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

I work in IT and is pretty tech savvy. I have no apps running in the background. Nothing using data in the background. Only thing active on my phone is the home screen. Everyone is experiencing almost the same problem with AT&T. Something's definitely not right

I've also been w/att since 2001. We had to up our data to keep from going over, we were told it was the iPhone pulling data even when not in use. I'd call to complain they change my plan around & then i would get pro rated charges on top of my overage. I'm stuck w/this company, we live in the country & they're the only ones that work out here. I'm now up to 30gb between four lines so far no overages. Wonder if I was overcharged myself!!

We also have been with ATT for years, since they were Cingular, we actually had a plan on 1line with unlimited everything including internet that we had since they were cingular that ATT does not offer. We started paying $15 xtra for every gig we went over for almost 6 months we were paying $15-$30 more, when 3lines went from iPhone 3 to iPhone 4 we spoke to a rep and we were advised to drop that unlimited line and get a 10gig plan (5lines) which at that time we had 6gigs for 4lines as 1 line was unlimited, so due to all over fees we were paying we got 10gigs as recomended,.. We are upto 40gigs now!! And paying $395. Every month, on 3 iPhone 5 and 2 iPhone 4 and we originally started going over 6gigs in the fist place! Unbelievable!!

I want to know why they are charging for data usage when I am on my wifi 99% of the time. My mobile data is a joke. If I have received a picture text or a text that was sent to multiple phones, I have no choice. That is crazy. Why are we paying for a data plan when we use our wifi 99% of the time. You should not have to pay so much for data. I was paying $30 a month for 3 gig of data and not even using 1 gig. I was told by a sales rep that I was paying too much considering it was not being used. She was the only one who done anything. She lowered my bill by half. They need more reps like her. I hope you get things settled with yours.

Wow I was charged literally in 10 minutes 3 different times for 1 additional g. First text saying you are at 75%, second text 100%, and then repeat literally 10 minutes I owed $45 extra to my bill. Last bill was over 400 and upcoming bill is over 400. What can we do? Also I was on WiFi and been on WiFi with never experiencing this problem till last 3/4 months. My plan alone has 60gb per month due to teenager on one line.

I have also been with At&t for over 16 years I have 5 lines and kept going over my data so I kept up it to 10 the 20 and we always had wifi so I called last month like I do every month and they up it to 40 GB for the same amount of the 20 but that is still 150.00 for the GB they were always so sweet and would adjust my bill but now I now I was being over charged because how are they going to double my GB and keep the price the same. I think the FTC should investigate these over charges of data also. Sometimes I would pay close to $500.00 a month right now my monthly bill is 400.00

paula b December 7 ,2014 I 'am experiencing the same thing you are with my bill consistently going up every month more and more, I've been with them two years on my contract and paid high bills every month and i can even not be using my phone and in the middle of the night lately i get text messages tlling how many gb i have used and they will add another one for 15 dollars and then like 15 minutes later after that one i can get another text saying the same thing and i dont even be on the phone . I have question about it cause i'am tired of paying a high be\ill due to some company greedy and telling me some bull about maybe you got an app thats absorbing all your data but thats not true either because i recently got an transfer of the remaining of my time of my contract extended due to my other phone fell and broke so they offer me a deal to extend my contract to at least 18mth so i did to get the deal and the guy that made the deal didnt even tell me that i needed to purchase an sd card to get extra storage on my phone to even download anything on my phone now i have to delete apps cant even add any more because of this and so how is my apps using all my data they just be over billing people and i'am swithing and letting another company buy me out of my contract cause this is ridiculous ,my bill be every month 150 no matter if i go to another low plan are not before billing cycle starts, and they use to be good about giving me my credit whenever i go to a lower plan just to even keep my phone with them and now they want to do me wrong by over charging me it's not fair to me are a many customer that i'am reviewing the their complaints so now i know i'am not the only one they doing this to. I have right now a bill for the month of december 215.00 and i had to split it in half with arrangements on the other part, btu don't know if i'am going to make it may have to let go of my phone before my switch of company goes through . I been recently been cutting my dat button off in my setting and it't not even using any data once you do that they told me that,but for some reason now i know their cheating people because i still be recieving the text back to back saying that i've use so many of my gb are i've used them all and they will add another for 15 dollar all those 15 dollars adds up thats what they did to me last month to make my bill be 215.00 and i'am tired of them i have tried to do them right and pay my bill on time and keep them for two years and aying faithfully for them to do me like this ie as if they collecting money through an unknown source that i know nothing about owing another trying to get money out of me in a sneaky way but oh, no not anymore I'am done with AT&T phone services.

Go to your settings - cellular - then turn off your cellular data. That way it ONLY uses your wifi. It your wifi isn't working or you're not home near your wifi it will not use any of your cellular data or go over. But, if you have plenty of data left to use and need to get online while you're not home just turn it back on so you can get online.

