On the heels of its reintroduction of an entry-level monthly data plan with a budget-friendlier price, T-Mobile said Monday that it'll kill off overage charges on consumer plans entirely, then called on its rivals to follow suit.
Or spin that another way and you're looking at T-Mobile CEO John Legere doing his usual maverick shtick, throwing down another gauntlet to garner attention, which he's certainly getting here:
With any big change that’s ever led to any lasting good, somebody’s got to first stand up and point out a wrong. And it doesn’t hurt if that "somebody" is loud enough and brash enough that they’re hard to ignore. I can do that.
Overage charges are what we pay when we go over on voice, data or text quotas, and the amounts can be significant. T-Mobile already moved to mitigate most of them with its Simple Choice plans, so some of it's symbolic, but nonetheless significant, because it's not just T-Mobile drawing a line in the sand and quietly going about its business, it's John Legere digging a trench (there's no backing up on this now, unless Legere leaves) and taking activist aim at rivals AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.
Yes, activist: Legere just launched a Change.org petition calling on its rivals to "do the same for their customers – because it’s the right thing to do." In the petition, Legere claims over 20 million U.S. customers were hit with overage charges last year, and that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint pocket a cool $1 billion in overage penalties annually.
"Charging overage fees is a greedy, predatory practice that needs to go," said Legere in a statement. "Starting in May for bills arriving in June - regardless of whether you're on Simple Choice, Simple Starter or an older plan, we're abolishing overages for good. Period."
What consumer's going to disagree with firebrand rhetoric that resonates on economic and philosophical levels? T-Mobile's still the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S. with annual revenue of over $20 billion, and you could argue this is as transparent a marketing maneuver as any other, but Legere's tapping a form of finger-pointing populism (he's borderline muckraking here) typically reserved for silly-season campaign ads -- though there's nothing silly about defining yourself in strict terms as the anti-overage fees, anti-annual service contract option.