The CEO of ChaCha, a fast-growing digital startup that offers answers via text message, is threatening to drop T-Mobile's wireless service over the carrier's plan to impose a new one-quarter of one cent fee on text messages.

"We're dropping T-Mobile if they do this," says Scott Jones, the CEO of ChaCha. "T-Mobile is 'triple dipping' here. They already make money when they charge their customers, aggregators, and publishers."

Jones says that ChaCha's aggregator, OpenMarket, informed the company of T-Mobile's new fee hike, and said that because of its razor thin margins it had no choice but to pass on that fee to ChaCha, which is based in Indianapolis. (Aggregators are middlemen that stand between publishers like ChaCha, Twitter, Facebook and ESPN and the mobile subscribers they send content to.)

T-Mobile issued a statement saying it's "not accurate to characterize these business agreements as new or simply as a price increase," but declined to address ChaCha's threat.

Tax on Texts: "Completely Untenable"

Just how bad could such a tax be? Jones contends that T-Mobile's new fee, if applied across all wireless carriers, would force ChaCha to deploy its answer service through other channels such as the mobile web and mobile apps, rather then using the SMS channel. "It's completely untenable," Jones says. "There's no way we can be a profitable service on SMS under these conditions."

Here's why. ChaCha, which has a network of 50,000 mostly college students who respond to user queries, handles two million texts per day as part of the company's question and answer service. The vast majority of these answers are delivered by SMS text. Jones points out that T-Mobile is already getting paid by subscribers for these texts and they are paid something already by aggregators and publishers. "Now, they plan to impose an egregious and unacceptable tax," says Jones. " We don't see any reason for this, other than greed."

Jones argues that if the new fee is imposed on October 1, as planned, T-Mobile's 30 million-plus users would no longer be able to use his service. "We prefer that T-Mobile not take this step, but if they do, we will no longer provide our free SMS service to T-Mobile and shift the traffic to other carriers and platforms," Jones concluded. "It's unfortunate for T-Mobile subscribers since they will miss out on ChaCha and many free services because of this short-sighted move by T-Mobile."

Twitter Hasn't Received Notice

For its part, Twitter says it's not familiar with the new charge. "Twitter has direct deals with all U.S. carriers, including T-Mobile," a Twitter spokesman told DailyFinance. "We haven't received the notice that's being discussed."

Meanwhile, T-Mobile issued the following statement: "We don't disclose the details of our business relationships; however, it is important to note that wireless carriers have similar business relationships in place with content aggregators and that our model is in line with industry norms."

Consumer groups aren't happy about the new fee either. "Until the FCC makes it clear that it is willing to prevent carriers from exploiting their positions in the marketplace, carriers will continue to nickel and dime consumers, aggregators, and mobile service providers alike," Harold Feld, legal director of DC-based advocacy group Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

Update 7:15 p.m. EST: T-Mobile has issued the following statement:
While we don't disclose the details of our business relationships, we do want to clarify recent mischaracterizations. Business agreements with content aggregators, including messaging fees, have been common practice in the wireless industry for years. It is not accurate to characterize these business agreements as new or simply as a price increase. We believe our agreement in its entirety is a net positive for our partners.

At the end of the day, our goal is to ensure that the market for mobile data and access to mobile content thrives and that innovation can easily find its way to T-Mobile customers. We see nothing in our current business model that is counter to this goal.

Please note, there is no change to our consumer messaging or data plans.

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HELLO GREGORY

T-mobile is just grasping for straws.

September 30 2010 at 3:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
raidenquest

Earlier tonight I texted ChaCha for football score. As part of the reply I got a message saying after 10/1 T-Mobile was discontinuing their service and I should contact them and ask for a mgr. I replied with a simple question: "How much did ChaCha earn last fiscal year?" The response I received was to ask whether I was a Male or a Female for marketing purposes. I have never been asked that before. I did not feel this was a necessary question and once again asked my original question. ChaCha then blocked me from their service. It would seem that ChaCha sure doesn't mind firing shots at T-Mobile, but cannot handle the same scrutiny when redirected back at them.

September 27 2010 at 5:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Saverio35

Yes I agree with Cha Cha comments, every company deals with the GREED to hike up prices on the consumer. penny us to death. Directv and WalMart are good ones to scrutinze. Example of WalMart their brand Great Value milk 2% in a maryland store is 2.24 per gallon and in Pa it is 3.44 tell me why is cost 1.20 cents more for people in PA

September 20 2010 at 5:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
orion2855

I don't text EVER, my time is money so I call someone if I need something. I only get on the internet with a PC at work or home, my cell phone is net 10 prepaid and I use a hard line as much as possible. My cell phone has 1330 minutes on it and I have to add 300 minutes every 60 days, at the rate I am going I will hit 2,000 minutes by next spring. The prepaid costs me $30.00 once every 60 days, what in the hell is wrong with everybody feeling like they have to be so connected? If I can do this so can others, all it takes is a little common sense and restraint to live within a realm of money all can handle-think about it!

September 20 2010 at 3:49 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
WEDMUND8

I have been a customer of T-Mobiles since they were Omnipoint (20+ years). All I can say is they have gotten worst over the last few years. When I am 800 feet away from one of their towers and it is in line of sight and I cannot get a strong signal, what does that say about the service and the company? I have a 4 line family plan and I am thinking of changing.

September 20 2010 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WEDMUND8

I have been a customer of T-Mobiles since they were Omnipoint (20+ years). All I can say is they have gotten worst over the last few years. When I am 800 feet away from one of their towers and it is in line of sight and I cannot get a strong signal, what does that say about the service and the company? I have a 4 line family plan and I am thinking of changing.

September 20 2010 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Raul

I dropped T-Mobile last year. They're CROOKS!! Those are the kind words. Jerks!!My bill was also about 200.00 a month. At least. They chatge outrageously for going over a hair. Many hidden fee's they don't tell you about in the beginning. I'm happy with my new carrier. 50 dollars monthly unlimited text nationwide AND international! I can call China or ANY landline anywhere all day for same price. 50.00 monthly!

September 20 2010 at 3:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
HEY NOW !!!

T~LOL > HISTORY >

September 20 2010 at 1:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
HEY NOW !!!

GLORY...GLORY... HALE AH LOU YA . T NO BILL STUCK IT TOO YA ...

September 20 2010 at 1:50 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
HEY NOW !!!

T~BLOW BILL .... WHAT A JOKE ! LMAO ! OMG ! THEY SUCK HIND CAMEL TETTES :O~

September 20 2010 at 1:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply