Advocacy group says T-Mobile sales goals led to insurance fraud

CEO John Legere has built T-Mobile’s empire upon a mountain of unethical pressure tactics in the backrooms and show floors of its stores. It’s also padded by accounts and services siphoned into customers’ bills that no one asked for.

So claims Change to Win, an advocacy group for consumer and labor issues. And if there’s anything that is controvertible, it’s that the Un-carrier was the subject of the most complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2016.

Data requested under the Freedom of Information Act from the FTC shows that over the past three and a half years (that last bit marked the first half of 2016) T-Mobile consistently had the most consumer complaints out of the four major US carriers.

It had 21 complaints per million subscribers in 2013, then 29 in 2014. The number skyrocketed to 60 in 2015 and in the early part of this year alone, there were 95 complaints for every million subscriptions — going by the company’s numbers, that meant that over 6,400 complaints were lodged, or, a whopping 18 percent of the 35,000 or so complaints put against the industry over the past three-years-plus.

When it comes to fraudulent enrollment claims, T-Mobile customers topped AT&T, Sprint and Verizon — between 2013 and 2016, there were 10.1 complaints per million subscribers. Compare that to AT&T’s 7.1, Sprint’s 5.9 and Verizon’s 5.0.

These claims cover many an add-on that came unwanted or not transparently offered to the customer like an extra line, bundled accessories, data plan upgrades or, most commonly, device insurance. According to an online poll of T-Mobile customers conducted by Change to Win, 36 percent of the sample population of 2,200 respondents reported such extraneous fees and about 56 percent of them said that they paid more per month than the rate Little Magenta advertised.

Pressure has been mounting for sales representatives to push insurance onto customers one overt way or a covert other. 83 percent of a pool of 500 sales reps serving stores in six states told CtW that they were under the gun to cram services and products not explicitly requested by the customer.

One of a handful of associates gave their account of what stringent and heavily-monitored hourly goals did to colleagues:

The fact that there is such extraordinary pressure makes it so you can’t do what’s ethically required. I will do the best possible job that I can do, but the fact that [T-Mobile’s managers] put me in a compromising position and do unethical things is stressful. There’s so much stress and internalized anguish because we can’t meet our goals. And we know we’re smart and capable, but are made to feel inadequate on a daily basis. That’s why we have people out on [off-time ensured by the Family Medical Leave Act ] because of stress and such a high turnover in retail.

The JUMP! program that combined insurance with an early device upgrade scheme was a centerpiece for T-Mobile’s drive for growth, costing $9 or $12 a month. Several associates reported that they added JUMP! to newly-enrolled and unwitting customers to meet managers’ goals, then took the program off after a few days.

“No one says ‘I want to work at T-Mobile to do fraud. But a lot of reps do it because they want to keep their jobs and they want to get the pay they need. They aren’t bad or dishonest people, but there’s just a lot of pressure.”

All of these practices, CtW asserts, account for T-Mobile’s recent props in average revenue per user. Workers are petitioning Legere to address these issues. He has yet to publicly respond.

The nation’s third-largest network by subscriber base has faced its share of consumer controversy with claims against its “no-contract” offerings when it first began its Un-carrier campaign in 2013. Labor conditions have also been a worrisome, ongoing topic.

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Foxconn manager indicted on theft, fraudulent iPhone sales

A Mr. Tsai may spend the next ten years in jail if he is found guilty of breach of trust — in this case, stealing iPhone 5 and 5s units from testing labs and selling them in the open market.

The defendant was a former senior manager at Foxconn, Apple’s top assembly partner for the iPhone, and was identified only as Tsai. He was indicted on Friday.

It is alleged that from 2013 to 2014, he delegated eight subordinates to acquire non-retail testing phones (as opposed to iPhone 7 metal casing shells) and sell them to stores in Shenzhen, China. The New Taipei District claims that Tsai made US$1.56 million from the scheme, said to span over 5,700 units.

Foxconn notified Taiwanese authorities about Tsai after an internal audit.

Labor and graft issues have plagued Foxconn, the largest contract technology products assembler in the world, over the years. Its massiveness doesn’t help but add to its perceived complacency: it has over one million employees on its payroll.

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Google harshly punishes Pixel resellers, ultimately lifts ‘digital death penalty’

Never doubt the power of a viral news story these days. While some believe fabricated reports can sway momentous presidential elections, even legit ones tackling topics as mundane as tax loopholes used to make small profits off the unauthorized reselling of Pixel phones will occasionally rock pretty big boats.

In this case, Google’s cabin cruiser, pushing on towards record box-office mobile hardware numbers. The search giant very quietly and controversially decided to crack down on (mild) fraud attempts recently, effectively sentencing a group of its Terms of Service violators to “digital death.” No public trial, no warning, no nothing.

Granted, these people probably deserved some form of e-punishment, apparently purchasing Pixels “on behalf of a reseller, who then marked-up the cost of those devices in order to resell them to other customers.” But surely, locking them all out of their Google accounts was a gross overreaction.

We’re not just talking Google Store or Play Store access here, but total and complete lockdown from services as diverse as general cloud storage, email, personal pics and videos saved in Google Photos, and much more.

Apparently, “many of the accounts suspended were created for the sole purpose of this scheme”, though after reviewing the alleged fraudsters’ appeals, as well as getting flak all over the interwebs, Big G reversed its harsh initial call, letting everyone off with a warning.

Both sides have plenty to learn here, as Google needs to think long and hard before cutting people off from their connected lives again, while everyone else has to understand device reselling rules are made to be followed.

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Google Play Store app fraud detection gets a boost

You know those weird, cheap apps you find every so often in your Google Play Store search results? It’s surprising how some of those can be so useful or pretty or just plain fun. Looks can be deceiving — but so can ratings and reviews.Sure, just like bots to any decent Twitter user, honest apps still can attract bot marks. But some developers obviously and copiously buy into the fake reviews and ...

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Leaker who sold Blackberry info sentenced

It’s always fun to look at leaks, speculate, pontificate and exaggerate upon them. That is, leaks for devices. Selling private information for investors to trade on before everyone else knows? That’s plain illegal. We don’t often talk about cases of this ilk, but it’s important that we keep in mind the ever-present underbelly of the industries we deal with.60-year-old James Dunham, a former exec at a Verizon Wireless retail franchise, was sentenced to five months’ prison ...

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