04.29.15

SCHUMER: COURT ORDERS SEVERAL CELL PHONE COMPANIES TO REFUND CUSTOMERS MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR UNFAIR BILLING CHARGES, BUT MONEY WILL REMAIN UNCLAIMED UNLESS CONSUMERS APPLY BY THIS FRIDAY; SCHUMER LAYS OUT SIMPLE PROCESS BY WHICH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF NY CONSUMERS CAN RECEIVE REFUNDS, SOME UP TO HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS, IF THEY SIMPLY APPLY

All Major Wireless Carriers Have Been Investigated For Unfairly Billing Cell Phone Customers With Third Party Charges; Practice Called ‘Cramming’ Was Responsible For Unauthorized Ringtone, App & Game Fees Totaling Millions of Dollars  

Now That Sneaky Practice Has Been Stopped, Major Carriers Are Settling With Feds One-By-One & Will Reimburse Customers For Bad Billing; But Consumers Still In Dark On How To Apply & Fast-Approaching Refund Deadlines Could Leave Them With Nothing—Schumer Pushes for Deadlines to Be Extended     

Schumer To FTC: Publicize & Put Cell Phone Refund Deadlines On Hold So More Consumers Can Answer Call   

 

Today, on a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed that many New York State cell phone customers may be eligible to receive up to hundreds of dollars each in refunds due to a multi-million dollar Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settlement with major wireless carriers, in compensation for unfair billing practices, also known as ‘cramming.’ However, Schumer said that many consumers are unaware of their entitled refunds. He commended the FTC for its work thus far but also urged the agency to do more publicity about the availability of refunds and to work with the carriers to push back the upcoming deadlines—the first being this Friday, May 1st—so consumers can have a shot at getting their hard-earned money back.

In November 2013, after the FTC became involved, all major cell phone carriers agreed to stop a billing practice that allowed third parties to bill customers with outrageous fees for ringtones, daily horoscopes, and other extraneous cellular subscriptions; the practice is known as ‘cramming. Schumer said consumers may have been billed hundreds of millions of dollars per year because of hidden and multiple $9.99/month charges for extraneous subscriptions. The Senator also explained, step-by-step how a consumer can claim their refund.

“Because many major cell phone carriers were caught ‘cramming’ consumers with unfair charges, I’m dialing up the FTC today and urging them to provide consumers with more than a busy signal. We need better publicity of available refunds and the deadlines need to be extended so cell phone users who were ripped off can get the refunds they are owed. Consumers deserve ample opportunity to submit for these FTC settlement funds,” said Senator Schumer. “The FTC should better publicize the practice of cramming and explain how consumers can apply for their well-deserved refunds.”

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), cramming is the illegal act of placing unauthorized charges on your wireless telephone bill. The FCC estimates that cramming has harmed tens of millions of American households. When unauthorized, cramming may include charges for services disguised as: service fees, service charges, other fees, membership, etc. Cramming charges may have been added to telephone bills every month without a clear explanation of the services provided. Unauthorized charges for ringtones, cell phone wallpaper, premium text messages, celebrity gossip or daily horoscopes may actually be cramming.

AT&T has agreed to settle allegations of cramming for current and former AT&T customers who paid for unauthorized third-party charges after January 1, 2009. The efforts between AT&T and the FTC have resulted in a $105 million settlement.  However, the deadline to file a claim is May 1, 2015.  T-mobile has also agreed to settle allegations of cramming, paying at least $90 million. The deadline to file a claim for T-Mobile is June 30, 2015. Other major carriers like Verizon and Sprint are in talks right now with the FTC on reaching a settlement.

Schumer today urged the FTC to better publicize the cramming scam and refund process through ads, letters and more so that consumers are aware of the money in which they are entitled. In addition, Schumer said that, with the refund deadlines fast approaching, the FTC should push back the deadline dates until more consumers are aware of how to apply.

AT&T consumers can apply for a refund here: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/att-refunds and T-mobile customers can apply for a refund here: http://www.t-mobilerefund.com. Customers can also call: 1-877-819-9692.

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