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At&T Wireless Settles With Attorney General For Benefit Of Unicel Customers

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507

November 9, 2009

AT&T Mobility, LLC (“AT&T”), of Atlanta, Georgia, the wireless telecommunications company, has entered into a settlement with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office to protect current and former Unicel customers whose contracts AT&T bought last year. Under the settlement, current Unicel subscribers will be shielded from expected loss of service in December 2009; current and past Unicel subscribers will have an opportunity to continue the terms of their Unicel contracts; and AT&T will pay the State $230,000 in costs.

According to Attorney General William H. Sorrell, “Our major concern was that Vermont Unicel customers were being held to the terms of contracts that AT&T was not going to honor after the Unicel system shut down on December 22. This settlement will ensure that those customers won’t lose their wireless service or have to pay onerous fees.”

In July 2007, Verizon Communications bought Unicel. To ensure a competitive market, Verizon was required to sell its Unicel contracts in Vermont. Between 100,000 to 150,000 such contracts were sold to AT&T Mobility. However, as of December 22, 2009, the Unicel “billing platform” will be shut down, which was expected to result in the loss of cell phone service and cell phone numbers for Unicel subscribers as of that date, if it were not for the settlement.

Starting in early 2009, AT&T told Unicel subscribers in Vermont that they were now AT&T customers, urged them to enter into AT&T contracts to avoid loss of service, and required them to pay a fee of $200 for each cell phone if they terminated their Unicel contracts early. Approximately 65,000 Vermonters switched to AT&T, while many others paid a total of between $150,000 and $250,000 in early termination fees to get out of their Unicel contracts and go to another wireless company.

Under the settlement with the Attorney General’s Office:

  • AT&T will refund all early termination fees paid by past Unicel subscribers, with three percent annual interest.

  • AT&T will send all current Unicel subscribers a free AT&T cell phone with substantially the same features as their Unicel phones, and will activate the new phones when the Unicel system stops working on December 22. These consumers’ cell phone numbers will be carried over (or “ported”) upon request or automatically; and AT&T will offer to continue existing rates and terms until the Unicel contracts expire, and after that on a month-to-month basis.

  • Other provisions in the settlement will address comparable rights for Unicel business customers and subscribers with “SIM cards” and wireless data cards. Consumers who have already switched from Unicel to AT&T, or whose Unicel contracts expire after October 2009, will be entitled, on request, to change their AT&T contracts back to the same rates and terms as their Unicel contracts, and to receive a $50 billing credit.

For more information on the settlement, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.