(Hartford, CT) – This morning, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged T-Mobile customers who were affected by cramming scams to apply for their refunds by the June 30 deadline. Blumenthal was joined by Bill Efron, Director of the Northeast Regional Office of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Evan Preston, State Director of ConnPIRG, to discuss how Connecticut consumers can claim their refund from T-Mobile, as well as report and avoid future abuse.
“Cramming victims face a June 30 deadline to seek money back from T-Mobile for unlawful charges forced on them without consent or even knowledge. A December federal settlement with T-Mobile for cramming will yield refunds – but only if consumers make claims by June 30. These federal settlements send a strong message to wireless carriers and crammers that this insidious practice will not be tolerated. Carriers who continue to profit from allowing third-parties to deceive their customers through cramming must take notice and reform their practices immediately—or face harsh penalties. Unauthorized and unscrupulous third-party charges—hidden in bills through vague and deceptive language—have robbed consumers and they deserve their money back,” Blumenthal said.
“Cramming” refers to the unscrupulous practice by phone companies and wireless carriers of allowing non-phone company charges to be added onto monthly bills without authorization by the consumer and, in many cases, without the consumer receiving anything in return for those charges.
The T-Mobile consent decree follows a similar agreement reached with AT&T in October, in which AT&T agreed to a $105 million settlement. Recently, the FCC and CFPB reached a large settlement of $158 million with Sprint and Verizon – meaning that all four national carriers were found complicit in these scams.
This settlement by the FCC and the FTC requires T-Mobile to change its practices in the future to ensure that this does not happen again. In addition to the company providing refunds to consumers that were scammed, they must also get expressed consent from their subscribers before placing charges on their bills, ensure that consumers are notified before the charges appear, and provide information about how third-party charges can be blocked should consumers choose to do so.