AT&T’s $105 million “cramming” settlement leads to refunds

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Ongoing efforts by the FTC and its federal and state partners to stop mobile cramming have resulted in a whopping $105 million dollar settlement with AT&T — the biggest to date with a prominent mobile phone carrier. Even better news for affected AT&T customers? They might be eligible for a refund. 

According to the FTC, AT&T Mobility, LLC allegedly charged consumers’ mobile phone bills for third-party subscriptions or services that they never ordered or authorized. Many consumers weren’t aware they had been paying — up to $9.99 per month — for seemingly random horoscope text messages, flirting tips, celebrity gossip, wallpaper or ringtones that showed up on their phones.

How were consumers supposed to know about the charges? According to the FTC, AT&T didn’t make it easy. The complaint alleges the phone bills sent to consumers were deceptive because the company lumped together all the charges to make it look like everything was related to AT&T’s mobile phone services. So when a consumer saw the overall balance due, the hidden charges were hard to detect. Even consumers who regularly checked their phone bill line by line every month missed them.

So what’s the bottom line for AT&T consumers affected by the settlement?

  • AT&T will make sure from now on that they have your consent before billing you for third-party charges. 
  • If you contact AT&T about unauthorized third-party charges on your bill, they will provide a refund unless the company has information you consented to the charge.
  • AT&T will continue offering consumers the option to block all third-party charges. Other phone carriers, not just AT&T, offer third-party blocking service for free. Ask your phone carrier about services to block these charges.

Consumers can find out more information about the refund process and submit claims by visiting FTC.gov/att. Unsure if you are eligible for a refund? Contact the FTC’s refund contractor at 1-877-819-9692 for more information. And remember, the FTC never requires consumers to pay money or give financial information to get a refund check.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

You have no idea how many times I've woken up to a text from AT&T telling me I'm being charged an extra $10 and $20. How? My phone was on the charger, all apps closed, and whenever I'm home, I'm always on wifi. Why is my data usage still going up?

Same problem here. Was 30.00/mth. For several months for overages and most of the time it would be the day before the plan restarted and sometimes claimed overage on the same day my plan was to renew. I knew it wasn't right but didn't save the bill. How do you go about proving this for the court to get a refund?

Current and former AT&T customers who paid for unauthorized third-party charges after January 1, 2009 may apply for refunds. If you think you were charged for services you didn't okay, then please visit ftc.gov/att and apply for a refund. File for a claim by May 1, 2015. You should not expect to receive your refund until at least July 2015. The amount of the refund will depend on how much you were charged, and how many people apply for refunds. You'll need your AT&T mobile phone number or your billing account number.

Bridget, are you with AT&T or the FTC?

I'm an FTC staff person. Find out more about the FTC's settlement with AT&T at FTC.gov/att.

But will this pay for overages on data related charges. I started with 10 gigs and now up to 30 gigs and went over three times this month according to them. I wasn't going over that bad with 10 gig plan. They tell me one phone in particular is using 18 gigs alone with data turned off and wifi 90+ % of the time. They gonna pay me back for that?

The settlement relates to mobile cramming, or unauthorized third party charges. Current and former AT&T customers who paid for unauthorized third-party charges after January 1, 2009 may apply for refunds. Get more information about the refund process and submit claims by visiting FTC.gov/att.

I do not want a credit on my at&t bill...I want the refund check

when do you think we will receive a refund and how much ?

Millions of consumers submitted claims. The claims are being screened and reviewed. The FTC will update the AT&T Refunds page when new information is available.

Oh yeah? I mailed my claim in 2/18/15 and have yet to see anything. Of course we dumped att last may for Ting and love it. Cut our bill in HALF! So maybe they'll only rebate your settlement on your ATT bill?

