Sunday, 14 December 2003
Nightmare on Portability Street
Mary over at bIPlog relates the horrifying tale of her experience trying to port her cell phone number from AT&T Wireless to Cingular ("My Nightmare With AT&T Wireless"). A summary could never do it justice, so suffice it to say that AT&T made numerous gross factual errors and flagrantly broke the law in repeated attempts to prevent her from leaving. Still, this episode highlights less about AT&T than it does about the harm that consumers can suffer at the hands of hucksters — even when the hucksters know what they are doing is illegal because the consumer has pointed it out. I suppose Mary could sue AT&T to force the release of its high-tech hostage, but who has the time and money for litigation over a phone number?
My law school roommate and I had a similar experience when we tried to buy DSL service in Boston. Despite being Verizon dialtone customers, we tried to hire a company called eConnects (a reseller of Verizon DSL connectivity) for Internet service. At the time, Verizon was required to permit access to its "last mile" network for others to offer competitively-priced residential DSL service. For months, eConnects tried to get us online, but Verizon dragged its feet when it came time to change certain physical settings on our line — which it claimed could only be done inside our apartment. Verizon repeatedly failed to show up for appointments or showed up on the wrong day or at the wrong time, and it refused to schedule any appointment within two weeks of any call we made to their customer service department. Finally, we caved in and bought DSL service from Verizon — at a higher monthly price than eConnects had offered us. Magically, Verizon had an appointment slot available four days later, and we were online ten minutes after that.