I have turned off data, exited all apps correctly and have wifi everywhere I go and have been charged over and over for data overages! Now that I see I'm not the only one I wonder what can be done?

MY PROBLEM IS THEY CAME IN TO CHANGE MY HIGH SREED. WELL THEY ADDED WIFI UVERSE AND NEVER FIXED MY HIGH SPEED

Same problem--4 phones--get overages every month even tho we have Wi-Fi at home and work. Try to get AT&T to help me---no help at all. agree--FTC should investigate these data charges also. this is a racket

wow., I am so glad that ATT has been exposed. I thought it was just me. Now I see that it probably affects 1000's of customers. I hope that justice prevails, and we get our money back. I was grandfathered into the Unlimited Data Plan and was still getting data overage charges., HOW IS THAT!??! Shame on you AT&T. I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps., and now I feel as though they took advantage of my fight for freedom. TERRIBLE!!!!

If you look at 99.5% of ATT customers, they don't have the data consumption issues that the other 0.5% do. I've had 7-8 different smartphones on my plan, at one time my elderly mother would go over her 2G routinely. What fixed it is when I did a factory restore, turned off her apps from running in the background, and deleted the apps that were data hogs. Google search your apps and check out if they are known data consumption offenders. Don't blame ATT when YOU don't know about your technology -- as a user it is ultimately YOUR responsibility to learn these things. I've worked in wireless and communications for YEARS and have helped hundreds of people discover the truth. I am not an ATT employee, nor a subcontractor.

That does not explain why these carriers use stealthy billing tactics, deceptive product offerings, back door billing, changing word definitions, not living up to their obligations when they want mergers and acquisitions permitted, and downright lying to not only their customers, but everyone, everywhere. Were you one of the iPhone Junkies that switched to AT&T when their exclusive iPhone offer shut down their infrastructure worldwide because they oversubscribed their wonderful cellular network they purchased from smaller rivals and simply bridged to avoid building out and delivering their promised offerings? ANYONE that blames consumers for their being conned is surely a shill. You never had a problem with AT&T. You lie.

iPhone Junkee, I completely agree and commend you for what you say/do.Ppl these days dont think they need to be accountable for knowing what they are doing. Just because you didn't take the time to READ or LEARN about your phone/service/apps doesn't mean that someone else should pay for your mistake. I'm so tired of ppl these days saying "it's not my fault, I didn't know" or "the service provider should've stopped it from going that high" RIDICULOUS! You say you shouldn't be held accountable for for ignorance but the company surly isn't.

I have had the same problem, never had this overage problem until I got 3 new phones in August, I along with the 2 other phones have had overages. I just increased my plan to 10G. I may never have signed a2 year contract again, was told I could stay in my old plan for approx. $194/mth bill has been averAging $250/mth???this is a Very large difference!!!!

I dont thank that rite how thay go up all the time

I am going to pursue my fight with At&t. I hope everyone that has been taken to the cleaners will jump aboard. I had service with Att since 1982. I had the first wireless phone on the market with At&t. They have billed me thousands of dollars they had no right to they have changed my plan numerous times without my knowledge, they have taken my insurance plan off of my phones, without my knowledge,they have changed my unlimited data to a limited data plan and charged me for data overages, they also have claimed they never promised me service. Well I'm not sure but someone correct me if i am wrong but if you sell a service dont you have to deliver that service? I have had an ongoing arguement with att for no service where I live, And for being charged for Internet service when I have none. Being a woman with stage five cancer and living alone I need a means of communication. ATT IS TOTALY AWARE I have cancer. They have cheated me for years. Recently I tried to make a claim on my phones insurance with assurion insurance and was told I was cancelled because I made too many claims... well I have never made one claim. This is an example, how Att is and I have 100 % proof. They sent me a letter in the mail stating because I had never filed a claim they were offering a 50 percent discount off the deductible for any future claims made on my phones. That is when I realized something was not right. I was notified via email I was eligible for an upgrade on one of my three phones. I call At&t and was on the phone with a rep and she and i ordered the phone on line. She helped me upgade phone and paid the taxes and required federal charges on my federal funded direct express card they sent me a conformation on the charge made on my disability card and then two days later cancelled the order. I called them to find out what and why this happened they said I owed money so it was cancelled. To this day I have not been refunded my money. Then I called them about a promise that I would be receiving a credit for one month because I had no service for 3 months. The credit would be 50 per phone for a month. So 150 credit. The man said he would call me back to confirm this and never did so I started trying to find someone who could look up the notes and get me in touch with him. Finally a very rude non English speaking woman called me and said she was with at&t intensive care unit. She went on to tell me my account would be under review for the next week and she would call me with a decision on the credits.I told her my bill was due and she assured me it would not be disconnected because of the litigation. The very next day my phone was without service. I had no way to travel to a phone to call the 800 number to stop the action. I am dying from cancer no means at all. I live on ssdi and had no money to reinstate the service. I had no means of communication at all for a week. I borrowed the money t I turn on my service. I received a message feom a man saying after review att didnt feel they were responsible for lack of services.a few days went by and I received a call from a non speaking woman she asked me to fax the paper work proving I had insurance on my my phibes so i did. She stated she would review them and would be in contact.after weeks went by the woman left me a message. Best I can figure she is saying is her name abd her reason for calling is because the insurance issue was not in my favor m and said if I had any questions to call 611. the following day I called and no body had any notes on ny account about any if this therefore couldn't help. saying the outcome from the intensive care unit was not in my favor she left no number except 611. Well try calling to talk to anyone familar or in reference to your account you'll be told sane as I was. There was no way to seek her out with atts thousands of employees. I kept calling and hoping to catch a listening employee and did. A very nice lady who was going t I get this all resolved. She returned the call several days later. My complaint denied she also left a message without a good number. I called two more times asking for a supervisor both people were rude and very anioux to cancel my contract. I was promised the account would not be cancelled untill the 3rd and last I called to stop the cancellation of my phones and the lady promised it would not be cancelled I had her word. It was turned off the next am. T h ey sent me a bill for 1300 and something in the mail. They were so ready for me to cancel my contract. They couldnt get rid if me any faster . There is a lot more to this . And to me what has been done to me is taking advantage of the disabaled.they owe me a lot of money I paid and should not have .

