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Cingular confusion

Am I the only one completely confused by the Cingular merger with AT&T?

I've read the business stories and understand the facts of the deal. Cingular Wireless acquires the assets and customers of AT&T Wireless for $41 billion. The combined companies have 46 million customers, topping now No. 2 carrier Verizon by 9 million subscribers. The one hitch is that AT&T keeps the rights to the AT&T Wireless brand and plans to launch a new wireless service under that name.

Facts aside, it's tremendously confusing to be an AT&T Wireless customer these days. Or am I a Cingular customer? It's very unclear. My cellular bill carries the Cingular brand. My phone tells me I'm on the Cingular network—except on those occasions when it says I'm on the AT&T Wireless network.

Last month I was a little late sending in my payment. I got a call from AT&T Wireless. The customer service agent was sympathetic, and suggested that when Cingular runs the show, I won't have to worry about those late payments. Apparently, the agent said, you can overlook your Cingular bill for months without consequence. I don't intend to find out, but I was definitely impressed with this new level of customer service.

Last week I got my wireless bill, again with the Cingular branding. Lately I've used more than my allotted minutes, so I called to upgrade my plan. This time, a customer service agent says I can upgrade my AT&T plan or I can migrate to a Cingular plan. Any penalties for leaving AT&T ahead of my contract would be waived. Huh? Isn't AT&T Wireless now also Cingular? Well, yes, said the agent, but Cingular wants to move AT&T Wireless customers to Cingular plans before AT&T Wireless is relaunched. Again, huh?
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After the engraved announcement praising the benefits of this joyous union, and a half-dozen mailers and billing inserts, I thought I was a Cingular customer now.

I decided to drop into a Cingular store to get a new phone and upgrade or migrate or whatever my account. In the course of the last week, I visited four Cingular-branded stores—sometimes as close as two doors apart, since formerly competing AT&T Wireless and Cingular stores were often located close to one another. Aside from the funny little orange guy, there's not a lot of consistency between the stores. And there's not much help, either.

A knowledgeable sales rep in Pittsburgh had great information about the phones, but told me he couldn't set me up because he didn't have access to account information outside of his region. Back in Redwood City, I fell into a Cingular-branded storefront that was actually a Parrot Cellular outlet and authorized Cingular reseller. I got pretty deep into the transaction before the friendly rep told me that a) they didn't have the phone I wanted but could get it from another store, b) I would not get the lower price I'd seen at other stores because that price was only for new Cingular accounts, and c) I would have to pay a fee to migrate from AT&T Wireless to Cingular. What?

I'm not a new account, but I am a new account? And I get pay for the privilege without the benefit of the rebate on the new phone? I'm a Cingular customer in logo only, but when I need to service my account, I'm a vestige customer of AT&T Wireless.

Without question, this is the worst customer acquisition transition I have ever observed. When AT&T Wireless bought CellularOne several years ago, there was no hassle, no confusion. The accounts were transitioned to AT&T Wireless and that was that. No fuss, no muss. No problem or cost to the consumer.

Not so with this merger. Apparently, Cingular bought a license to confuse AT&T Wireless customers. And, clever Cingular: by charging AT&T customers to "migrate" to Cingular, the customer very directly bears the cost of the integrating the two customer bases.

Of course, no customer-facing representative at Cingular can explain why the two companies are not one, why AT&T Wireless customers are second-class citizens until initiated into the Cingular community, and why AT&T Wireless customers must pay for the privilege. In this mess of a merger, Cingular may have become the largest cellular carrier in the country, but it's the 26 million confused and disenfranchised customers of AT&T Wireless that are the lesser for it.

Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld's DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the #1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

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The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

Comments

Linda Rudd responded 9 years ago: #1

This is absolutely right on! I have been given so many different messages from Cingular Customer "Care" and AT&T customer service that I am totally confused. Do I get a "free" pass into Cingular's world of "free" calls to any subscriber or not? Do I pay to move or not? Am I Cingular or ATT?

El Kingston responded 9 years ago: #2

I have heard most AT&T wireless customers are staying with their
current plans, I re-uped for 2 years simply because the plan I
have is far superior to anything Cingular had to offer, even with "rollover"
minutes. But the fine print in the contract only binds me to the 2 years...

Anon responded 9 years ago: #3

I just left employment at AT&T Wireless for greener pastures, but will let you know that Cingular is going after a slow, voluntary migration of customers from AWS billing systems to CW billing systems. Imagine trying to move over 20+ million customers...it would be a disaster. They are hoping people will self-migrate in search of better offers from CW. After a year or so, they will forcibly move those still left on AWS systems. I agree that the communication is horrible and leadership below the CEO is lacking. Stan Sigman and Ralph Dela Vega know what they need to do, its just most below them, don't have a clue.