You can't they are governed by the FCC and FTC who in turn will sue at@t for a fraction of the money they are unjustly stealing from there customers which is then kept by these governing bodies so at@t makes a profit from this by only having to pay fines and the FCC and FTC makes money by keeping the money from the law suit on the money that at@t has unjustly collected from there customers so win win at our expense. Moral of the story is we're all screwed

I had the same issue... and this is why they are making everyone that had ununlimited data get rid of it.. I was been in charged for data while I slept, and was told by att that the system resets every three hours.. oh I also turned my cell data off and was still charged

I'm having that issue now with my husband's package. I have unlimited data but he doesn't and all of a sudden he's going over his 3B more than once or twice a month but is doing nothing differently. They cannot tel me why. Every at&t service I've ever had has always had billing issues. Its frustrating..300

I have the same issue. What can we do about it. Mike

We were grandfathered in with unlimited data on our phones and when we bought new phones we were really getting the hard sell trying to get us to "save money on the new data plans". We refused and kept our unlimited data even if we had to pay a bit more. Boy am i glad we did. My son and daughter in law work for AT&T. They taught us to stop all the apps running in the background daily and reset our phones weekly. We also turned off wifi on all uneccesary apps.

Don't ever get rid of it unless u move to a diff carrier or something! We were grandfathered in to the unlimited data too & I fought getting rid of it for a while but AT&T always showed that we never used that much, not more than 10 gb between us 3! Then we got sucked in to the Next program to get our iPhone 6's sooner than a reg upgrade & they took the unlimited data away. At first it was fine, but we go over constantly now & we're not doing anything differently! I really think they're gouging us! Moral of the story: NEVER let them talk u out of ur unlimited data! And they will try!

Same thing with me. I was getting texts I was going over data , and was charged $25 for each additional..

I've had this same Problem for months I'm disabled and at home connect ted to my uverse WiFi 98% of the time. I was informed by an art rep that for whatever reason when connected to WiFi you must go into your phone settinga, and turn off your "cellular data" otherwise even though your phone says your using WiFi if your cell data isn't disabled, your phone will continue to draw a connection from your mobile data instead of your WiFi. Also, you must ensure your closing apps that continue to run in the background even when your not using them.. Such as Facebook, Instagram ect. Hope this helps your bill.

I just spoke to AT&T they informed me that every time I'm in my home or at a place with wifi, I have to go under settings and turn off cellular data or I will be charged cellular usage even though it is only using wifi. She then went on to explain that it is like they are double billing me!!!! Can I get my money back for all the months they said I went over my usage, when really they were charging me for data I didn't use!!!!

Wow!!! Same thing happened to me. I was on the 2G plan and always on wi-fi but for some reason, always get billed for data overage. They changed my plan to 10G in order not to get overage charges. Mind you, my grandfathered plan was taken away after getting iPhone 5. AT&T claimed they don't know how it was changed and I must have changed it. They couldn't find any proof that I did so. I told them repeatedly all I did was get a new phone with my upgrade eligibility. They're unscrupulous with their billing practices.

Krystallia . . . I had the same issue, data usage at home while I was on wi fi. One of the AT&T reps told me that when you automatically switch to wi-fi (which it's supposed to do whenever you enter wi-fi area), if the screen ever goes black, when you open it again it does not automatically go to wi-fi. I keep my "cellular" turned off while I'm home.

I have had the same issue, a 1200.00 bill, a 814.00 bill and AT&T said they would credit my account, open a case and call me back. They then closed the case 2 days later and never called me or credited my account. I spent probably 3 hours total over weeks and weeks talking to them with nothing back but I have to pay for it. They even told me the data was being "falsely reported" AS I had the phone with me and it was not using data. I don't know what to do or how to get my money back.

It's most likely that you have an app running that uses data in the background, for example news clients, trackers or other apps. If you look in your phone's settings (you may need some help if you're unfamiliar with the information screens), you can see how much data your phone reports you used.

These people are right. Its bound to be a way to push people into buying larger data plans. I had an iphone 3s for 2 yrs. never used a whole gig of data once. Upgraded to the 4s two weeks later was told id already used up my 1 gig plan. Really?? No way. Nothing changed usage wise. I rarely had to close apps on my 3s to save data. This went on to the tune of 15$ charges one to two a month for months. I called Apple who said it was the hokie wat att calculates there data usage and a known problem. Ask to have my account reappropriated whatever that was. I did and had no overages for months. Then at beginning of new yr. bam! Theyre back. Att is the most dishonest people ive dealt with. Im sick of them.

