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FCC tightens requirements for phone companies in effort to fight robocalls

The agency says the system isn’t bulletproof and consumers still have to remain vigilant

After finding loopholes in its anti-robocall STIR/SHAKEN initiative, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is tightening up the requirements for phone companies. Effective immediately, carriers are prohibited from accepting calls from any voice service provider that hasn’t implemented the new caller ID authentication standards or filed a detailed robocall mitigation plan with the FCC. 

The new requirement is an important element of the agency’s anti-robocall effort...

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    T-Mobile agrees to change wording in its 5G ads

    The Better Business Bureau has concluded that certain ads could be misleading to consumers

    T-Mobile has agreed to stop running ads with unsupported claims about the current state of its 5G network.

    The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau said T-Mobile’s recent 5G advertising could make customers think that T-Mobile and Sprint’s combined networks have led to the creation of benefits that don’t actually exist yet. 

    In the advertisements in question, T-Mobile falsely claims that it has the "the best 5G network," "highest capacity in history," and the "most reliable network," according to the NAD. The NAD said the ads did not “reasonably convey a present-tense message that the aspirational future benefits from T-Mobile are presently available to consumers.” 

    The group also took issue with the ad’s depiction of "magenta and yellow beams rapidly shooting from tower to tower, speeding through server rooms across cities and over vast landscapes.” The NAD said the ad is misleading and conveys the “unsupported message that the touted benefits of the merger will be imminently realized by consumers.” 

    To clear up any confusion, the group is asking T-Mobile to modify its wording in the ad so that consumers don’t think the benefits of the merger are immediate.

    T-Mobile said it “supports the self-regulatory process” and has agreed to dial down exaggerated and presently unsupported claims like, “You’ll get the best 5G network.” 

    T-Mobile has agreed to stop running ads with unsupported claims about the current state of its 5G network.The National Advertising Division (NAD) of th...
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    Choosing the wrong iPhone 12 plan could cost consumers hundreds extra per year

    A study finds that researching plan variations could save consumers thousands over two years

    When the new iPhone 12 hits the streets on October 23, it will be met with a throng of consumers wanting to take one home. 

    According to WalletHub’s new 2020 iPhone Survey, 44 percent more Americans are planning to buy a new iPhone compared to 2019 -- and 73 percent more think the new iPhone is worth going into debt for.

    Finding the perfect plan for each and every consumer’s pocketbook can be a maddening experience. But the personal finance website found that consumers who spend a little time researching all the plan variations can actually save $933 (or $2,280 over two years), simply by picking the right one.

    The best plans

    Using its own cell phone calculator, WalletHub did a fair amount of number crunching on what special plans and bonuses providers are dangling in front of a consumer. Here are two of the more impressive differentiators:

    • The best way to get the new iPhone: WalletHub found that the no-contract individual plan from Visible is the best way to get the new iPhone, beating plans from all three major carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, Verizon).

    • Bonus savings: For even more savings, WalletHub’s advice is to keep your old phone. Individuals can save up to $1,690 and families can save up to $2,663.

    Words of caution

    WalletHub asked technology watchers about some of the pitfalls that consumers should take into consideration when buying a new phone. Here are two that ConsumerAffairs found to be particularly interesting:

    How much cheaper must a 2-year agreement be for a cell phone user to sacrifice the flexibility of not having a contract?

    “With a 2-year plan, the consumer loses flexibility, for example, in terms of cell phone service plans. The contract may dictate a plan which they wouldn't otherwise choose,” said Qihong Liu, Ph.D., a professor of Economics at the University of Oklahoma.

    Liu went on to say that the benefits will likely vary from consumer to consumer. 

    “Some choose the contract because they get to have the latest phone without paying the whole cost right away. Others like the contract because it is cheaper,” Liu said. 

    To what extent does the secondary market for cell phones (e.g. eBay) alter the price comparison for no-contract plans?

    When that question was put to Hemant Bhargava, Ph.D., a professor of Technology Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, he had this to say: “Contract plans that provide (or force) a smartphone usually have a price premium to cover the seller’s risk of giving you the phone upfront. So, you’re better off if you can bring your own phone - even if you buy from a secondary source like eBay.”

    Rather than worrying about the authenticity and quality of the phone, Bhargava suggests that consumers look for a reliable seller with a high rating history and good reputation. 

    “Alternately, there are very high-quality budget phones that cost the same as a used flagship phone and will be just fine for most buyers,” he concluded.

    When the new iPhone 12 hits the streets on October 23, it will be met with a throng of consumers wanting to take one home. According to WalletHub’s new...
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    AT&T adds new unlimited data plan option

    The carrier now allows customers to pick a different unlimited plan for each line

    AT&T has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. 

    On Monday, the carrier said its new “Unlimited Your Way” program will let customers choose either the Starter, Extra, or Elite unlimited plan for each line instead of requiring all lines to have the same plan. 

    "We recognize that individuals have different wireless needs and not all family members want the same rate plan," said David Christopher, executive vice president of AT&T Mobility, in a release. "With the launch of Unlimited Your Way we're making it simple – now customers can pick the best combination of unlimited wireless plans for each family member – all with access to fast, reliable and secure nationwide AT&T 5G included at no extra charge."

    Greater flexibility 

    The company said that allowing customers to mix and match unlimited wireless plans could result in savings by better accommodating the wireless needs of each line user. 

    For example, if a person who works from home went with the Unlimited Extra plan for its hotspot data, another line user could use Unlimited Elite for HBO Max entertainment; another two lines could stay on Unlimited Started if they don’t need those features. That combination would cost $160 per month while keeping everyone on Unlimited Elite would cost $200 per month. 