Moonlit, I'm wondering how far youve gone in the process? Your story sounds similar enough to mine to work. After 17 years of putting up with att's bull-oney all the while faithfully paying the bill every Im at the point where this year alone, and specifically since July thru the present ive spent close to 600 hours either on the phone with an agent trying to figure out"What the hell they are trying to get away with?", the hours spent driving over 80 miles to and from my corporate store, added to the wear and tear on my car, i think ive finally decided to try and make them pay me for the full time job i never asked for... like you, ive been around long enough (att'96/'97, sbc, Cingular,& back to att) and have enough erroneous and conflicting documentation FROM att themselves to bury them. I have not gone farther than tryingvto get ahold of corporste, one last time, through the settlement lawyers handling the cramming case but as i do not see much coming from that my next step is to draft my letter ofvrelief and arbitration petition. Beyond fighting successfully (up until now) for fair bills from att i have no experience per se to speak of. Im just a regular customer who camt afford this bs anymore, either financislly, physicslly or emotionally
I come from a family where 98% of all lawsuits are considered frivolous. And yet, here i am, pretty much 100% decided to take on Ma Bell for this year's salary... I dont really know if my petition would stay a single complaint but i tend to believe not. Id be interested to know if youd be interested in pursuing the matter if indeed i were to make any headway in the future?
Happy Thursday!

Yea I know, they have been doing that to my sister's iPhone 4s and now iPhone 5s for the longest. I've always thought and blamed it on her and thought she just didn't know how to use and conserve our family data plan. But thank goodness I have been reading everyone's problem because as of right now I have 30G and I have been using so much data, but mine comes to about 3G and hers went over 20G in less than 20days. It's like, wtf, is at&t really serious? Because when it was 10G, she went over 8G, and now its 30G and she went over 20G??? Seriously?

I have been on ATT GoPhone for about 6 years now. I got an Android Smart Phone in 2011 and turned data off and only used WiFi. Within a few months, I kept getting notifications on my screen with various charged amounts, with the largest being $17.56 which drained the remainder of my account. I figured out what it was. Even with data off, If I got a picture message, it would temporarily turn my data on w/o permission to accept the picture, but it also allowed apps to sync and even update! A la carte data is highway robbery. I ended up forking over $5 for 100MB/month so I wouldn't get drained again. Now it is $5 for 50MB. Such a scam...

I have had the same experience going on. After several futile attempts to get to the bottom of the mysterious data overages. I finally just changed my plan to the shared data plan and I am not going over. That was the only solution that they kept offering me. I changed the plan and then upgraded my phone the same day. They pulled a bait and switch on me. When I signed up for the new 30 GB plan, the price was to be $130/month plus $15/line (I had 5 at the time.) Once my plan was changed (mind you that I had two lines that were grandfathered for unlimited usage) I upgraded one of the lines and paid for the phone up front. Since I did not sign up for the "Next" installment plan on the device, they immediately increased the access on that line to $40. I was then told that each time I upgrade a line, unless I choose the "Next" installment plan which is CONSIDERABLY more expensive that my access fee would increase to $40 from the promised $15/mo per line. COMPLETE SCAM!!!!!!!