These people are not necessarily right. There's a big difference in a 3s and a 4s. LOOK AT YOUR PHONE! Look at what is running in the background. Look at what you get notifications for. If you get e-mail, facebook, etc., notifications you've got data running in the background. It could also be a problem with YOUR phone! Did you have it troubleshooted? Or talk to tech support? It's always AT&T's fault, never the customer's, is it??

It is AT&T's fault. Note the story you are commenting on is about AT&T being sued by the FTC for, once again, for deceiving and ripping off consumers. This is not the first time AT&T has successfully been sued for deceptive practices. Read up on AT&T's sordid history such as Ma Bell, Southern Bell, Western Bell, and on and on and on.

Unless you are one of those employees of AT&T who just found out your "Super Sized" bonus will not be so "Super" this year.

This article is about txt message services being wrapped into the att bill. Not about data usage at all. In fact, these txt messages don't even use data. The companies charge a monthly fee to send you a txt message.

For the data thing, you have to turn off mobile data to stop it from chewing up data. period. Even if you're on wifi, it will use mobile data. That is another issue entirely. It shouldn't use mobile data when there's a wifi connection available. That said, MMS messages HAVE to use data. So if someone txts you a photo, you have to use mobile data to receive it.

I'm guessing your an att rep designated to commenting and protecting your companies rep. Understandable, but att is still a bunch of fakes. They have no problem lying for dough, but don't take my word for it; check out what the FTC has to say about them in this very article!! LOL!

I HAVE NOT RECEIVED MY REFUND YET AND I APPLIED ALONG TIME AGO!!

Millions of consumers submitted claims. The claims are being screened and reviewed. The FTC will update the AT&T Refunds page when new information is available.

hello bridget I do understands it takes awhile but I did my claim since January or February an still nothing an I am also wondering even so im still with att I want the check I don't trust them crediting me

I have more than 30 years experience in communications engineering. If there is one thing i have learned over the years it is that when you are looking for the root cause of a problem you ALWAYS look at what has changed recently first. You say you had an iPhone 3s for 2 years and used less than 1g each month. You upgraded to a 4s and two weeks later your usage goes up. And yet, for some reason the first thing you point to is the carrier. Couldn't it just as easily be that you are now paying for the additional data consumed by the data stream going to Apple, reporting your purchasing, browsing, and shopping habits? Surely you are aware that this goes on. Why would you be so quick to be suspicious if the ulterior motives of one corporation but willing to give a pads to the other because their call center drone pointed a finger at the carrier, referring to the way they calculate your usage. The isonly one way to calculate the "bytes transferred" metric. It is known in the engineering world as "addition." There is, incontrast, an almost infinite supply of examples of corporate greed. I'm not saying the carrier is not the problem. I'm only saying that such a jaundiced view when coupled with an unwillingness to apply your cynicism equally to all the potential bad actors involved, especially when common sense points directly to the most recent change, borders on naivete.

now according to att texting doesnt use data and you can send a picture thrue text without useing data its when your around wi fifi and use the internet then leave the wifi area without closeing all programs on your phone that it will automatically go to internet on att services and the data is being used!

My daughters iPhone began doing data dumps (or sweeps as another referred to) when the phone data apps were turned OFF at 12/3/6/9 AM. BIG amounts of data being used at those times when she's asleep or in school. Caused it to use up data in plan and we were charged each month. ATT CSR can't explain, Apple shrugs & says its a carrier issue. And ATT continues to encourage that we bump up our plan, upgrade our phone, so yes, I DO blame the corporation because I believe this to be something they are doing. If they aren't culpuple, with the same issue coming up for SO MANY customers, they should fix it or investigate to explain why it's happening. We had U nlimited data and NEVER had usage like now. I get it that smart phones use more but it shouldn't happen at times of the day when the phone and owner are ASLEEP! Im a shareholder and former ATT employee but it's no longer the company I worked for. I hope someone from FTC is reading this and will begin an investigation into this as obviously from the similar stories being shared, it's something being done by ATT. I'd leave this carrier but with 6 phones on a plan, we're "contracted" until my future grandchildren are old & grey.

