Bloomberg News

T-Mobile Phone-Theft Parody Is No Laughing Matter to Prosecutors

October 16, 2013

T-Mobile Store

Pedestrians walk through the rain past a T-Mobile USA Inc. retail location in New York. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS:US)’s TV commercial depicting a satirical smartphone robbery -- the thief doesn’t want the device because it’s too old -- has drawn the ire of top prosecutors in New York and San Francisco.

In a letter addressed to T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said the carrier “makes a joke of the growing epidemic of smartphone theft.” The prosecutors urged T-Mobile to pull the “tasteless” ad.

“T-Mobile is profiting from the theft of smartphones and the victimization of its customers, and now its advertisements are undermining the seriousness of a crime which has reached epidemic levels,” according to the letter.

The ad, starring former “Saturday Night Live” comedian Bill Hader, features an attempted robbery in a parking garage. After seeing the phone, the mugger asks Hader, “Is this the phone you use?” and decides he doesn’t want it. Hader then attempts to force the thief to take the phone: “It’s sweet. Want the charger? It’s a good phone, man.”

The ad promotes T-Mobile’s Jump service, which lets customers upgrade their phones more frequently. In a response to the letter, the company said it actively participates in programs to prevent real-life smartphone crime. Anne Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Bellevue, Washington-based wireless carrier, declined to comment on whether T-Mobile would pull the ad.

“T-Mobile takes very seriously the issue of smartphone theft and the pain these acts can inflict on our customers and all wireless users,” Marshall said. “This collaborative work, including carriers, manufacturers and other parties, aims to find new deterrents and other measures to thwart this kind of crime across the country.”

The letter to T-Mobile was previously reported by CNET.

To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Moritz in New York at smoritz6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net


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