The country’s second largest wireless phone company has agreed to pay $80 million to customers in Iowa and the 49 other states in a settlement over what’s called “cramming.” Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says they reached the agreement with AT&T’s mobile services.
The “cramming” involves a fee on your wireless bill. “These are services offered by third-party companies that show up on your phone bill. They don’t say it, but they are often for horoscopes and psychic memberships, sports scores, it could be for a news or weather service or some sort of innocuous-looking premium texting service,” Greenwood explains.
Greenwood says the charges are hard to figure out as he says they aren’t labeled as the types of services they provide and instead are labeled as something like “user fee, activation, data membership.” “And unfortunately, even diligent people who have been checking their bills every month may not catch this,” according the Greenwood.
He says the amount of the fees vary. “It could be under a dollar a month or it could be as much as 25 dollars-a-month or 24-95. It’s something you didn’t want, that’s cramming,” Greenwood explains. He says phone customers have been complaining about the cramming for awhile and this settlement is a step in answering those concerns. “AT&T is the second largest provider of wireless service across the country and this settlement ensures that they will no longer put these charges on Iowans’ bills,” Greenwood says.
He says under the settlement, AT&T customers will be able to get refunds from the charges. You need to file a claim if you want to get a refund.
“Got to the FTC’s website which is www.ftc.gov/att, it’s a special website that has been set up for this settlement,” Greenwood says. “Consumers have until May 1st of next year to file a claim.”
Greenwood says there are ways for any cellphone user to stop cramming. “In many cases you can ask your phone carrier to block third-party charges on your bill. And that’s a good idea for consumers who are concerned that something like this could happen to them,” he says. The settlement also pays $20 million to the state attorneys general, including $258,654 dollars for the Iowa Consumer Education and Litigation Fund and consumer restitution. Greenwood says the attorneys general are working on the issue with other wireless providers as well.