Florida’s Attorney General scored a victory for consumers last week, when AT&T Mobility agreed to refund fees that third-party vendors snuck onto thousands of accounts under the guise of “free” ringtones, wallpapers, and text content. They also agreed to hand over $2.5 million to help fund the state’s recently-created CyberFraud Task Force, to spend $500,000 for “consumer education on safe Internet use,” and to start policing third-party vendors better and make sure all billed items are clearly described.
McCollum said the main culprits are third-party companies that advertise ringtones and other services on the Internet, often promising that the service will be free. When customers–often teenagers–sign up, they or their parents are then surprised to find charges on their wireless bill.
“They will download this thinking it’s free because the advertising on the Internet says it’s free,” McCollum said. And when the charge shows up on the bill, it’s not always clear what it is, either, he added.
“This advertising is wrong, it’s deceptive … and it’s all over the Internet,” he said.
AT&T (T: 35.06, +0.23, +0.66%) Mobility has agreed in the settlement to police such agreements with third-party providers and make it clear what the charges are for.
“It’s going to say ‘ringtones,’ and it’s going to give them an opportunity to cancel,” McCollum said.
“AT&T to repay Florida customers” [Orlando Business Journal]
“AT&T Mobility Agrees to Pay Consumers for ‘Free’ Ringtones” [Fox Business]