San Diego County

Buy One Get None Free: Cell Phone Promotion Goes Wrong

Two AT&T customers

The cost of a new cell phone is not getting any cheaper. And, to try and save some cash, consumers often jump at any promotion to help get the latest and greatest mobile phone.

But for two San Diego County families, a “Buy One iPhone, Get One Free” promotion from AT&T cost them more than they expected.

Angela MacLean from Carlsbad signed up for the promotion in February of last year. Three months later MacLean decided to pay the $1,000 balance on the new set of phones.

"They took my payment over the phone,” MacLean told NBC 7 Responds. “I thought I was good to go.”

But that wasn’t the case. A mistake at the billing department resulted in the payment being applied to the free phone line and not the line where the $1,000 balance was.

“Subsequent months after I made the payment I realized I was still getting charged the free phone."

MacLean said she called AT&T every month when she got the bill but nothing was getting done. By May 2019, one year after paying the $1,000 she said her bill showed a $460 balance.

Meanwhile, in Carmel Valley, AT&T customer Kwee Chai signed up for the same promotion. Several months later, however, she noticed she had been paying for both phones, and the promotion was not applied to the second phone.

“The second iPhone was supposed to be free but that just wasn’t the case,” said Chai. 

Chai told NBC 7 Responds that she spent the following nine months trying to straighten the billing issue out.

"It was like 33-dollars, which may not seem a lot to some, but it's a lot over the course of three years,” said Chai.

"I mean, It's ok that they made a mistake in the system or when they are inputting it, it's fine but what surprised me is that they didn’t seem to know how to fix it."

After numerous attempts with no resolution, both MacLean and Chai contacted NBC 7 Responds.

NBC 7 Responds contacted AT&T and the company resolved both cases.

“You know I am so grateful and thankful that you could help us out,” said Chai. “I mean you guys made our voices heard."

In a statement, a spokesperson for AT&T wrote the company “worked to resolve the cases and apologizes for the inconvenience."

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