Iowa is part of a national settlement with wireless phone companies Sprint and Verizon where they will pay refunds to customers for unauthorized charges on cellphones.
Geoff Greenwood, the spokesman for Iowa’s Attorney General, says the companies have agreed to pay 158 million dollars in the settlement.
“They along with other wireless carriers have engaged in what we call cramming. Cramming occurs when you see charges on your bill for premium services — that could be like horoscopes or sports scores — something that you didn’t ask for, but none-the-less you are paying about 10 bucks for the privilege of these services,” Greenwood says.
He says the charges can be easy to miss. “These were fairly small charges on monthly bills. The companies were hoping that they would fly under the radar,” Greenwood says. He says the companies would get about a 30-percent cut for the charges. Greenwood says if you think Verizon or Sprint may’ve added such charges on your bill, you can ask for a refund.
“Through the settlement, the companies were required to establish websites. Consumers need to go onto those websites and apply for refunds,” Greenwood says. “First they need to determine if they are eligible, and then they apply for the refund.” This is another in a series of settlements. “We now have settled with the top four wireless carriers in the country,” according to Greenwood. “This affects a lot of customers. A lot of people — nationwide and across Iowa — have been subjected to these cramming charges over the years. It’s just wrong, it’s something that we’ve gotten complaints about for a long time, and it’s something that we’re stopping and it’s resulting in refunds to consumers.”
While this covers the top wireless providers, there are other providers out there and Greenwood advises everyone to keep an eye on their bills. He says you should check to make sure there is not a charge on the bill you don’t recognize. “That is a red flag and that is what happened here.”
Under the terms of the settlements, Sprint will pay $68 million and Verizon will pay $90 million. Sprint and Verizon will provide $50 million and $70 million, respectively, to consumers who were victims of cramming. Sprint will pay $206,000 to the state of Iowa and Verizon more than $154,000.