His AT&T phone isn’t insured, after all

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Justin Goromaru’s phone is stolen. But no worries — he has insurance. Oh wait, no he doesn’t. Is he out of luck?

Question: I recently upgraded my phone with AT&T. When I did, they they offered me insurance through a company called Asurion.

I told the representative that I had two insurance claims on my number, but he assured me that since I am signing a new contract, I’m definitely eligible and will be covered.

My phone was stolen and I filed a claim. Asurion asked me to fax over my affidavit. Then they denied the claim, saying I don’t have insurance and I’m not eligible due to having two claims on my number.

I was lied to and misguided into signing this contract. Every manager told me different stories and offered me different things, none of which consisted of them taking any responsibility for their employees’ lack of knowledge of policies. But since the AT&T employee failed to put a notation on my account quoting our interaction in store, I am the party at fault, according to AT&T.

I have spent the last three days researching and calling different options I can take. I feel like AT&T has made me their jester. I want a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge +, and free service for no less than two months, as compensation. Can you help? — Justin Goromaru, Harrisburg, Pa.

Answer: If an AT&T representative promised you that you were “definitely eligible,” then you should have definitely been eligible. Full stop.

I wasn’t there when you upgraded your phone, but I’m not sure an employee would, or could, offer you such assurances. And even if he did, you would need to check the contract you sign to make sure you are covered, despite having two other claims.

I have no doubt that you were led to believe you’d be covered, and that’s a problem. In fact, the sample contract on the AT&T site is clear that you can’t make more than two claims within a 12-month period. That’s something you would have seen — and had to sign — before upgrading.

I sympathize with you because you were led to believe you were covered — which could be construed as an oral contract. Besides, shouldn’t you be able to trust the word of an employee?

On the other hand, as the Russian proverb goes, you have to trust but verify. In journalism, we have a saying: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” You should have done your due diligence.

There’s always the court of appeals. I list AT&T’s executive contacts on my website, and a brief, polite email to them might persuade them to honor the word of their employee.

I contacted both AT&T and Asurion on your behalf. Asurion did not respond, but an AT&T representative did.

“A store representative advised Justin that if he upgraded his device, he would be able to add insurance to his line, but that was because Justin didn’t tell the rep nor did the rep know that Justin had already processed two claims,” the representative said. “Asurion’s policy is for the wireless number associated with the account.”

I’m sorry, but your phone isn’t covered.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Reporter1

    OK, Chris, I’m confused. Was the problem solved in Justin’s favor? Or did AT&T basically tell him he was out of luck? It’s not really clear. Am I missing something?

  • PhilipGBaker

    I’ve had similar problems buying and using insurance from Verizon and Asurion. The Verizon salesman in the store said he was including the insurance for nothing, but I was billed for it. The customer support person said I must of misunderstood.

    Another phone with the Asurioninsurance was damaged and Asurion sent a replacement that was the same model iPhone, but the battery didn’t hold a charge. They sent another one and it had problems. When I spoke with them they told me they send used phones as replacments and they admitted they don’t replace the old batteries, just the outside enclosure. And I had to pay $179 for the replacement, even with insurance.

    Asurion is a real ripoff and the carriers are perpetuating their behavior by acting as their representatives. In the last example I cancelled the insurance and took out a policy from Apple. $99 for 2 years, $99 replacement fee, and the promise of a like-new or new replacment phone.

  • Jeff W.

    Did he pay for the insurance? If he did and they took his money, that is wrong. If it was “included”, that would be a tougher nut to crack.

  • JewelEyed

    This might be a good time to move to another company. Other companies are at present offering to buy you out of your current contract and I think they offer you a new phone if you do. And hopefully, lesson learned. Read everything.

  • JewelEyed

    If it was present on the receipt that they gave you when you purchased your phone, you’re out of luck. If it’s not, you might be able to get it fixed. If you’re in need of insurance, you can also look into SquareTrade. I’ve not used them, but I’ve heard good things from people I know personally.

  • Inquirer1111

    I’m wondering the same thing. Did he pay for the insurance out of his monthly charge?

  • DChamp56

    The bigger question is, was he being charged and paying for insurance that he wasn’t getting?

  • Bill___A

    The OP needs to think about why he has so many claims and do something different.

  • LonnieC

    I’ve used Square Trade for many products (they’re very reasonably priced), and have had excellent experience with three claims I have made. We have friends who have had the same experience. (And I have absolutely no financial interest in ST in any way!)

  • LFH0

    He might be poor, and practicably-compelled to reside in a high-crime neighborhood. If that’s the case, would he have a duty to move to a “safer” neighborhood, one where he might not be able to afford the rent?

  • MarkKelling

    We do not know the reasons for his previous claims. May or may not be theft. Could have been broken screens or any number of reasons. Jumping to the conclusion that he lives in a “bad” neighborhood is bad logic.

  • LFH0

    Lots of possibilities (thus I used the word “might” rather than something definitive), but one key here is that this is described as an “insurance” issue rather than a “warranty” issue. Presumably, then, the cause of the problem is either the item’s user, or a third party, rather than a defect in manufacture. Another possibility is him having sat on it and braking it. I think the more general issue here is whether the user caused the claim to arise, or if claim arose for reasons beyond his control. A limitation on the former might be reasonable, but not limitations on the latter.

  • Nathan Witt

    Asurion is a third-party insurer used by several carriers. There is an additional fee for their service, and if Mr. Goromaru was charged this fee when he was not eligible for coverage because of the number of claims he made, it seems like AT&T should, at the very least, refund the premiums he was charged for a product that had no value to him.
    As an aside, having worked in customer service for a major carrier in the past, “I want a new phone and free service for my inconvenience” is a lot less likely to get you any consideration at all than, “I was made a promise, paid a fee for a service at your recommendation, and I would like you to make good on that promise, full stop.”

  • Barthel

    If the phone is stolen and turned on, the phone company can get at least an approximate location of the phone. Then if the phone is used, the phone company can identify the number called or received by the phone which should lead to the person using the phone. Another simple method is to call the stolen phone, and, if someone answers, inform them that they have won a prize and should come to a certain location to claim the prize. This has worked when the caller says they are a radio station doing some outdoor promotion of a local store. If the thief arrived, they are arrested.

  • RightNow9435

    If he was charged for the insurance, the LEAST he should get is his.money back

  • Joe Farrell

    His problem was that he should have read the policy BEFORE he filed a claim and realized that he simply dropped his phone off a dock . . . or fell out of a moving car. . . .

  • Lee Delong

    Before I left at&t as a 51 1/2 year customer………had similar experience. Phone rep promised one thing, it wouldn’t be honored by supervisor. Happened twice, said, good bye.