Same problems with overages too! I get text messages saying I'm almost at my limit before they up my data and add yet another charge. Sick of it. Like the previous user, I worked for another carrier (GTE) and I understand data usage as well as "word salad". What I don't understand it AT&T's effort to confuse & change the subject. Yesterday I chatted with AT&T for an hour and a half and that's all I heard. I still have my chat session of asking questions and getting nothing but gobbledygook.

I have had the same issues for the past 6 months and spent 100's in overages. Calling ATT is useless because no matter how many people I speak to I never get a straight answer other than them telling me it's something I'm doing when I know full well it's not. So once again I've had to increase my data plan and I'm not a huge internet user to begin with. It's very frustrating when you know your a loyal and truthful customer and your being completely wronged and they continue to get away with it. ATT is the absolute worst company ever.

I had exact same issue and bumped plan from 10GB to 20 and then to 40GB each subsequent month while going over the limit. Finally working with Apple I reset all settings on one iPhone and now my usage for 4 iPhones is less than 6GB in a month. Now I am stuck in this promotional plan and lowering back to 10GB is expensive compared to before. I was able to get a one time $25 credit but the ordeal cost me a lot more than that.

I'll tell you why I know for SURE it is AT&T's doing. My husband and I are grandfathered in to unlimited data, but my son is not so we pay $30.00 for 3 GB. Invariably, every month AT&T says he goes over. My son is very vigilant about always being on wi-fi, shutting his apps down from running and resetting his phone because he has that 3gb limit, whereas my husband and I never do this, we have 8 to 10 safari pages running, in addition to all our apps open, I use my phone more as a computer than I do my laptop or desktop. When I check our usage reports, mine and my husband's data combined never come close to what is reported on my son's phone. And this overage on my son's phone occurs at least two days before the close of our billing cycle, and sometimes twice, around the middle of the cycle and then again right before the billing cycle ends. The facts of how we each use our phones and the "usage reports" of AT&T leaves know other conclusion in my mind that AT&T is scamming customers with phony and unnecessary overage charges. And I'm not stupid, I know if I up the GBs, AT&T will claim his phone is going over the higher amount also. They do it and get away with it because they know the customer will pay, switching carriers just amounts to money going to another company because I am sure that they are all pulling some kind of BS to fleece the public. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this situation.

I had the same problem as well and got an app called DataMan Pro to figure out what was using my data when I was asleep. If you have an iPhone, the wifi takes a few seconds to wake up so it initially uses your cellular data. Also I found that background apps, like people sending me 1MB emails from work and other apps that do push notifications will send your data over. YOu need to turn these off.

How do you turn Apps off... How do u know which ones are on

On an iPhone, go to the settings and then to Privacy. This list will show all of the apps and what they have access to. The ones that pull the most data are the ones with location services. I tend to turn off any app that I don't need it to have a location service. At the bottom there is also an option "Diagnostics and Usage", go into "Diagnostics and Usage Data" and that is an advanced list of all of the most recent data usages on your phone.

I think this suit against at&t is ridiculous its really as simple as turning your data off when you dont need it and/or just sticking to wifi use. Also you can block yours and other lines if you have them from making in app purchaces If thats too hard to figure out, then try closing out all your recently used apps so they arent running while youre not using your phone. Airplane mode is also a nifty lil switch that turns off all radio, wifi, bluetooth, and data. Although i do agree that at&t could/should make an attempt to monitor or cap data usage for their customers if the data service has been idle for a length of time or is using up a large amount, I still gotta say that ultimately it is you, the customer's responsiblity to learn how your phone and services work. I mean, come on people! If this lawsuit goes through with at&t, whats next? Example: instead of att and their charges Ill use a credit/debit card and its charges: lets say i went christmas shopping using my credit or debit card with either an available balance of 5000$ Or thats all the $ i had in my bank acct. I ended up going over my limit because i failed to understand how my card service works. I dont know how to add up my spendings for myself so I shouldnt have to pay the overdraft fees, right? The credit card company or bank shouldnt have let me use my card over its limit. Its their fault.. Maybe not the best example but i hope you can see the point im trying to make. People its grow up time, know what your getting into, quit expecting others to do for you what you could and should do for yourselves. read the user guides and fine print when you sign a contract and be prepared to face the consequences if you dont. Blaming others for things you couldve easily taken care of yourself makes us as a society look extremely dumb and lazy and childish in my opinion. Not meaning to disregard or seem like i dont care about those who do have legit and important issues, i just think that collaborating a lawsuit against at&t on this scale is insane and it only hurts you in the end. Think about it, at&t gets sued whos the first to feel the chunk of $ thats gotta be reimbursed? their employees. Then the rates will prally go up somewhere in the mess of it all. Not to mention the effect on att stocks. The government wants successful coorporations to suffer and pay, thats how they gain more and more control by breaking down and dividing it to one common government regulated catastrophe. Think im nuts? Study history and economics. Or watch south park, theres an excellent episode about the dangers of lawsuits.

