Top 7 Cell Phone Gripes

Automatic voicemail instructions, text message fees and more irk customers.

ByABC News
August 3, 2009, 7:25 AM

Aug. 3, 2009— -- You've heard it millions of times. It's the 15-second canned recording that follows a cell phone voicemail greeting and tells you what to do at the beep.

And it's become the latest thorn in the side of the American wireless industry.

Last week, New York Times personal technology columnist David Pogue stirred outrage online and from customers when he launched a "Take Back the Beep" campaign on his blog targeting the message.

"I've been ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by American cell phone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions," he wrote.

Pogue argued that the instructional message is nothing more than attempt to keep customers on the phone so that they can charge them for additional minutes.

By Thursday evening, several carriers set up dedicated forums to handle the influx of messages from "Take Back the Beep" campaigners.

Pogue acknowledged that there are codes to bypass the message if you are a caller and options to eliminate it if you are the customer, but he said they are just patches. The better solution would be for the carriers to get rid of them altogether.

The carriers themselves argue that these messages are intended to help customers navigate the voicemail menu and that they already offer ways to delete or workaround the message.

"It's about giving our customers and the people who call them choice and control over their technology," said Verizon Wireless spokesman Tom Pica.

Roni Singleton, a spokesman for Sprint, said, "The voicemail message exists because we have to assume that there may be customers and users that require as much instruction as possible on how to use the voicemail."

Both said their companies adequately inform customers about how to work around the message. But that hasn't stopped the blogosphere and cell phone customers from keeping the campaign alive.

In his blog, Pogue said, "I'm also hopeful that, with the stupidity of these instruction messages brought to the public consciousness, customers will be reminded how irksome it is every time they leave a message — that it'll bug them from now on — that it will become a canker that won't go away until the carriers make it so."

Here are six other "cankers" that won't go away.

In 2009 alone, 3.3 trillion text messages are expected to fly around the world, according to Gartner Research. That represents a 600 percent increase since 2007.

Many consumers have unlimited text messaging plans. But those who don't face exorbitant charges if they exceed their limits. Since 2005, every major carrier has raised the price of transmitting an out of plan text message from 10 cents to 20 cents for reasons no one understands.

Earlier this year, one Wyoming family was hit with a nearly $4,800 phone bill when their 13-year-old daughter averaged about 288 messages a day.

In June, senators took the wireless industry to task for increasing text messaging fees. In that hearing, one researcher testified that it costs wireless providers three-tenths of 1 cent to transmit a text.

So why does it cost the consumer so much more than that?

"This is a head scratcher to consumers because these rising costs are not at all related to the pricing incurred by the carrier," Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union told ABC News in June.

In their defense, the cellular industry contends that texting bundle plans have gone down 60 percent in price in recent years, and most consumers choose bundles.