Earlier this year, AT&T and T-Mobile both reached major settlements with federal regulators over the illegal practice of cramming: third-party charges snuck onto wireless customers’ bills without their authorization. Combined, the two settlements will put about $170 million back in consumers’ pockets. But in order to get money back, consumers first have to ask for it.
AT&T and the FTC, along with all 50 states’ attorneys general, came to their $105 million settlement in October; approximately $80 million of that cash was planned for customer refunds. Similarly, T-Mobile and the FTC — again along with all 50 states’ attorneys general — came to a $112.5 million agreement in December. That settlement reserved $90 million for refunds to customers.
This week, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, along with FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, held a press conference to announce that consumers can now request their refunds from those settlements.
T-Mobile customers who were affected by the cramming charges can go to this T-mobile site to request their account summaries and submit for refunds. The deadline for submitting a T-Mobile refund claim form is June 30, 2015.
AT&T customers can request a refund through this FTC site. Requests for a refund from AT&T must be submitted by May 1, 2015.
“Cramming is modern day pickpocketing,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “These bogus charges on consumer bills are unfair–and they can add up fast. That’s why these settlements are so important. They give consumers the right to block these fees going forward and get their money back for payments they made in the past.”
Blumenthal echoed the sentiment, saying, “These federal settlements send a strong message to wireless carriers and crammers that this insidious practice will not be tolerated. Carriers who continue to profit from allowing third-parties to deceive their customers through cramming must take notice and reform their practices immediately — or face harsh penalties. Unauthorized and unscrupulous third-party charges—hidden in bills through vague and deceptive language—have robbed consumers and they deserve their money back.”
AT&T and T-Mobile are not alone; Sprint is also facing a lawsuit from a federal agency (the CFPB, this time) over bill-cramming, and the DC rumor mill has it that Sprint is likely to be subject to a $105 million settlement over the matter from the FCC.