Upon receiving a Cingular bill, covering a period 5/24/05 - 6/23/05, the Complainant noticed additional Other Charges of $37.07 for Direct Bill Charges and related taxes and surcharges. It should be noted that Cingular did not provide any itemization of the Direct Bill Charges; but, instead displayed the number 13 and directed the customer To view detail go to www.cingular.com/db
During late morning of July 12, 2005, the Complainant dialed 1-800-331-0500 and spoke at length with Tasha Kelley, Customer Services Representative, concerning ascertaining the nature of the Direct Bill Charges. She told him that they were for text messages and when he identified the source of the messages as 99000, she further identified BlueFrog as representing 99000. The Complainant explained that he was ignorant of the use of
text messaging on his mobile phone and that he had not authorized BlueFrog or anyone else to send or to bill text messages or any other services to his account. Her reply was that BlueFrog should have obtained an authorization in order to bill such charges. She could not answer his questions as to why text messages were not treated like voice mail messages which were billed to a customer after he or she supplied a password and
accepted as a download. To the contrary, a customer is billed upon receiving a text message and again if he or she replies to it.
The Complainant informed Ms. Kelley that he had viewed one text message that sought renewal of a subscription. But since he had never subscribed to any services it was not possible for him to renew a subscription. However, he refused to accept instructions for replying to the text messages because he did not want to incur additional charges or to lend legitimacy to the spurious charges. He did accept and later dialed the telephone number 1+(888) 919-7777. To his astonishment, he received an unprofessional recorded message which requested that the caller leave his name and telephone number and to expect a return call within 24 hours -- which the Complainant did. Although he requested that Ms. Kelley discontinue all services related to sending and receiving messages, about two hours after the conclusion of the conversation, another text message was sent through to his mobile phone.
At around 3:15 PM on July 13, 2005, when it became clear that no return call would be forthcoming, he again called the same number and reiterated that he wanted a credit for all charges billed to his telephone number by BlueFrog. At around 3:30 PM he again called Cingular's Customer Services and this time he spoke at length with Yinka Adedapo. Mr. Adedapo, like Ms. Kelley could not answer questions as to why the Complainant's Direct Bill Charges had not been itemized or why BlueFrog had a right to bill directly without an authorization or why Cingular did not verify the authenticity of third-party charges before they were passed along to the customer or why text messages were not subject to password access or why a customer was billed for receiving, replying and kilobytes related to such text messages.
Mr. Adedapo did call BlueFrog at 1+(888) 919-7777 and stated that he got the same recorded message that the Complainant had gotten on two previous occasions. He then insisted that the Complainant reply to the BlueFrog text messages. The Complainant then told him that the text messaging services had been discontinued the day before and asked him to verify that fact.
He then insisted that they had been discontinued but that
the Complainant should reply to the text message. The Complainant then asked to speak to his supervisor, but he refused to pass the call on to his supervisor. At that point the Complainant stated that the only way to be free of text messaging scams and fraudulent billing related thereto was to cancel all services. Mr. Adedapo then launched into a monologue about termination charges. The Complainant told him that he had no intentions of paying for fraudulent charges or for the consequences that resulted therefrom. However, Mr. Adedapo refused to cancel the services and they remains in effect at present.
Feeling extreme exasperation, the Complainant set out to ascertain some answers. From a query of the major search engines, BlueFrog.com is an Internet Service Provider that does not offer services in tones and text messaging and that has an altogether different telephone number. There does not appear to be a Web presence for the company that we reached by telephone. So what was the entity that we reached by telephone? Is there an arms-length relationship between Cingular and BlueFrog the third-party vendor? Both entities are poised to make a killing at the Complainant's expense. It is no wonder that Cingular is refusing to cancel service.
His next reaction was to ascertain an itemization of the Direct Bill Charges. Cingular's website requires that a user furnishes a telephone number, a password and the last four digits of the Social Security Number in order to access an account. So why isn't BlueFrog required to provide any information on the customer that it is charging? But the real source of consternation is the fact that following its fraudulent billing practices, Cingular uses the most vile form of skullduggery in order to prevent a Complainant from obtaining the redress of choice for his or her grievance. If the Complainant had merely registered to look at the website's itemized details that he was being billed for, he would have to agree to Web Site Terms and Conditions that would force him to accept long-term negotiations and/or arbitration -- procedures favorable to Cingular --for any disputed issues. Because fraudulent billing is fair game for a dispute, the itemized details were not set forth on the bill as it should have been. To prove this point, on the previous bill which has a text message from BlueFrog for ten cents with all the details provided. Even though the Complainant did not agree with the charge, ten cents is not worthy of carrying on a dispute. Therefore, Cingular did not have a problem furnishing the details. Such unscrupulous business practices and such a lack of basic moral rectitude speak volumes for the image and substance of Cingular, the corporation, the artificial person.
What has happened to the Complainant is not an isolated incident. The relatively obscure website http://www.ripoffreport.com -- using a home page search on the keyword Cingular -- has 419 recent complaints (soon to be 420 complaints) against this company, with nearly all denouncing the extremely corrupt business practices that victimize its customers.
If the FCC has any sense of justice and fair play, Cingular should be made an example of for the entire telecommunications industry to ponder and for the entire
general public to see. In addition to seeking a credit for the fraudulent billing related to the Direct Bill Charges and for a no cost termination of his agreement with Cingular, the Complainant further requests that severe sanctions be imposed on Cingular with respect to monetary fines and criminal indictment and prosecution against its executives. As such, its rapacious conduct will be curtailed and a shockwave will reverberate throughout the industry.
New York, New York
U.S.A. Click here to read other Rip Off Reports on Cingular Wireless