    The three plans on AT&T’s new program for those with multiple lines are the Unlimited Elite, which has up to 100GB of “premium” data for $45; the $35 Unlimited Extra plan, which has up to 50GB of premium data; and the $30 Unlimited Starter, which has up to 30GB of premium data. 

    AT&T’s new mix and match unlimited plan option for families is available starting today. 

    AT&T; has announced that it’s giving customers the option to combine different unlimited plans on each line of their account. On Monday, the carrier sa...
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    Verizon strikes deal to buy Tracfone for $6.25 billion

    It’s good news for Tracfone customers, especially when it comes to network upgrades

    Verizon has cut a deal with America Movil to acquire Tracfone, the leading stateside prepaid mobile provider in the U.S. The $6.25 billion price tag includes $3.125 billion in cash and $3.125 billion in Verizon common stock. The deal should close sometime in mid-2021.

    Thanks to mergers made in the past few years, like the one between T-Mobile and Sprint, the wireless industry has gradually become smaller. The number of players is shrinking, and those that remain are becoming more powerful.

    This deal is no different. With the single stroke of a pen, Verizon gains a tremendous amount of prowess from what Tracfone brings to the table. The purchase means Verizon will add another 21 million subscribers under its corporate banner, more than 90,000 retail locations in businesses like CVS, Family Dollar, and BestBuy, and a firm foothold in the value wireless market. The ledger addition is even more impressive since Tracfone raked in $8.1 billion in 2019.

    Good news for Tracfone customers

    Verizon says that once the acquisition is put to bed, it expects to bring its 4G LTE and 5G networks to Tracfone customers. It also plans to further develop Tracfone’s distribution channels and expand the brand’s market opportunities.

    The complete portfolio of Tracfone brands -- Tracfone, Net10 Wireless, SafeLink Wireless, Straight Talk, Page Plus Cellular, GoSmart Mobile, Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile, and Total Wireless -- will also get the benefit of being in the Verizon family.

    “Since its launch, Tracfone has developed strong consumer brands and has established itself as a clear leader in the value mobile segment. This transaction firmly establishes Verizon, through the Tracfone brands, as the provider of choice in the value segment, which complements our clear leadership in the premium segment,” commented Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and Group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group. 

    The deal may also be good news for Tracfone’s employees. Verizon says it will welcome into its fold each and every one of Tracfone’s nearly 850 valuable workers.

    Verizon has cut a deal with America Movil to acquire Tracfone, the leading stateside prepaid mobile provider in the U.S. The $6.25 billion price tag includ...
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    AT&T tells some customers they need to get a new phone to keep receiving service

    An email sent out by the carrier doesn’t mention that users have a year and half to do so

    AT&T has emailed some customers to tell them that they need to replace their device in order to continue receiving service, Android Police reports. 

    Thousands of customers received a notice telling them that their device "is not compatible with the new network and you need to replace it to continue receiving service.” 

    The notice refers to the fact that the carrier is planning to drop its 3G network. However, AT&T didn’t explicitly mention in the email that consumers’ phones will continue to work until February 2022. That information was reportedly only mentioned in a link within the email. 

    The email went on to say that AT&T makes “getting a new device online easy” before naming various fast and free shipping options.

    “Someone who just skims over the mail without clicking the red ‘Learn More’ button might conclude they need a new phone right now,” Android Police noted. 

    More follow-up needed

    In a post on AT&T’s forum, one subscriber asked if the email they received was a scam since it was poorly worded and “sounded fishy.” 

    “I just received an email from AT&T that their network is no longer compatible to my device and I must upgrade. First off, this email to me sounded fishy. There was odd letters and numbers in the email address line,” the user wrote. “With this ongoing pandemic unfortunately you have to be very careful what's real and not a scam. Is this legit or no?” 

    While the email appears to be legitimitate, Android Police says AT&T should probably follow up with another email “explicitly making clear that genuinely unsupported devices will only stop working in a year and a half, not tomorrow.” 

    AT&T; has emailed some customers to tell them that they need to replace their device in order to continue receiving service, Android Police reports. Th...
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    T-Mobile unveils ‘Scam Shield’ robocall-blocking initiative

    The carrier is offering the service for free

    In an effort to curb unwanted robocalls, T-Mobile has announced that it will offer a free scam-blocking service to all T-Mobile, Metro, and Sprint customers. 

    The carrier said Thursday that it’s opting to offer the service for free, unlike rival Verizon, which charges many customers $7.99 per month for the service. 

    "People are being robbed. People are being scammed," CEO Mike Sievert said on a call with reporters. "This industry shouldn’t be profiting from this phenomenon.” 

    T-Mobile’s scam-blocking services are now part of a program called Scam Shield. The service includes free caller ID and call blocking, free enhanced caller ID (which lets people know when an incoming call is “verified”), and a free second “proxy” number to prevent scam calls from coming to personal phone lines. Customers can also change their number if they are getting too many spam calls.

    Scam Shield is the first initiative to be taken by T-Mobile since it merged with smaller rival Sprint. 

    “Now that Sprint is a part of T-Mobile, we can take on even bigger problems, so today, we’re taking on one of the biggest pain points in wireless — scams and unwanted robocalls,” Sievert said in a press release Thursday. 

    He added that the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the number of scam calls consumers are receiving. 

    “Scam Shield has never been more needed than it is right now. Scammers see COVID-19 as an opportunity to take advantage of Americans at their most vulnerable. When we saw that happening, we knew we had to take bold, swift action. With Scam Shield, T-Mobile customers get fewer scam calls, period … and it’s all because of our advanced network.”

    In an effort to curb unwanted robocalls, T-Mobile has announced that it will offer a free scam-blocking service to all T-Mobile, Metro, and Sprint customer...
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