‘Get the f--k out of the store:’ T-Mobile stores accused of ripping off New York City customers
New York City consumer watchdogs have some hangups about T-Mobile.
The cellphone service provider preyed on New Yorkers with weak credit history by selling used phones as new ones, enrolling victims in costly financing plans without their permission and overcharging them, according to a new lawsuit from the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection that outlines “thousands” of instances of rip-offs involving more than 50 stores and authorized dealers.
In at least 21 cases, the suit says, customers complained of paying hundreds of dollars for old phones that they believed to be new.
In one example from the complaint filed Wednesday in Manhattan Supreme Court, Kathy Johnson returned her “new” iPhone to authorized T-Mobile dealer Wireless Broz, Inc. in Staten Island. The store agreed to swap phones, but when she took the replacement to an Apple store, the jilted customer discovered that it had been used.
“When Ms. Johnson confronted Wireless Broz Inc. on Staten Island, the salesperson told her to get the f--k out of the store,” the city’s complaint states.
T-Mobile authorizes stores to sell its “Metro” pay-as-you-go plan, which appeals to customers who lack the cash or credit history for more traditional contracts.
The “Metro by T-Mobile stores are scamming New Yorkers into buying used phones, tacking on additional costs, enrolling them in financing that’s destroying their credit, and then trapping them with their deceptive return policy and incomplete receipts,” DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas said in a statement.
“T-Mobile’s rampant and repeated deception is made more troubling by the fact that these tactics particularly harm consumers who are simply seeking to find an affordable wireless plan.”
T-Mobile said it “takes the allegations very seriously” and is “continuing to investigate so we can respond to the city.
“Though we can’t comment on the specific claims at this early stage, what we are seeing alleged here is completely at odds with the integrity of our team and the commitment they have to taking care of our customers every day,” the company said in a statement.
Wireless Broz, Inc. could not be reached for a response.
In addition to allegedly selling old phones as new ones, the city accused T-Mobile dealers of tricking customers into “rental purchase agreements” that add hundreds of dollars to advertised prices.
Metro stores were also accused of charging customers “illegal taxes, mystery fees and fees for unwanted services.” T-Mobile allegedly has a “stingy” return policies that it misrepresents on the Metro-branded website, and Metro stores failed to provide legal receipts.
The U.S. Justice Department approved the merger in July, but the state law officials say the deal would decrease competition for phone plans and lead to higher costs for consumers.
While the city case does not directly affect the AGs’ suit, Erik Gordon of the University of Michigan said the new accusations could provide extra ammunition against the merger.
“When you get into a legal fight, every vegetable you get your hands on, you throw at the other person,” Gordon, a business and law professor who’s studied the proposed merger, told the Daily News.
Allegations in the city’s suit could enable the AGs to argue T-Mobile and Sprint are “bad companies, they’re always in trouble with the consumer protection people. These are not companies you can trust to do the right thing.”