Does rollover nudge people to buy cell phone plans with more minutes?

For the last few years, AT&T has offered customers the ability to rollover unused minutes from one month to the following month (for up to 12 months). The company has advertised the service as a way help customers avoid paying extra charges in those months when they go over their plan’s minute allowance. By framing rollover as an insurance against future overages, the option seems to have the possibility for nudging people to buying one plan above what they think they might need on a monthly basis. The rollover frame suggests that unused minutes aren’t actually “lost.” They are actually “saved” to be used for a rainy day in the future. We bet AT&T knows the answer to this question. We wish they would give their data to a behavioral economist for some analysis.

Why not let cell phone customers buy used minutes from each other?

Here’s another idea for AT&T, or for any other interested cell phone company: Create a market where customers can buy unused rollover minutes from each other. Overage charges are a giant revenue source for cell phone companies, but they could advertise the internal minute market as a way to grow their customer base. And, of course, companies could charge a percentage fee for each exchange a la Ebay. Companies might consider putting some limits on the amount of minutes that could be purchased or sold by their customers.

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting. But from experience, when I went over minutes before the end of the billing cycle (I check them from time to time), I just call customer service to up my plan more minutes and backdate it, to cover an overages. Then, by the beginning of the next cycle the next month, I’d just call in to bring the minutes back down again.

    It’s like the time when a cousin had media net on 24/7 for a couple of weeks, didn’t realize it, and got over $500 on the bill. I just called in for them to backdate it and got Media Net unlimited to cover it; and they found out how to stop it by just taking out the battery. I wish at&t’s customer service got better. T-mobile’s is higher up in my book :o

    Either way