Incoming Charges on Mobile Phones
August 3, 2004 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Why do US mobile phone companies get away with charging for incoming calls and SMS/MMS? What can customers do about it?
posted by brownpau to Technology (14 answers total)
cuz they can.

In the US they have genrous monthley talk minute plans and expensive texting. In Europe its the reverse. I'm sure there's an overwhelming marketing and/or revenue reason for the dichotomy.

In the meanwhile, sms is far from a hit in the US as a result, while euro-kids are growing a 3rd thumb in response to the evolutionary pressure to the ubiquity of texting.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2004

I believe the reason is that they give you a montly plan with a bucket of minutes included, including free nights and weekends, unlike the pre-paid plans common in EU. You save money in terms of cost per call, and also on the initial purchase of your handset, and subsequent yearly upgrades. Also data is cheaper on carriers such as T-Mobile in the US, than it is on T-Mobile in EU.
posted by riffola at 10:34 AM on August 3, 2004

The alternative to charging for incoming calls would seem to be to charge the caller for calling your cell phone. But since someone can't tell by looking at the phone number that it's a mobile phone, it doesn't seem realistic to make them pay for a call they couldn't tell wasn't local.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:27 AM on August 3, 2004

By the same token, it doesn't make sense to make me pay to receive a text message I didn't want. I can choose whether or not to answer the phone, but text messages are a different critter. I once received something like 20 text messages in 30 minutes--they were either mis-sent or maliciously sent by a prankster. Each one cost me a nickel.

Then I went to the Tmo website and figure out how to block the sender. But not before he cost me a buck.

But yeah, they do it because they can get away with it. They also charge you an additional fee for complying with the legally mandated number portability system.
posted by adamrice at 11:53 AM on August 3, 2004

Often, the first incoming minute is free. With that option, I don't think that there's any justification for not charging for incoming calls.
posted by waldo at 12:01 PM on August 3, 2004

Um, who would pay for incoming airtime if the user of that airtime didn't? The caller? Unfortunately, that's against current regulation. Callers would be mighty pissed off to find out that what they thought, from looking at the phone number, was a free local call turned out to be charging them by the minute, maybe with some roaming fees and overage tacked on.

Now, SMS, that ought to be (a) a hell of a lot cheaper considering the minimal bandwidth and crappy limitations, and (b) free to receive.
posted by majick at 12:42 PM on August 3, 2004

You may have a point with SMS (since there is no control over the incoming messages). However, I prefer the way the US cell system bills for incoming calls as there is no disincentive to calling a cell phone since they are treated just like a regular local number.
posted by reverendX at 12:43 PM on August 3, 2004

To make SMS less painful, I suggest buying a bucket of messages each month. I think T-Mobile gives you 300 for $3
posted by reverendX at 12:45 PM on August 3, 2004

At least one US company, Nextel, offers plans with "free" incoming. It's not really free, of course, because your "anytime" minutes are reduced. If roughly 50% of your minutes are used on incoming calls then it's about the same price as a traditional plan. If you get called much more than you call others, then you might save money.
posted by blue mustard at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2004

I am switching in a heartbeat, early termination fees be damned, to the first carrier that sells me a lump monthly data transfer allotment and lets me use it however I want. (voice, SMS, text, email, internet, weather, photo messaging)

On a related note, my brother recently changed providers when his carrier, AT&T, not only had the gall to spam him with an unsolicited SMS advertisement but then proceeded to charge him $0.50 for receiving it since his plan is not SMS enabled. Boy, was he pissed.
posted by bradhill at 4:45 PM on August 3, 2004

T-Mob offers unlimited WAP for 4.99 s month (speed=56k)
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:27 PM on August 3, 2004

In the UK, we don't pay for incoming calls. All mobile numbers start with 07 (I think) so it's obvious that you're calling one. I can't possibly see any justification for paying to receive calls or texts.
posted by salmacis at 2:02 AM on August 4, 2004

The alternative to charging for incoming calls would seem to be to charge the caller for calling your cell phone.

This is exactly how it's done in Germany. You can tell that my phone is a cell phone because you have to dial 0162 to call it. I'm pretty sure that all 01 numbers are special—either they're cell phones, service numbers, or something similar.
posted by oaf at 4:13 AM on August 4, 2004

The main difference btw US and Europe (and most of the world) are the numbering conventions used.

In Europe (and elsewhere) the mobile numbers have their own prefix(es) so the caller knows that the call is most likely priced differently from local or long distance calls.

In US mobile numbers are don't have their own prefixes so a caller can't deduct where they are calling.

Furthermore most people/ companies in US are not used to dealing with mobile being the primary/ only number for anyone.
posted by zeikka at 7:36 AM on August 4, 2004

« Older Inexpensive telephone providers in NYC?   |   28 hour day Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.