AT&T customer's email to CEO Randall Stephenson draws sharp response from carrier's legal department

A lifelong AT&T (NYSE: T) customer who subscribed to four services from the carrier got an unexpected and sharp response from the company after he sent an email to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson suggesting that AT&T make some changes to its offerings. Alfred Valrie, 35, a resident of El Sereno, Calif., in the Los Angeles area, emailed Stephenson and suggested that AT&T offer unlimited data for DSL customers, particularly those in neighborhoods not serviced by its U-verse service, and bring back text messaging plans like 1,000 messages for $10 or create a new plan like 500 messages for $7. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Stephenson referred Valrie's email to AT&T's legal department. Thomas Restaino, AT&T's chief intellectual property counsel, thanked Valrie for being a lifelong customer but then adopted a sharper tone in his response. "AT&T has a policy of not entertaining unsolicited offers to adopt, analyze, develop, license or purchase third-party intellectual property ... from members of the general public," Restaino said. "Therefore, we respectfully decline to consider your suggestion."

AT&T spokeswoman Georgia Taylor said the response to Valrie was intentionally in that posture. "In the past, we've had customers send us unsolicited ideas and then later threaten to take legal action, claiming we stole their ideas," she told the LA Times. "That's why our responses have been a bit formal and legalistic. It's so we can protect ourselves." Taylor said AT&T "will take a look at our processes to see where we can do better going forward."

The story drew a strong rebuke on Twitter from T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, who regularly uses Twitter to respond to customers' queries and suggestions. "You sick a lawyer on a customer for making a suggestion?!" he said. "Don't give your ideas to @ATT." Article