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AT&T may owe you money after feds say the company secretly crammed bills with unauthorized charges

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att-sampletexts_300x702_3NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Listen up, AT&T customers: You may be in for a refund.

AT&T has agreed to pay $105 million for “cramming” unauthorized charges on the monthly bills of its wireless customers, federal and state regulators announced Wednesday.

The charges — typically $9.99 per month — came from third-party services for things like trivia, horoscopes and love tips. AT&T is accused of keeping at least 35% of the fees, as well as obscuring the charges on bills and preventing customers from securing full refunds.

The deal is the largest cramming settlement in history, and includes the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, as well as all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

“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,” FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says more than 500,000 Washington customers may be entitled to money.

You can check on whether you were affected and apply for a refund on the FTC’s website.

“I will not tolerate this deceptive billing practice,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “Any company that allows unauthorized charges to be hidden in the fine print of a consumer’s telephone bill will have to answer to my office.”

The FTC filed a similar lawsuit back in July against T-Mobile, alleging that the carrier earned a windfall in recent years from third-party merchants offering bogus text message subscriptions for things like flirting tips, horoscopes and celebrity gossip. Regulators have brought seven cases related to mobile cramming in the past year, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said more were coming.

excerptsactualattbill_425x779“For too long, consumers have been charged on their phone bills for things they did not buy,” Wheeler said. “It’s estimated that 20 million consumers this year are caught in this kind of trap, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

AT&T said in a statement that it and a number of wireless carriers had offered third-party “Premium Short Messaging Services” in the past few years.

“While we had rigorous protections in place to guard consumers against unauthorized billing from these companies, last year we discontinued third-party billing for PSMS services,” the company said.

“Today, we reached a broad settlement to resolve claims that some of our wireless customers were billed for charges from third-parties that the customers did not authorize.”

Some $80 million of the settlement has been set aside for customer refunds, along with $25 million in penalties due to regulators.

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8 comments

  • me13

    A few yrs back when I had them as my cell company I saw they charged my bill 9.99$ for something I didn’t order. The phone had been turned off and untouched for almost 6 months!! The woman deleted the charge but claimed she was unable to see how or why we were charged….because her computer was not working. Liars!

  • Unbelievable

    I’ve literally dealt with a half dozen “customer service” reps at AT&T about this “AT&T Monthly Subscriptions $9.98” charge, that I don’t want, didn’t subscribe to, or receive. They continuously don’t remove it, don’t refund me, or acknowledge my request. I’ve been bill this since early 2012, accounting for probably $360 in fraudulent charges from this company. This piece of news is incredible – I can’t wait to hear what they customer service rep says when I confront them with it this month.

    FTC – Burn these people to the ground. They’re thieves, liars, and take advantage of millions of American households, every month.

  • Michelle

    Its not just with our cell phone bills its with all of att service like with my Internet bill im gettin charge $30 reconnection fee when it never got turned off and / or interrupted

  • Ella Heath

    I’m being charged by AT&T higher charges every month the shocker is this month my bill is a thousand dollars I’vebbeen with them for 9yrs and it keeps getting worse even when they have so called resolved the problem they are a big rip off and they really do owe me money back I’ve over paid them plenty of times I hope I qualify for a refund (please help )

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