John Legere knows how to get under rivals' skin.
Last Wednesday, T-Mobile's loquacious CEO announced a new $40 entry-level monthly pricing plan aimed at "value" customers. The renegade wireless company followed up a day later with an offering of LTE tablets, including iPads, at the Wi-Fi-only price. T-Mobile also said that existing postpaid voice customers who buy the tablets could add nearly 1.2 GB of data per month for free until the end of 2014.
The latest initiative comes with Legere's announcement Monday that starting in May, T-Mobile will abolish domestic overage fees for all its customers for good, while urging rivals AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless to do the same.
To get that message across, Legere started an online "Abolish Overages" petition at Change.org. "Charging overage fees is a greedy, predatory practice that needs to go," he says. "It's going to be a ball to not only make this statement to our customers, but to watch millions of Americans just flip the bird on the insanity."
According to T-Mobile, more than 20 million Americans were hit with punitive overage charges in 2013, with penalties from the three largest U.S. carriers totaling more than $1 billion annually. In a phone interview, Legere said that "there are 20 million people who in 2013 yelled 'holy (bleep)' at one point when they got their bill." He says the gross margins carriers charge on overages are almost 100%.
T-Mobile had already eliminated overage fees on the plans it unveiled last year as part of its "Uncarrier" strategy that does away with service contracts. But customers who were on older T-Mobile plans were still paying the fees. Now those customers will be automatically converted to an unlimited plan for voice and texts. On the data side, customers who exceed their limits will be downgraded to a slower speed.
Legere has no intention of toning down his rhetoric. He is, after all, getting a lot of attention not only for himself but more importantly for T-Mobile. The company added 1.6 million net customers in the fourth quarter of 2013, and 4.4 million for the full year. "I'm not going to be designated U.S. ambassador to any foreign nation soon because of my diplomatic skills," he jokes. "The consumers, the employees, the people that I represent don't see what I'm saying as over-the-top. They feel it to be the clearest straight communication they've ever had and they can't figure out why others don't play that way. "
AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel had "no comment" on T-Mobiles latest moves. Sprint points to its wireless plans with unlimited data, talk and text with no overage fees that start at $45. Verizon Wireless declined to comment.
On another topic, Legere reported that sales of the two high profile phones that went on sale at T-Mobile (and elsewhere) Friday, Samsung's Galaxy S5 and the HTC One (M8), have both been, "very strong across the board."