AT&T has agreed to pay an amount of $80 million to the FTC, $5 million to the FCC and $20 million to the 50 states and the DC in penalties for charging its mobile customers without their permission for third-party services like ringtones, wallpapers, and text message subscriptions for horoscopes, flirting tips, and celebrity gossip. Although it’s remarkable that a telecommunications giant has agreed to settle the allegations of phone cramming and will be refunding its customers the money it ‘extorted’ from them, the FTC says you should not expect to receive your refund for at least 9 months.
So, if you file a claim for refund right now, you’re not going to get anything from either the FTC or the company before the July of next year. That’s an awful lot of waiting time for a few dollars, don’t you think?
According to the FTC’s website, the Feds have hired Epiq Systems to process refund requests for this case, and the customers can apply online for a refund over here, or ask for a paper claim form by calling 1-877-819-9692. Head over here to read the FTC’s official public release regarding this incident.
The FTC took AT&T to the court alleging 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 the aforementioned ‘cool’ things and kept at least 35 percent of the charges it imposed on its customers.
35 percent is a huge number fellas, for it is pure profit. Plus, AT&T might have taken some dough from the third parties who provide ‘cool’ services as well in the form of fees, so that adds up to its pure profit too.
That’s just one of the ‘pseudo-legal’ (totally illegal, imho) methods using which telecommunications companies become filthy rich.
“I am very pleased that this settlement will put tens of millions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers harmed by AT&T’s cramming of its mobile customers,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “This case underscores the important fact that basic consumer protections – including that consumers should not be billed for charges they did not authorize – are fully applicable in the mobile environment.”
According to the public release, this is the FTC’s seventh mobile cramming case since 2013, and its second against a mobile phone carrier this year. The Feds filed a similar complaint against T-Mobile in July of this year, and the case is ongoing as of now.
Alright, it’s pretty sweet that the FTC is finally pinning these companies down for ‘harassing’ their customers, but let’s not forget that these companies have been involved in such practices for decades.
$105 million, although is a pretty big sum, is practically a peanut for these companies who probably have amassed a considerable wealth through their cramming of consumers, and would’ve continued to do so, had the FTC and the other regulators kept their eyes shut.
Oh, and these companies operate in other countries as well, and probably would keep on generating their dough by cramming their customers’ phones in those countries in the absence of strict judiciary and regulatory authorities.