel Cingular’s wireless service without paying an Early Termination Fee of $175.