The lawsuit is not about data, it is about the special charges that they put on your bill from third party companies.

Go back and reread the article!. Who was the lazy one? Phone bills should very simple. They are not. Do you think Steve Jobs would runs company this way? It's being run like big gov't. with no accountability because of these ridiculous contracts. We are being way overcharged and shouldn't have to turn our data off. It's so archaic they way we are being billed. We can't switch companies which would bring change and improvements because of these contracts. Free market place is not being used here. We need a huge Class Action lawsuit? Please start one attorneys!!

Blah, blah, blah...you need to go back and read, and then understand the purpose of the lawsuit. If people have been charged for unauthorized subscriptions by companies other than your own phone carrier, then yes they should be entitled to a refund.

You're acting a righteous and telling us to quote, "grow up people"?! And then you end up telling us to get our education from South Park , really South Park?! Lol yea that's such an iteligent statement. If we all got our education from South Park, really then I wonder how our society would be viewed ?!
Comparing my bank account to cellular data and charges and how things work it's ridiculous. They are two totally and completely different entities and that's not rocket science . It's incredibly stupid to think that the average citizen should know exactly how data fees are charged that actually does require a rocket scientist . AT&T knows that and use it to their advantage to scam us. Another thing, I don't pay my bank $350 plus a month but I do pay AT&T this amount. So please tell me paying that kind of money for three phones every month why AT&T can't better monitor and educate themselves and their employees and then the public ! You can't even call this company anymore and be treated correctly. Remember the days where the customer it was always right and they were proud to do business with you ? AT&T lis horrible ... When you called to speak to a representative they are rude, snippy, they are an educated as far as their policies and how things are handled in their very own departments! Being a customer since 1999 and having to call in at least once a month to complain about something or straighten the situation out… I've gotten where I can educate the agent on how procedures are handled! Really what am I paying them for!? AT&T also ruined out Christmas!! The last upgrade that I had was 2 1/2 years ago in July and August , I had earned an upgrade on two of my three phone lines. I talked to agents periodically about it and even said I'm saving them for Christmas . I did the same thing last year on one phone line with no problems but now I'm being told that they no longer offer that kind of upgrade program and then I'll just have to pay more each month that's what I want ? How can They just take away something that I've already earned ?! I am a single mother and I do not want my monthly bills to go any higher. That's why I planned this out for the last six months and made sure that I would have enough money to pay the $200 in the activation fees and all the extra crap that went with the original upgrade plan. I'm going to fight fight fight this, but I will never forgive them for ruining this Christmas . Horrible untrained customer service, bills that are designed to be hard to read, bogus data charges, changing stuff and not telling us, taking away upgrade at which I've already earned, being told that a supervisor will call me back within 48 hours and they never ever call back ! I COULD GO ON AND ON! But don't worry Bc I will go on and on, everywhere I possibly can i& every governing entity will be made aware. From 1999 until 2013 I was super prouhd to be an AT&T customer and when I Talked to others about them, actually felt proud! For that to ever happen again, It's AT&T that must GROW UP....... Not us, the ones paying their wages!

I was told to plug my phone in while at home and make sure all my apps are closed. Doing this will stop data use when I'm not using my phone. Some apps will still use data even if your on your personal Wi-Fi so make sure you close each app.

I was told the same on a lot of the statements. Already posted and still going through.

That is right! Anything with apps take data. Unless people are data experts they need to just hold themselves accountable.

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