I now want to give US Mobile credit for adding a fee disclosure to its website (hat tip to Stetson Doggett for pointing out the change):
While the new disclosure might still count as “in the fine print,” it’s a huge improvement. US Mobile used to avoid acknowledging added fees until customers were near the end of the checkout process.
On Twitter, US Mobile’s CEO, Ahmed Khattak, raised an interesting point:
We appreciate you folks calling us out on this. However, most carriers still show the fee's on the last step still.
— Ahmed Khattak (@khattkoo) October 7, 2020
In many ways, I agree with Khattak. Hidden fees continue to be a big problem with carriers other than US Mobile. However, I don’t think it was unreasonable for me to make more of a fuss about US Mobile’s hidden fees than other carrier’s hidden fees. US Mobile’s fees are often much larger than the fees charged by similar carriers (i.e., other low-cost MVNOs).1
Hidden fees generally
Going forward, I’m going to push against hidden fees throughout the industry. AT&T and Verizon continue to have significant hidden fees. T-Mobile is doing a bit better, but the carrier still has room for improvement.2 In the long run, I’d love to see all universal fees (i.e., fees that aren’t location-specific) built into plans’ advertised prices. If carriers could coordinate to simultaneously stop hiding fees, consumers would have better information, and carriers would experience limited downsides.3
- Additionally, US Mobile encouraged customers to order SIM cards before actually paying for service. I expect ordering a SIM card functions as something like a commitment to ordering service for many people. I didn’t like that US Mobile failed to clearly disclose information about fees to customers before they ordered SIM cards.
- T-Mobile includes most taxes and fees in its Magenta and Magenta Plus plans. Many of the carrier’s other plans include fees that I don’t think T-Mobile is being adequately transparent about.
- It’s hard for a carrier to make an isolated move to get rid of hidden fees. A carrier that stops hiding fees may be at a disadvantage if it has to compete with carriers that do hide fees.