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Auto bill payment discount offer upsets customer

Auto bill payment discount offer upsets customer
October 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Bay Area woman thought she was going to get a monthly discount when she signed up for a promotion by her cellphone company, but it turned out not to be that easy so she turned to 7 On Your Side for help.

It seemed simple enough -- sign up for auto bill payment and receive a $5 monthly discount, but it didn't quite work out that way.

Jacinta Chow bought her Virgin Mobile phone in time for her recent vacation. Everything was fine until she got a message from Virgin mobile in her in box.

"All it says, 'It's simple and super easy. You could be saving $5 each month,'" said Chow.

To get the monthly discount, she thought all she had to do was sign her account up for auto bill pay. That's what she did, but the discount never appeared on her bill.

"They kept saying, 'No, this is for iPhone users,' and I kept telling them, 'this is false advertisement. It's not what it says on my phone,'" said Chow.

Chow says the message she received publicizing the discount came onto her phone on four separate pages. We checked the message in its entirety and found no mention of the iPhone in the message. We then contacted Joe Ridout of Consumer Action to get his take.

"If the company only offers this discount for one particular kind of phone, but mentions that nowhere in its ads, then yes, that does seem to be very deceptive advertising," said Ridout.

Virgin Mobile tells us the message to Chow was only meant as a generic message and admits she wasn't the only customer confused by it. Virgin Mobile says the message should have included a link to the iPhone plan, but we could find no such link in the message Chow showed us.

"That was the entire message. I took the screen shot, I took the first page and then I scrolled down and I took three more pages of screen shots. And it was the whole thing," said Chow.

"A company doesn't have to be deliberately trying to deceive a consumer in order for it to be deceptive advertising if a reasonable consumer is likely to be misled," said Ridout.

Virgin Mobile asked Chow to forward them the message and then later asked for a link to the message. But she says she never received a link, just a message. Virgin Mobile at first refused to bend, but later agreed to give her the discount for seven months after we got involved.

"Thank you so much for helping me," said Chow.

Virgin Mobile which is owned by Sprint says it has changed its ad campaign to make the terms more clear.

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