R.W.V. responded 9 years ago: #4

Try getting help with their Edge/GPRS wireless internet system! It will force you to a weaker Cingular Tower when an old stronger AT&T tower is available then loose signal entirely and kick you off the system and you get to restart. Fortunately, I figured out how to manually lock in to the stronger available tower without their help, which is almost non-existant.

Mr. Anony Mous responded 9 years ago: #5

Most of the time it feel like the former AT&T employees are second class citizens in this New Cingular company...

"Blue" about blue responded 9 years ago: #6

With Cingular's aquisition of AWE, the're attitude is that they were buying a failing business, when in fact it has come to light that the "blue" processes and practices are far superior to the almost non-existant processes and practices that "orange" has in place. Granted our senior leadership team sold us up the creek without a paddle for their own greed; our technology and processes were always industry leaders, so why hasn't Cingular stepped up and admitted this. Stan looks good with egg on his face.

Charles Crowe responded 9 years ago: #7

I always have trouble conecting to find how many minutes I have left each month .The address they give me always take me to a new phone sales pitch.and I can't find my account ballance.

Rey Sison responded 9 years ago: #8

Are there any options for us out there?

Mike responded 9 years ago: #9

Yep, horrible handling of the accounts and the network. All it has done is foster ill will and I for one will look for a carrier besides Cingular once my contract is up. ATT customer service was no nonesense. Cingular is nothing but.

Blue Representative responded 9 years ago: #10

Interesting comments, it seems as though the majority of AT&T customers feel this way and thus I really don't understand why Cingular didn't put more effort in this problem. Basically your service is the exact same as it was before, except you pay in order to Cingular, your plan and features are also unchanged. I am glad to see that Cingular no longer charges their customers for switching from AT&T to Cingular as they are now "acquiring" the old AT&T towers and switching them to the GSM technology they use.

Carol responded 9 years ago: #11

Has anyone had the problem calling out and getting the message of "Congestion" especially in any specific area? Also the call dropping and echo problem is horrendous.. am I the only one?? Our company has just had it with Cingular!!

Vik responded 9 years ago: #12

I am old customer of AT&T wireless with their phone and still a year to go with contract...I wanted to upgrade my phone...and for that Cingular says that I have to migrate and pay full charge of the phone...This is horrible. I am done with Cingular after my contract.

How to Report Issues with Cingular responded 9 years ago: #13

Please use the following forms to file complaints against Cingular wireless. This is a free process and the more detailed information you can provide the better. These agencies are working to investigate and resolve poor service with Cingular along with any fraud they have knowingly commited (ie. knowingly overbilling).

Most effective:

BBB
http://complaint.bbb.org/complaintl
inkselect.aspx

FTC
https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.
startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01

You may also want to file a complaint with the FCC, however the FCC has been less agressive than the above two agencies. Apparently Cingular has taken measures to in essence "pay off" the FCC after 14,000+ complaints were filed in 2004. Filling a complaint with the FCC should at least help a little.:

FCC
http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc4
75.cfm

Dennis Moore responded 8 years ago: #14

As a Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM), and a former Buyer with Cingular Wireless, having issued more than $40 million in purchase orders to support their wireless network, I later found myself and numerous others engaged in several federal lawsuits here in Chicago against the company, which I would like to share with you. My particular lawsuit was the subject of an RCR Wireless News article. Please respond to this e-mail so as for me to get to you the details of these various lawsuits. Also, there is a $10 million federal lawsuit in Oceans Springs, Mississippi, alleging disability discrimination. Additionally, Cingular Wireless entered into a $5 million consent decree in another action brought about by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Regards,

Dennis Moore, C.P.M., A.P.P.

Tiffany responded 8 years ago: #15

I dont understand, I recently called to "migrate" or "switch over" and they told me i had to pay a cancellation fee, but i looked on the site and it says you dont and that it is waived. My At&t phone is currently destoryed: droped in the bath, cracked screen, etc. I would jsut buy another phone and stay with At&t except it would cost me $150 for another phone. I want to switch over but i dont want to have to pay for it.
Tiffany

Dave responded 8 years ago: #16

Dennis:

I'm a former marketing manager with Cingular Wireless who has interest in learning more about the federal lawsuit in Mississippi alleging disabilitiy discrimination. I was recently terminated by the carrier because I couldn't work full-time due to a serious medical condition.

