AT&T Rip Off
It seems that AT&T has joined forces with JCPenney Life Insurance to rip off AT&T's credit card holders.
On February 28, 1996 Eva received a call from a salesman who said he was representing AT&T asking her to purchase medical insurance. The deal was that we would get 90 days free coverage for our family and then $12.95 per month would automatically be charged to our credit card. As is our policy, Eva told him that we were not interested in purchasing the insurance. When the salesman asked if he could send information she said that would be fine but repeated that she was not purchasing the insurance at this time. He then asked her to confirm our mailing address which she did.
A few days later we received a Certificate of Insurance number 84AV893013 for Group Accident Hospital Insurance Policy number 25494 GC317. We were informed that if we did not void the Certificate by returning it within 90 days to JCPenney's Administrative Office at 2700 West Plano Parkway, Plano, Texas 75075 we would be subject to a monthly charge of $12.95 on our AT&T credit card.
The significant points here are these:
We were sold an insurance policy after stating that we did not wish to purchase it.
It required that we expend our time and money (postage) to cancel a policy we did not want, otherwise we would incur a monthly charge.
Although we can usually protect ourselves from unwanted purchases by phone solicitors simply by not giving them our credit card number, we were not even asked for our number in this case because it had already been provided to the solicitor by our own credit card company, AT&T.
Later I called AT&T credit card customer service and asked under what circumstances they would give my credit card number to other companies so that I could be billed. The lady said that they would not do this at all. When I mentioned J. C. Penney Life Insurance she said that that company was not another company but a part of AT&T. When I asked why the insurance company needed to be provided my credit card number but could not simply ask me for it if I agreed to buy their insurance, she indicated that that was for my convenience so that they would not have to ask me for the number.
The Kentucky Health Reform Act of 1994 prohibits sales of any health insurance policy in the state of Kentucky except the four standard policies which have been approved by the State Insurance Commission. Although some lawyer might argue that an Accident policy is not health insurance, I don't see how a hospitalization policy can not be health insurance.
Many unsophisticated people would not realize that they were buying a policy that paid certain medical costs only in case of accidents but would believe that they were getting very cheap complete medical insurance.
Many people would also think that the Certificate sent was only an advertisement since they had not purchased an insurance policy and would promptly throw it in the trash and might not realize for quite some time that they were paying $12.95 per month for insurance which they had never purchased. A financial bonanza for AT&T and for JCPenney.
In other words, a con scheme worthy of any fly-by-night unknown company operating out of a telephone boiler room just ahead of the law, but in this case operated by AT&T and JCPenney victimizing AT&T's own customers.
I called JCPenney Life Insurance Company at their toll free number 1 800 572- 9387. They said to use that number for further service, "...just what you expect as an AT&T Universal Card member."
I asked to speak to someone who had authority to speak for the President of the Company and I was connected to Wayne Thigpen in Customer Relations. Mr. Thigpen assured me that he did speak for the President of the Company. I complained about their sales tactics, said I thought they were illegal, and demanded that they quit selling by phone in the state of Kentucky. Mr. Thigpen assured me that everything they were doing must be legal because they had a large staff of lawyers to review their practices and said that by allowing them to send us information Eva had agreed to purchase insurance because they did not have an information packet that did not also include an insurance certificate free for 90 days. He did not think that her statement that we did not agree to purchase insurance at this time was relevant.
About two weeks later I received a letter from Mr. Thigpen. He said that they were canceling our coverage and removing our name and phone number from their telephone solicitation list. He also said, "The agent who spoke with your wife, as well as the person who verifies the tapes prior to sending in the sales information, have been retrained on the qualifications of a good sale."
I suspect that for AT&T and JCPenney a good sale is any sale in which they can get money from the customer.
On April 15, I called AT&T's Credit Card customer service line and asked to speak to a supervisor. My call was connected to Mr. Kerry Hepler. I explained the situation to Mr. Hepler, said that I was disappointed that AT&T would engage in such unethical business practices, and requested that in the future AT&T not make the names, phone numbers, and credit card numbers of their card holders available to others for sales purposes. I suggested that they might act simply as a credit card company handling charges and billing rather than using their customers as a sales base.
Mr. Hepler said that he would forward my complaints to others in the company.