AT&T Pushes Customers to Upgrade in Misleading Email

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Phone service provider AT&T announced in an email to customers that users of older devices would have to upgrade in order to continue receiving service. This is because the company is planning to shut down its 3G service starting in 2022. The change would cause some devices to lose voice call and data capabilities. The email failed to mention, however, that users have almost a year to upgrade. Now, some are calling the advisory a misleading marketing scheme.

“Update Needed”

AT&T sent out a conveniently vague email to some users this week. The message header read “UPDATE NEEDED.” The email then told users that their device “is not compatible with the new network and you need to replace it to continue receiving service.” The message ended with a list of ways for users to buy their new devices while abiding by physical distance guidelines. Beneath the last sentence there was a small “Learn More” button.

It was only when clicking that button that the reader would be brought to a separate page on the AT&T website with more information. There, it clarified that this change would take effect February 2022. In other words, there’s no urgency to the upgrade.

Misleading Communication

The email pushed the message to upgrade so aggressively that some customers wondered if it was a scam. An AT&T customer, using the handle kris03, wrote on an a AT&T forum,

I just received an email from AT&T that their network is no longer compatible to my device and I must upgrade. First off, this email to me sounded fishy. There was odd letters and numbers in the email address line. With this ongoing pandemic unfortunately you have to be very careful what’s real and not a scam. Is this legit or no?  My phone is over a year old, an Android S10e. Thanks!

While others responded, confirming that it was an authentic message, many pointed out that the formatting and wording of the email seemed deceitful. The responses on the message board are overwhelmingly negative.

One user wrote, 

AT&T needs to clarify details of this email.  I am not going to buy a new phone just to keep using AT&T service.

While another said,

It’s pretty tone-deaf to urge people to buy a new phone during an economic crisis.

AT&T’s Response

In a statement, AT&T insisted it did not intentionally mislead customers.

“This email was one of many planned to keep customers informed about the shutdown of our 3G network in early 2022,” the statement read. “It should have included the date that certain devices would no longer be supported. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused and will be more clear in future updates.”

Despite this explanation, it’s difficult to believe this was an honest mistake. And at a time when Americans are financially hurting and in dire need of greater connectivity, the move was in very poor taste.

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