AT&T has new home phone contract

August 20, 2008 6:33:49 PM PDT
If you have a home phone, you may be one of the millions of people who suddenly found out you're entering a new contract with AT&T.

This caught a lot of people by surprise. Suddenly they're told you are agreeing to a new contract or give up your phone.

AT&T customers all over California have been getting a notice in the mail. It's a new 18-page contract for their "existing" phone service.

"If you show the average consumer this document, and we're getting plenty of complaints about it, they don't understand what it means," said Bill Nusbaum from the Utility Reform Network.

Nusbaum is an attorney with the Utility Reform Network. He says consumers aren't sure what to make of all this.

AT&T is the biggest phone provider in the U.S., and is telling land line customers -- either agree to the terms of this new contract, or unplug your phone. You have until October 1st to decide.

"And they have no recourse and they have no choice," said Nusbaum.

So why the sudden change? The State Public Utilities Commission last year gave AT&T and other phone companies the right to contract directly with customers instead of going through the PUC.

AT&T says it's just getting around to making the change now, so if you don't unplug your land line before october, here's what you agree to:

  • Any disputes with AT&T will be resolved through binding arbitration.
  • You can't sue AT&T except in small claims court, and no class actions.
  • You agree to limit AT&T's liability if there are problems with your service.
  • AT&T "generally" will notify you within 30 days of price increases, but the contract doesn't guarantee that.
  • And if you don't like the terms, your sole option is to cancel service.

    "Your only choice is to cancel your service and try to get service from somewhere else," said Nusbaum.

    But AT&T says such agreements are common. Not unlike a credit card contract.

    The PUC still needs to approve all this, but that's expected to happen.


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