I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for several years now. I’ve always been happy with them — they offer good prices for their services, and their customer service has always been great (as I’ve written before. But I’m left reconsidering that this morning, as apparently T-Mobile has decided to block messages its users send to Twitter’s 40404 short code. (Updated: T-Mo and Twitter say it was a tech issue, see below.)
This is depressingly stupid. As a customer, I’m frustrated as hell that they’d do something like this. I’m hard pressed to think of any good reason why they’d block it, since they get paid for every inbound and outbound SMS their users send and receive from the short code. Maybe too many people ran up large bills and complained (but then why only block outbound messages, and not inbound ones?); maybe they saw a lot of traffic going to Twitter’s short code and decided there needed to be a “deal” in place where Twitter paid them for access to “their” customers. It’s not yet clear what the thinking is, but I’ve got a message into their PR folks asking what’s going on, and why.
Perhaps even more galling is the response some people who have complained about this have received from T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Relations department:
In your email, you express concerns, as you are not able to use your service for Twitter. As you have been advised, Twitter is not an authorized third-party service provider, and therefore you are not able to utilize service from this provide any longer. You indicate your feeling that this is a violation of the Net Neutrality.
T-Mobile would like to bring to your attention that the Terms and Conditions of service, to which you agreed at activation, indicate “… some Services are not available on third-party networks or while roaming. We may impose credit, usage, or other limits to Service, cancel or suspend Service, or block certain types of calls, messages, or sessions (such as international, 900, or 976 calls) at our discretion.” Therefore, T-Mobile is not in violation of any agreement by not providing service to Twitter. T-Mobile regrets any inconvenience, however please note that if you remain under contract and choose to cancel service, you will be responsible for the $200 early termination fee that would be assessed to the account at cancellation.
Wow. That’s almost as nice as the way messages I send to 40404 get the response “Service is temporarily down. Please, try again later.” — which make it look like there’s a problem with Twitter,
rather than the reality that T-Mobile’s intercepting the messages and not delivering them. You know what’s even better? I get charged for that bounceback message:
I’m pretty disappointed in T-Mobile at this point. Other people are getting all up in arms about net neutrality, but I see this more as net stupidity — after all, what good can come of this for T-Mobile? None, none at all.
Update: Things appear to be fixed, and Twitter says it was due to an issue between T-Mobile and Twitter’s SMS vendor. Well played to Twitter for portraying it as a bug (regardless of whether it was or not), but T-Mobile hasn’t done much to help themselves here. While it’s understandable that their CSRs may not have heard of Twitter, for their “Executive Customer Relations department” to pop off with the response they did is still incredibly lame. Not to mention stupid, if this was actually just a technical glitch, and not a matter of policy.
Another update: I got a reply from T-Mobile’s PR folks:
Twitter users are welcome to stay connected through T-Mobile service.
Rumors that T-Mobile blocks the service are false. T-Mobile confirmed
with Twitter that there was a technical issue between the two companies’
systems that temporarily prevented some customers from utilizing the
service this past weekend. That issue has since been resolved and the
companies are working to prevent such incidents from re-occurring.
T-Mobile USA, Inc.
Manager, Public Relations
Again, I’m glad to hear that it was a technical issue and nothing nefarious. But this reiterates just how lame the CSR’s response to the person who wrote in to complain was.