New York City is officially filing suit against T-Mobile over allegedly deceptive and abusive practices in regards to dealings with customers of its Metro pre-paid brand.
According to the city, Metro employed a deceptive return policy that surprised some customers, and also threw in surprise fees and even made-up taxes, an offense that could constitute fraud and other nasty crimes.
Additionally, the city alleges that Metro's financing options had the potential to leave customers paying more for new devices than they were led to expect, and some financing options were added or enrolled without customers' consent.
To add insult to injury, the city alleges that some of these "new" devices that customers are overpaying for actually turned out to be used in some capacity, rather than brand new and sealed up by the manufacturer.
In the official papers, the city alleges that "at least several dozen" Metro stores have engaged in these abusive practices, including both authorized dealers and corporate stores run directly by Metro, and by extension T-Mobile.
The city is demanding a jury trial and further investigation into this matter, as well as an official answer from T-Mobile.
Should T-Mobile fail to appease the summons, or lose in court, the company will be forced to forfeit all profit that the city determines was brought about by deceiving or abusing customers, and a restitution fund will be set up to reimburse Metro customers who fell victim.
The suit names defendants as not only T-Mobile and subsidiary MetroPCS, but also dozens of different dealer and sub-dealer locations throughout the area.
The city set forth a few of Metro's own agreements for dealers as evidence. One such agreement specifically states that MetroPCS includes taxes, surcharges, and other costs in the prices of equipment, but does not expressly forbid dealers from adding to those charges.
Likewise, the dealer agreement touches on the subject of pricing, and says that dealers may set any price they wish for equipment.
Metro's return policy, meanwhile, states that customers have 30 days to return a phone with less than one hour of talk time if it's bought online, but only seven days if it was bought at a physical location.
This matches up with what's shown in the dealer agreement, and that means that if dealers or even Metro stores were showing signage regarding a 30 day return policy, that almost certainly constitutes false advertising. The website, meanwhile, conspicuously advertises a 30 day guarantee while forcing customers to read the fine print in order to learn about the 7 day restriction.
When MetroPCS was first established, long before the T-Mobile days, it was angled as a cheap carrier for consumers who didn't have a very big wireless budget, but wanted the best devices and features they could get for their money.
This "bang for your buck" image has continued into the present day, albeit with some serious tonal shifting, and T-Mobile has helped to guide the once-struggling prepaid carrier to relative success.
Metro is considered a full-featured, no-frills carrier for any crowd, making integrity key as T-Mobile makes loud work of making the wireless industry more consumer-friendly. Should the current lawsuit's allegations be proven true, that could spell serious trouble for the overall brand image.