AT&T ceases online iPhone sales in NY area

Customers with metropolitan New York ZIP code trying to buy an iPhone on the wireless carrier's Web site are greeted with a message saying no phones are available. Is data congestion or credit card fraud to blame?

Updated at 8:05 p.m. PST with comment from AT&T.

Update at 1:50 p.m. PST December 28: AT&T has resumed sales .

AT&T has stopped selling the Apple iPhone in the New York metropolitan area through its Web site, perhaps due to data congestion, credit card fraud, or routine sales strategy changes, depending on whom you believe.

Online sales of the phone were apparently suspended Sunday. Prospective customers attempting to buy an iPhone through the Web site and using a New York area ZIP code get a message saying, "We're sorry, there are no Packages & Deals available at this time. Please check back later." However, changing ZIP codes to other U.S. metro areas yields a bevy of iPhone choices.

An AT&T representative's statement to CNET suggested that the move to not offer any iPhones online to buyers in the Big Apple was a routine strategic decision.

"We periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels," said Fletcher Cook, an AT&T spokesman.

However, customer service representatives, who are likely not authorized to comment officially for the company, painted divergent pictures.

One customer service representative hinted that data congestion may be the reason for the suspension, telling The Consumerist that "New York is not ready for the iPhone. You don't have enough towers to handle the phone."

In light of AT&T's tarnished reputation for its 3G service, this is certainly a plausible explanation. For more than a year, iPhone users have complained about dropped calls and poor service on the 3G network . The problems appear to be particularly acute in densely populated urban areas, such as New York and San Francisco.

However, another representative suggested that credit card fraud is responsible. Sales were suspended due to "increased fraudulent activity in that area when ordering the iPhone," the other representative told the Gearlog blog. However, the iPhone is apparently still for sale at Apple stores in the New York area.

No word on what the nature of the alleged fraud may be, but as others have certainly pondered, isn't online fraud as likely to happen in Dallas, Seattle, or San Francisco?

 

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