$88M In Refunds From AT&T Settlement With FTC Now Heading To Consumers

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

A few million current and former AT&T wireless customers can look forward to a bit of a well-timed holiday surprise this year: money! AT&T promised to refund customers at least $80 million as part of a settlement it reached with the FTC over unlawful wireless bill charges, and the Commission announced those checks started going into the mail today.

The process is working but, well, nobody ever said it worked quickly. So let us refresh your memory.

AT&T and the FTC agreed to the settlement terms a little more than two years ago, in October, 2014. The $105 million deal settled allegations that AT&T was profiting from third parties illegally placing charges on customers’ wireless bills (cramming). The FTC additionally claimed that not only did AT&T make a profit from those charges, but also refused to issue some refunds as required by law.

That $105 million was split up: $5 million was a fine to be paid to the FTC, $20 million was earmarked to pay back the 50 states and DC that all were involved with the investigation, and the remaining $80 million was to go to customers as refunds for the charges.

Affected customers were able to file their claims for a slice of that pie for about five months, from December, 2014 until May 1, 2015.

The bright-eyed and mathematically inclined among you will realize that deadline came and went about 20 months ago, so at this point you can be forgiven for having forgotten if you even filed a claim at all.

But! The money is indeed coming, the FTC says — and more of it than anticipated is going back in consumers’ pockets. In total, more than 2.7 million one-time AT&T customers will be receiving more than $88 million in refunds. The additional money came from the companies actually imposing the charges, Tatto and Acquinity, which also reached settlements with the FTC.

However, the payback isn’t all in cash. The 2.5 million affected customers who are still with AT&T will see the refund as a credit on their bill in the near future. (Within the “next 75 days,” according to the FTC, which for most folks works out to being within the next two billing cycles.)

The 300,000 or so remaining customers will soon be receiving refund checks in the mail. The first of those went out today, the FTC says. Overall, the average refund amount is about $31.

Consumers who have questions about their refund can check out the FTC’s blog post on the refunds, or reach the refund administrator at 1-877-819-9692.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.