Report: AT&T, T-Mobile overcharging voice minutes for prepaid customers

Prepaid subscribers at AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) are being overcharged for voice minutes they use, according to a Washington Post report. Essentially, prepaid customers who pay for voice calls by the minute are being charged for more minutes than they think they are using. This is most notably evident in the fact that even calls that end before one minute of voice airtime is used up are getting treated as two-minute calls.

AT&T noted in a statement to the Post that the time "displayed on the phone does not necessarily reflect the actual start and end periods recorded for the time charged to the customer. A call's time begins when you press the send button. And, a call's time ends after you press the end button and your phone's signal to disconnect is received by the network and the call disconnect signal is confirmed." That could account for the lag time between when a customer thinks a call has ended on their phone and when it actually ended--and what they actually get billed for.

AT&T's prepaid per-minute calling rate is $0.10 per minute, and T-Mobile's prepaid call rate is $0.33 per minute. T-Mobile offered a similar explanation to AT&T, and said "total charges are calculated based on the total time of the call, including: set-up, call, and hang-up time. From a billing perspective, a customer is charged from the start of their transaction (hitting send) to the end of their transaction (hanging up), not just the actual talk time."

According to the Post, Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) prepaid phones and the company's website for billing reported the same amount of airtime used. Sprint (NYSE:S) asks customers to pay upfront for a pool of minutes that then gets used up over time, the Post noted, and does not charge prepaid users by the minute. Article