This morning I walk out to get my mail and I find a tiny postcard sticking on the side of my mail box. And, great news its from one of my least favorite companies, the New, New, New, Gosh We Just Rebranded Cingular to be Associated with Bad Customer Service AT&T. In this postcard is a clever announcement (we used to call them tombstone ads) that effective July 1st 2007, AT&T's Carrier Cost Recovery Fee will increase to $2.39. Yes. $2.39 just so they can do what? Pump up their payments to former competitor squashing retiring CEOs $100s of millions of dollars. Seriously, what reason can AT&T have for raising this fee or having it in the first place?
Well, they give you all of this mumbo jumbo to make it look like it is some requirement to charge this to you. The postcard says This fee helps AT&T recover costs associated with providing state-to-state and international long distance services including expenses for national regulatory fee and programs and connection and account servicing charges (whew that's a lot of "ands"). They do say at the end that it is not a tax or charge required by the government.
I checked with one of my old AT&T friends and he told me he believes it was instituted to help telecommunications companies keep lawyers on staff to fight the Government. I'm laughing as I type this, but he swears that's why its there. When the old pricing group cooked this one up they pitched it to cover legal fees. Of course, the geniuses at SBC know a good revenue generating thing when they see one, so of course they had to raise it to pay for Whitacre's country club and $1 million consulting fees. In case you need a refresher on what this AT&T Tax is, here are a few articles I found laying around:
So, what can you do about it? Well, if I was still a customer, I'd call in to complain and when I did, I'd make sure I'd get a live American rep so I can talk their ears off and jack up the costs to these blood suckers (not the reps, but the senior AT&T management team). Then, I'd figure out a way to move my calling plans around to be as cheap as possible. If all else fails, I'd switch telecom providers, but that's the real catch isn't it?
Back in the day, you could switch long distance carriers, but sadly that's gone. There isn't any competition just 30 minutes from Verizon's current HQ and AT&T's former HQ in Basking Ridge NJ. Your choices are your local carrier (one of them), your cable provider (one of them), and maybe if you are lucky a wireless provider. VOIP quality when I've used it is barely terrible and lord knows I'll never test out Vonage. Thanks to the FCC there is barely any competition for telecommunications services, outside of wireless, so of course AT&T can try to slip a price increase by you.
Back in the day, price increases had to be offset by price decreases. At least when the FCC believed AT&T had monopoly pricing power. Of course now, the FCC could care less while these companies just milk hard earning Americans for a service that unfortunately they have few options. Now, when there is barely competition not back in the 80's when checks to switch were handed out as often as coupons in your Sunday paper (are they even still there?) is when we need the FCC to police AT&T. Thanks FCC. Thanks a lot.