Consumer Confidential: AT&T stays strong, airlines told to play fair, Taco Bell smirks
--AT&T may have lost exclusive rights to the iPhone, but it hasn't lost its mojo. The country's second-largest wireless carrier says it won 62,000 wireless contract users last quarter. Verizon Wireless, the largest U.S. wireless carrier, began offering the iPhone in February. AT&T prepared for the loss of its exclusivity by cutting the price of the older 3GS model in January by half for contract customers and adding devices such as the Motorola Atrix. Last month, AT&T agreed to buy T-Mobile USA for $39 billion to add subscribers. What this tells me is that when some genuine competition is introduced to the telecom market, consumers win. Pity this doesn't happen more often.
--At least flying is getting a little fairer. Airlines will soon be required to refund bag fees if they lose luggage, and they'll pay travelers more for bumping them from a flight. The new rules also require airlines to include fees and taxes in advertised prices. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the new regulations, which take effect in late August, were designed to make sure airlines treat travelers on the up and up. "It's just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed," he says. However, the Transportation Department decided not to require refunds for bags delivered late. Last year, airlines mishandled 2 million bags, although that includes damaged and delayed ones.
--Taco Bell certainly isn't shy about getting in a few last licks. The company is taking a parting shot at the Alabama-based law firm that questioned the beef content of the filling in its tacos and burritos with full-page ads that say: "Would it kill you to say you're sorry?" The ads represent a final dig after the law firm dropped its class-action lawsuit this week. The firm, Beasley Allen, says it dropped the lawsuit after Taco Bell made changes to its marketing and product disclosure. But Taco Bell says that it made no changes to its products, ingredients or advertising and that no money was exchanged as a result of the suit being dropped.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: AT&T may have lost iPhone exclusivity, but it still knows how to woo customers. Credit: Paul Sancya / Associated Press