Actually, it’s probably a good idea to check your phone bills each month no matter who your carrier is.
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday sued T-Mobile, claiming it illegally placed hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent charges on its customers’ bills. The FTC says that over a period of years, beginning in 2009 and running into last year, T-Mobile charged customers for premium texting services that those customers never ordered. This practice is known as cramming, and is illegal. Those charges, for services such as “flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip” typically amounted to $9.99 per month, of which T-Mobile received 35 to 40 percent.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said
It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent. The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.
T-Mobile claimed in federal court that consumers had authorized the charges, but was unable to present any evidence to support that claim.
It could be difficult for customers to know they were being fraudulently billed, according to the FTC. T-Mobile’s online statements didn’t indicate what the charges were for, nor that they were recurring, monthly charges. Those who opted for detailed bills would see entries such as “8888906150BmSTorm23918” with no explanation of what that represented. And consumers on prepaid plans don’t receive bills and wouldn’t see the charge at all. The FTC also says that T-Mobile in some cases refused to issue refunds to consumers who complained, and failed to block future charges when asked to do so.
T-Mobile denies it did anything wrong, blaming the 3rd party text providers, but has promised to make refunds. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Sievert, says
If customers were charged for services they didn’t want, we’ll make it right. That’s being the Un-carrier.
It’s unlikely T-Mobile is the only cellular provider to be targeted by these 3rd party text providers and their bogus charges. Don’t just assume your bill is correct each month. Check it, and if you see any charges you don’t understand, or didn’t authorize, call customer service and have them removed.
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