Regards.

susan carlton responded 8 years ago: #17

i purchased a cell phone from cingular with a two year contract. 2 months later i purchased another phone for my roommate. i specifically asked for a one year contract because i didn't know if this person would be my roommate after one year. when i tried to cancel the second phone after the year was up, cingular told me that i had signed a two year contract for both phones. i do not have a copy of the agreement for the second phone, but cingular sent me their copy which was not signed. when i called again, they said they'd send me a copy of the signed agreement. never got it. when i called again to cancel the phone, a representative told me that since i got the phone at such a low price, it had to be a two year contract and that i had accepted the contract over the phone. i cannot get this issue resolved and feel that i am totally being screwed over by cingular. i plan on contacting the fcc, the office of the attorney general and the public service commission. any other suggestions that could possibly help would be greatly appreciated...thank u

Yvonne responded 8 years ago: #18

I to feel like a red-headed step-child of Cingular. I have not upgraded my phones to the sim card technology. Once I upgrade I have to sign a contract with Cingular. I will loose the agreement I had with AT&T. My plan of 1400 anytime minutes, free mobile to mobile, free nights and weekends, two phone lines (one for hubby) 2nd line has 400 anytime minutes costs $40 (1st line) $20 (2nd line) plus taxes averages approximately $80 per month. Cingular doesn't come close. I will loose a lot to sign on with Cingular. Some of the confusion is created by Cingular customer service. December 2005 both phones could not send any text messages. When reporting the problem to Cingular approximately five times over a period of several months, I was informed the tech dept would contact me when the problem was resolved. I was never notified however I was informed by a friend that it was no longer necessary to dial the area code. I discovered my ability to text message was restored. Not one time did customer service say they were to blame for not being able to provide the text messaging service. When paying my bill at my local grocery store, the clerks ask if I am a blue or orange customer. They claim customers can obtain their balances of minutes online. I have not been able to register because I am put in a non-productive loop. There is no way of telling my balance of anytime minutes used. I am billed forty-five cents per minute over my 1400 minutes. I feel AT&T customers should be treated better since they are the customers that came from the parent company.

JILLIAN responded 8 years ago: #19

I HAD AT&T AND SWITCHED TO CINGULAR THE KEEP TAKING MY PAYMENTS CREDITING IT TO THE CLOSED ACCOUNT AND SENDING ME TO COLLECTION AGENCIES ??? SOMEONE PLEASE HELP!

Rob Gracom responded 8 years ago: #20

I will try to be as brief and concise as possible. My problem lies with Cingular wireless. I have filed complaints with the FCC and the CPUC. They were both useless. CPUC and FCC closed my inquiries with no explanation and said that if I wanted to pursue this any further I would have to pay a certain amount for a formal complaint.

Here's my story: Before five months ago I have been contacting my wife in the Philippines via email until I found out about phone cards. After researching phone cards I decided to give it a try. My first effort was with a company called Tel3. They seemed like a reputable company and their customer support was very helpful. I asked them how their cards operated and was told that by calling a local access number, I would dial into their network and long distance equipment and then depending apon the amount of money I paid on the card, I could talk to my wife in the Philippines for a pre-determined time. I thought "great!" lets do it. Everything on Tel3's end seemed ok. The problem arose when I got a bill from Cingular wireless for over 800.00 in long distance calls. I called them and asked them "how can you charge me for calls I made to a 1-800 number? They were not very informative and told me that the problem was with Tel3. I called Tel3 and they were very up front and helpful. They tested there equipment and retraced my calls and verified my usage time and logon time with their equipment. Cingular on the other hand sent me two more bills totaling 1200.00 and each bill has charged me for a different service ex.-long distance, extended local calls out of service area ect. One of my major complaints is when I've tried to call long distance before, the call doesn't go through and I am told that my current calling plan does not allow for calls outside my local calling area. Why am I be tricked into using a 1 800 local access number and told it’s a toll free call and then be billed for the call by a company who’s equipment I'm bypassing. Another question I have is, why didn't Cingular notify me when they saw strange calls being made from my phone - theft/ fraud prevention. Now that either proves to me that they either knew they were 1-800 numbers and are pulling something with these calling card companies or they are trying to charge me for long distance calls made through someone else’s equipment.


I am an honest Christian individual who will pay what is owed but I feel this is downright big company bullying Both Tel3 and T-Moble [my new provider] have told me horror stories about people being overcharged by Cingular [especially after they bought ATT] and actually being reported to credit bureaus. My first bill from T-Mobile reflects all expected new service charges and for all calls made in my area over my time limit. I have maintained the same calling card schedule with T-Mobile and my first bill was 105.00. No charges were made the 1-800 calls.

I have gotten my first call from a collection agency yesterday 7/5/2006 and I am getting fearful and feel cornered. Please help ! I have also found there to be very little accountability in the phone card business. Try using one and see if the amount of time promised is the amount of time available. Are these people thieves or what?
Thanks,
Rob in San Francisco

Brian responded 8 years ago: #21

Just moved from ATT to Cingular and was charged $50 on my "old" ATT account before it was closed. Called Cingular all month and was told today that the money could not be refunded because I was on "automatic payments". The even admitted that they made a mistake. Anyone know any other options I can take to get MY money back? Cingular is treading on thin ice with me right now.

