AT&T double charges their customers and has zero hardship policies in place. Nothing less than the death of a family member, which they will make you provide a death certificate for, will cause them to waive their early termination fees.
AT&T already does the common North American practice of charging double--If an AT&T customer calls another AT&T customer, they are both charged for the same minutes unless they are both on monthly plans, to encourage people to sign up for monthly plans. They claim both phones are using the towers, but neither phone is charged on monthly plans, so they offset the cost by double charging minutes on their other customers. Both parties are responsible for the minutes, even if the other customer is also an AT&T customer, if one or both of those customers are prepaid. This is not a common practice in the rest of the world, but it is here in the US for some reason. So, if you were unaware of that since they do NOT print it anywhere on their website when showcasing their prepaid plans, there it is.
On to the meat and potatoes. We were advised by the police to cancel the contract one ONE of our FOUR phones on our family plan because of the legal circumstances surrounding one of our family members. AT&T claimed it is sufficient that the phone was suspended, but I explained that that is NOT what the police advised, nor our lawyer, and that we felt more comfortable taking their advice since the matters were legal and going to court. Although this is NOT AT&T's fault, it is something we could not have possibly foreseen when we signed our contracts, and since we are a fairly poor family we were requesting they help us out with the early termination fee.
They told us there is no such thing as a financial hardship policy or a family hardship policy, and that the early termination fee was agreed upon signing the contract. AT&T said that the termination fee is there to offset the cost of discounting the phone to the customer when they purchase it.
I told them there is no way that makes financial sense. It costs $10 a month to have that phone on our line. That is all we pay AT&T for for that particular phone since it is on our family plan. $10 x 24 months worth of contract payments = $240 for two years of service. They want us, with us being 5 months into our contract, to have to pay $245 for an early termination fee of one phone. That fee covers another entire two years and half a month's worth of contract payments. I told her it is grossly over calculated and that they should at least lower the fee to $150 since that is the cost of the phone for the rest of the time we are under contract. She told me that corporate decides the amounts and that there is nothing AT&T can do about that. I told her that I do not have $245 as I was not planning on having to pay for lawyer fees and many of the other obligations that have come up with this situation. She sarcastically reaffirmed that there is nothing she can do and that the fee is valid and will be applied if we terminate the phone.
I told her I did not know where to go from here. She told me I have other options like putting that number in that family member's own name under their own contract. I said, "Can you even do that without the family member present? Isn't that shady to attempt to give someone else a contract obligation without them even knowing about it?! There's legal trouble in that! All I want is an answer as to why the termination fee is vastly higher than the cost of the phone being used itself." She just kept repeating herself like a broken record until I finally said I'd call back later.
AT&T Has ZERO, I repeat, ZERO hardship policies for its customers. They claim they have NO way of helping their clients with circumstances that are unforeseeable to them, and they are rude regarding questioning me about the sensitive matter of the case we have at hand with our family member.
I know it isn't AT&Ts fault that this situation happened to us. But I do think all companies have a responsibility to help take care of loyal paying customers to ensure they remain customers at their companies. Instead of cancelling one line until we can get this issue resolved, we are instead leaving AT&T, writing a ripoff report, and telling everyone we know what shady suggestions they gave us and how heartless their business really is. Especially with these economic times, families have hardships that come up that they cannot foresee. While it is not the company's fault, it certainly isn't the family's fault, and the company is the only party in a position to help and do something about it.
The bottom line: Do not use AT&T unless you like people suggesting illegal activities, charging way more than they pay for in discounts to the phones they provide, and double charging their customers for the same set of minutes being used.