by Asa Aarons
Many cell phone users don't realize they can be charged for accessing their voicemail from their cell phones. Many also don't know that under many plans you can call into the same voicemail system from any other phone for free.
Benjamin Gadon has four phones on a Sprint/Nextel family plan. It's set up for 2,500 peak minutes for $150.00 per month and unlimited off peak calls. A simple phone plan right? Benjamin recently encountered complications.
Benjamin says "I noticed that there was over a hundred dollars of additional charges and that's what struck me and I said what's going on here?"
The majority of those charges were for checking his voicemail from his own phone.
Benjamin says "so if I call my voicemail from another Sprint phone, there's no charge and there's no minutes. Um, if, if I call from my house there's no charge. But if I call from my own phone, my own phone, my own Sprint phone, then I'm getting charged."
Even if the voicemail service is free, accessing it may not be.
A Sprint spokesperson told us: "voicemail calls from our phones do use airtime. We inform customers of this in the User's Guide that comes with their phone. Customers can avoid this charge by checking voicemail through any landline phone or by checking during off-peak time."
And Sprint is not alone. Verizon wireless told us: "a customer who calls in from their wireless phone to retrieve their messages uses airtime."
And it's the same at AT&T: "when customers access voicemail the time they are on does go to reducing their monthly minutes."
Ben plans to monitor his future voicemail access very closely.
Benjamin says "if I go over 2,500 minutes it's apparently 40-cents a call and um, that tends to add up pretty quickly."
To its credit, Sprint waived those charges the first time he called. Now they are willing to make adjustments on late fees incurred while sorting this out.
But Sprint and the other carriers we contacted are adamant, calls to your voicemail count. So try to call off peak or use an alternate phone.