In the telecom world, “cramming” takes place when a telco charges its customers for services they didn’t order or ask for, such as premium text messaging, ringtones, wallpapers, and subscriptions to services such as horoscopes and celebrity gossip. These services are typically offered by third parties through telcos, who collect about 30 to 40 percent of the charge. To keep users unaware of these charges, telcos have structured their bills so that it’s difficult for customers to tell that they’d be charged for services they didn’t ask for.
Earlier this year, the FCC took action against AT&T for cramming, which resulted in the biggest enforcement action and settlement in FCC history, to the tune of $105 million. Just before Christmas, T-Mobile announced a $90 million settlement with the FCC for their cramming activities, which T-Mobile called “unfounded and without merit” earlier this year. Sprint is also being targeted by the FCC for cramming, and it’s expected that they’ll be fined $105 million once the case is finalized. Verizon appears to be the only major US carrier that hasn’t been sued by federal officials.
As a result of their cases, AT&T and T-Mobile have set aside a pool of funds — $80 million in AT&T’s case, $68 million in T-Mobile’s — which will be used to refund people whose accounts have been crammed. If you were a customer of either over the past five years, you may be eligible for a refund. Here are the steps you should take to see if they owe you money:
- For T-Mobile refunds, visit their refund site or call 1-855-382-6403. The deadline for refund applications is April 30, 2015.
- For AT&T refunds, visit the FTC’s AT&T refund site.