Tim responded 8 years ago: #22

Heres a great one.

I bought a motorola phone from an AT&T wireless store back in August 2004. Since the phone was one of the first GSM network phones I paid "full" price (about $500). As of two months ago, my 2 year agreement ended. During this last two years Cingular bought AT&T. Yesterday I went in to a Cingular store to upgrade my wife's phone. I went in knowing that I would most likely have to sign a new 2 year agreement. What I was told is that my phone (that I paid full price for and have an expired agreement with AT&T) can not be added to a Cingular account becuase AT&T locked my phone. Calling for the unlocking code would be normally easy except that AT&T no loger exists! Does anyone have a phone number or website I can visit to resolve this or am I just stuck going out on the market to "PAY" for someone to unlock my phone.

Pierce Cotter responded 8 years ago: #23

I fired Cingular for bad service. I paid them over seventy dollars a month for over a year, had them replace my phone 4 times (with the same exact model only) during that period, with the promise that after a year, I would be eligible for a different model. After a year, I was told that my warranty had expired. Right.... So I said, how is my warranty expired when you just sent me a new phone 3 months ago. They said I could buy another phone, or resign a contract for another two years. I was livid. After spending a solid year with a phone that dropped EVERY CALL! I told them they would not get another penny from me, turn my phones off, I am done. Since then BCR has hounded me for payment of the the remainder of the contract. I told them to eat dirt. Every time they call. They still call. I have sent letters, to no avail. I have filed complaints, to no avail. Is anyone out there suing Cingular Wireless? If so I want to sign on! They have the gall to advertise "fewest dropped calls"! I see these commercials every night on tv and cringe. Somebody help me punish them. I am tired of the big corporations stepping on the consumers. Anybody else tired, write on!

Dennis Herman responded 7 years ago: #24

I had the same trouble as the man calling the Philippines. My son called China with a calling card and after 360 minutes Cingular (Cinguliar) at $3.50 per minute they called us to demand a payment. When we told them a calling card was used they said something must have been entered in wrong but it is their policy to connect the call at their rates. What should have been a fifteen cents a minute call cost us $3.50 per minute. We asked how this could happen and they just said there is no safe guard in place and they see no reason to install one.

I checked the Cinguliar web site and found four different charts fro international calls. The agent at Cingular did not know how to find these charts on the website but just quoted us the price.

These people are rude and will not listen to reason. After being a loyal customer for so many years this is not the way I expected to be treated.

Does anyone know how I can go about getting my money back other than filing a complaint and praying?

unknown responded 7 years ago: #25

I am an AT&T Mobility employee. I have worked there for many years. I have been with the company since it was Southwestern Bell Wireless then Cingular. I see customer charges. When anything is said about the outrageous mistakes with charges, we are told that it is correct. To sum it up, the "system" says it is correct, it must be correct. The reason? If there is a problem with the system, there must be a problem with the programming within the "system." The proverbial; "buck" is passed all the way to the customer so the intimidating management can make there huge bonuses and fat paychecks. This has ALWAYS been the case with this company. AT&T promotes MANAGEMENT BY INTIMIDATION. The intimidation is passed right down to YOU, THE CUSTOMER. Please also know that most management within the telecommunications industry have been there for MANY years. Most have ON THE JOB training only and no actual formal education. They have learned and been promoted for years to "just turn their cheek and keep quiet." I am to just pass everything and overlook all overcharges. This makes my boss happy, and his boss happy and so on. They all get the big paychecks and who is to know about it? The customer? Good luck proving it. They have 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, and thousands of employees to cover thier tracks. GOOD LUCK!

Richard Matonich responded 7 years ago: #26

So what is the phone number in case of emergency that I just encountered? This is the worst service I have ever encounterd. So no what am I supose to do without a 800 number if my cell phone is not working?

What if one of my children died? Then what am I supppose to do? (GOD FORBID) advive -- no way to contact anyone in you company to find out option.

shannon responded 7 years ago: #27

Where do you go for help?? Cingular was the worse company I haver ever dealt with. I could never speak with anyone at customer service regarding the repeated overcharges on my bill. I could not get answers off the website, e-mail or online chat. Lastly, I wrote numerous letters disputing charges with no answer, just kept sending bills. Now I have been turned over to a collection agency. Where do I go for help?????

Alexandria responded 7 years ago: #28

I so agree with that...The worst thing i don't even like at&t im just waiting until my service with cingular or at&t (who really gives a damn)is f-ing finish it gets on my nerves...the amazing thing about it is that i don't even pay my own bill (my parents do)..I TOTALLY HATE AT&T/CINGULAR!!!!I don't recommend ANYONE to sign up with at&t or cingular..damn :(

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