New York Sues Mobile Carriers

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In a possible shake up of the carrier landscape, The Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City has filed a lawsuit againt Sprint, T-Mobile and Nextel for “deceptive advertising.”

“You can’t promise a great deal in the headline and hide the true costs in the fine print,” the consumer agencies’ Acting Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said in a statement.

Sprint and Nextel have announced plans to fight the suit while T-Mobile is not commenting. Cingular and Verizon Wireless complied with the new New York City Consumer Protection Law and are not being pursued.

Some of the alleged offenses are listed below.


* Nextel deceived consumers by advertising “ALL INCOMING CALLS ARE FREE” when in fact, a tiny, multi-line footnote at the bottom of the advertisement indicated “…an additional access charge of either $.10 per minute multiplied by the number of participants on the call…or a monthly flat fee,” would be charged to the consumer if he or she signed up for the advertised calling plan.
* Nextel further deceived consumers by advertising “PLANS STARTING AT $10 PER MONTH,” or “POWERFUL PHONES STARTING AT $24.99” without clearly describing different service plans or products, and without adequately disclosing either the highest price of the advertised plan, or an “average price,” as required by law.
* Sprint deceived consumers by advertising “NATIONWIDE LONG DISTANCE INCLUDED. EVERY MINUTE, EVERY DAY” when in fact, a tiny, multi-line footnote at the bottom of the advertisement indicated a charge for long distance—including the phrase “…an additional $0.25 per minute for long distance.”
* Sprint further deceived consumers by advertising that “instant savings require in-store purchase and activation of a new line…” when a tiny footnote at the bottom of the advertisement stated “Requires in-store purchase and activation of two new lines of service on eligible plans.” **In the same ad, Sprint deceived consumers by advertising a “FREE” cell phone offer forcing consumers to look at the fine print footnote to find that in fact, the offer required “…a two-year Sprint PCS Advantage Agreement.”
* T-Mobile deceived consumers by advertising “FREE LONG DISTANCE” and “FREE ROAMING” when in fact, a tiny, multi-line footnote at the bottom of the advertisement indicated “Billing of roaming charges and minutes of use and services may be delayed” and “Call duration may be limited.”