AT&T to pay $80M in refunds to cell phone customers for unauthorized charges

YOUR RIGHT OF THE DAY: Cell phone companies may not add charges to your bill from outside companies without your clear consent, must clearly identify these charges as from outside companies, and must give you the option to block the charges.*

This one may seem pretty obvious, but many companies are apparently just now getting the memo about it, in the form of a bill for millions of dollars.

AT&T is the latest target in a string of enforcement actions against the illegal practice of “mobile cramming,” which is when a company charges cell phone customers without their clear consent for subscription services by outside companies.

The government’s (Federal Trade Commission) press release about the case against AT&T noted that

AT&T billed its customers for hundreds of millions of dollars in charges originated by other companies, usually in amounts of $9.99 per month, for subscriptions for ringtones and text messages containing love tips, horoscopes, and “fun facts.”

AT&T did some shady stuff here. Not only did they keep at least 35% of these charges, they also labeled the charges on the bill as “AT&T Monthly Subscription.” You couldn’t get much more vague or misleading than that.

Well now they’re paying the price for violating your rights, to the tune of $105 million, which includes $25 million in penalties to the government, and $80 million for refunds to customers.

Are you eligible for a refund? Find out at ftc.gov/att.

*Source: Section 5 of Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. Sec 45, which prohibits deceptive and unfair acts or practices by businesses.

Photo: AT&T Store by Mike Mozart https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

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