AT&T Where Not Answering Means “Yes”

This is a negative option. It makes saying nothing the equivalent of saying yes!

(Note: I incorrectly assumed the CPNI mentioned in this post includes name, address and phone number. It does not. However, this is still about marketing permission being granted to AT&T simply by my doing nothing. I apologize for any confusion caused by my error.)

I got a postcard from AT&T today. It’s at the bottom of this entry. They don’t want me to read it. Do I know that for sure? No, but I’m reasonably certain.

Have you seen AT&T advertisements? They’re beautiful and eye catching. They are compelling. They are designed to get a point across.

This postcard is designed to do the opposite! Look at it. Judge for yourself.

It is densely packed and uses a very narrow, very thin font. It’s tough to read. It is written in a cumbersome manner with large unfamiliar words sprinkled throughout.

The postcard is asking permission that most people wouldn’t freely give.

AT&T wants to sell you stuff. In that pursuit they want to pass around your “Customer Proprietary Network Information.” That’s your name, phone number and address, right? When you don’t respond (most of you won’t) AT&T will be allowed to “share customer proprietary network information within the AT&T family of companies for our own marketing purposes.”

This is a negative option. It makes saying nothing the equivalent of saying yes!

Even if you want to say “no” there are roadblocks. I found that out firsthand.

The card gives a phone number to call and opt out. After dialing I was presented with an unforeseen hurdle. They wanted a three digit number that appears on my phone bill. Nowhere on the card did it say I’d need this. I didn’t have it at hand. The call was for naught!

Opting in is easy. Opting out is difficult.

All of this is surely legal. AT&T is loaded with attorneys. The real question is: is this right?

If AT&T wanted to do right by me they’d err on the side I’d most certainly choose. To me it seems they’re doing the exact opposite.

16 thoughts on “AT&T Where Not Answering Means “Yes””

  1. I dislike at&t. They arent looking out for the customers. They stopped my service on the Ogo years ago without notice. I had purchased the Ogo device about 2 months prior to at&t taking the device off the market. I wouldnt have considered it at all if I had known they were going to take it off the market. All these years later Im still pissed. Geoff, it was perfect for someone like me (I am deaf.) My friends even had their own Ogos. For less than 20 bucks a month for email and IM services (in which we can make a phone call using AOL Instant Messenger, using the relay to anywhere in the world, anytime for free…)
    They told me AllTell bought the Ogo. The Ogo technology was “too far advanced for AllTell.” Kidding me?! Dont get me wrong, I like my blackberry but…but…the Ogo was just perfect. Keyboard was the best I’d ever seen, simplified, and got the job done quick. It was far less distracting (no games, no fancy ring tones.) It was pure awesomeness. Which is why I think a t & t suck……………they finally gave the consumer something affordable (to purchase it was like 90 bucks) simple, accessible with great coverage…and they take it away. I would gladly toss the blackberry any day to have the Ogo back from any carrier other than at&t. Oh Id like to say they never informed me either they were “selling” the Ogo to “Alltell” and I wouldnt have been able to use it….nothing in the billing statements online to suggest my year contract with them was cut short. Frusterating.
    Here is the Ogo…how I miss thee.,2817,1708551,00.asp

  2. We recently opted out of AT&T altogether, choosing our local cable company for internet, home phone and cable, and a new cell provider that offered to buy out our AT&T contract (anticipated monthly savings: $100). As we’d been receiving paperless billing from AT&T, when the time came to print out our most recent bill, we found we were denied access to our online account because we’d canceled our service. So, they want us to pay the total amount without allowing us to download and print the invoice. Yesterday involved about an hour of attempts to get a person on the phone…but when I give the number the computer told me we don’t have AT&T (really?) and tried to send me to a sales person. Said computer asked me to state my very uncomplicated street address and could not understand me. So, I’ve canceled my account with them, but they won’t give me access to the information I need to pay them and submit the early cancellation charges to the new provider for reimbursement. I will never cry over one of their sappy ads again!

  3. Yes, but you have to be fair – while we may have received a card from them, they are not alone in this. Most all other companies who have affiliate marketing agreements do the same thing. Your credit card companies, your banks…they all have this policy of sending you an opt-out brochure or card if they have a marketing arm.

  4. I get your reaction and I think it’s valid. I’m just as sick as anyone else of companies constantly trying to sell me crap, but the postcard says specifically that it will not share your name, address, or phone number. At least, it says that info is not included as CPNI. I think this isn’t quite as nefarious as your post would indicate. That said… Methinks I’ll be visitingthe website listed on the card.

  5. Geoff

    Thanks for the “heads up” ! As a result of your post, I too called AT&T. As you found out, it is incredibly hard to opt out of their SPAM. I needed to call twice. The first agent demanded some billing code, recent billing amount or my social. As I did not know the billing info, suely was not giving my social I asked for a supervisor. Request denied. I immediatelly called back and the second agent transferred me to a supervisor. After some *&^%% comments, he agreed to call me back, ergo verifying our account and deleting me from their spam.

    Do you know whom one could foreward this most questionable business practice, ergo the the CT AG or the FTC. If sufficient people complain, maybe this &^^%$$ practice will be stopped.


  6. Per above, AT&T’s communication is at best unclear. The AG, the state PUC, the FCC, the FTC– I’d complain to all of them. It’s the same letter sent four times.

    I’d also write to the Office of the CEO at AT&T. Oddly enough, companies occasionally do the right thing when prompted. Occasionally.

  7. Here’s a gem from the online form as I received and acted on this card earlier in the week:

    “For AT&T wireless telephone numbers, please do not use this form. To restrict our use of your CPNI, please see the contact provided here.”

    The link sends you to a list of phone numbers where you need to keep “zeroing out” to speak with a representative. Once I obtained a human being on the other end, they were quick to point out that for the wireless side of ATT the FCC does not allow them to sell the subscribers information and that my account as far a CPNI was in compliance. I didn’t have the time to research the FCC bit but I felt pretty confident that what the representative was sharing was legit as she seemed knowledgeable from the get go about CPNI. I pressed her one last time and pointedly asked, can you sell my wireless information to third parties and the answer was a confident “no, per FCC wireless regulations”.

    Time (or someone that reads this with the time to dig through FCC rulings) will tell….


  8. Don’t be deterred from doing this on-line – you need your zip code, phone number and that 3 digit number on you bill – took me about 5 sec.

  9. I just got the opt-out email, and it took me 45 minutes to opt-out. The link to the online form in their email just brought me to my account page not directly to the opt-out form. When I searched for CPNI on the AT&T site, the only result was the support forum page with other customers complaining. Next I called the automated phone number provided in the email. You need to select the state you live in. I live in NY, which was not listed. You need to call another number for states not listed. I called that one, but it was not for the CPNI opt-out. Back to their email, where I then called the number to talk to a live human, 5 transfers later, I was finally able to get someone to opt me out.

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