This also happened to me after a routine upgrade, as I've done in the past. Paid $99 for the phone & now they are telling me by doing so, Ive agreed to pay $40 per month for the "discount " I received. It's baloney - their own reps can't even explain it! I've never paid upfront AND residual monthly for upgrades whereas I could have bought the same phone on eBay for $200-now over the contract it will cost nearly $600! I cannot disrupt service bc of my work & they've milked me out of $500 in fees between Dec & Jan. The FTC is not digging nearly deep enough- I've had the data overage battle+the high BP that goes along with being on the phone with several reps for most of a day. On several occasions. I believe they do this to keep their stock price stabilized especially now with the big judgement. It used to be over charge in one quarter & give credit the next. Sounds like book-cooking to me. I'm no rocket scientist, but the excuses on this blog by the shills are of no consequence to me. When I go to the supermarket, the bill clearly states what I'm buying & for how much. Back in the 90's, I caught these robber barons charging me for long distance calls when I had proof I was out of town~the cellular & data era has given them new & improved ways to rip off loyal customers. Most of whom don't have a choice because of the almighty contract. Shameful.

If you were using an apple device the data overage is caused because apple uses cellular data only to submit information about your usage to apple headquarters. You will need to turn off that option on the apple device to remedy the problem or use an android device. Settings - General - About - Diagnostics and Usage - Diagnostics and Usage Data (set to off)

At&t user for fifteen year's

Add me to the list of people getting overage for data. Phone sat on the charger for a whole day and it went over 2gb all on its own! I switched to the new 3GB plan and I never go near using 2gb anymore! This all started about August 2014 to December 2014, about 6 months after upgrading to the iphone 5S.

I had been with AT&T for a year now and they overcharged me. I got everything unlimited and I have nation 450 minutes Rollover and 3GB of data plan. I need help here.

I like how people find ways to claim they never used something until they get the bill. Most people used the data and then deny it.. Do the world a favor and go to another company cause people like you are the reason why we pay more cause they charge and charge and don't pay the bill and leave.. That's call STEALING!

I have the same problem. I am now "upgraded to the 30GB and hope that I don't get another 300 to 400 bill for going over my data. I've called them several times, and all they do is throw you in a loop with their technical support and they can never determine why. I've called them while using the wifi, turned off/ unchecked mark the "mobile data" part while on Wifi and still uses my data.And yet, they still can't figure it out. Glad to know I'm not the crazy one. They're hustling us on this...

We're in a similar boat having been ATT customers for over 30 years, never made a late payment, never use all of our data on plan, etc. We started years ago with the extra random charges for unauthorized subscriptions, games, etc. As of recent our plan has gone up $100 per month and nothing has changed as far as data usage! And heaven forbid if you think you're going to get anything resolved in a timely manner! I guess they think I've nothing better to do than spend hours and often times DAYS of my time trying to get resolve. I'm sick of it and will be looking for a way out and a new carrier this week. Sorry "business" if you ask me. Oh and don't get me started about being on the phone with a rep and the call is dropped after an hour with no return follow up call. I'm one unhappy customer and from what I'm hearing I'm not alone!

I was having the same problem TristaK. I was with ATT for over 6 years. The first few years....like 4 years, it seemed ok. Then after that.,I was getting charged way more than I had been. When I called them it was a complete run around of why my bill was the way it was. At last, I had had enough. I ended up with a bill, well over $400.00. It was then, that I switched to another carrier, and ATT had turned me into Collection agencies.

Had the same data fraud happen with Verizon at $1,200 overage in 3 days when we weren't doing anything differently than the prior six months without overages. They refused to back it out.
Have had ATT data do this twice now at lesser amounts and eventually it is blamed on a "malfunctioning tower pinging my cell signal." They first tried to blame it on "Internet movies and videos" which we don't watch. At least they made adjustments.
Between the two companies, we've heard some of the most ridiculous lame-brained excuses ever.
Makes you wonder how many thousands just pay the fraudulent data charges and never contest it. If it wasn't profitable, they wouldn't keep doing it.

I had the same issue! I am starting a class action lawsuit against ATT if I can. We had two phone lines. One line was constantly going way over our data plan--when it was 99% connected to an internet connection. The other phone was showing barely any usage when in fact it was using data. I believe that ATT was "routing" the data usage to one phone line so they could charge us overage. Since I cancelled ATT neither phone has gone over its usage (the same amount we had with ATT).

I am just now having this problem after 12 uneventful years. They are saying I have gone through my 15gb of data, plus the 7gb rollover from last month, plus an addition 12gb! 3 of which where "used" today while I was not even touching my phone! I have added no new apps, don't stream anything, and have also been charge for extra gb while I was asleep. I physically change my data to my home wi-fi when home and still have been charged for several extra gb while sitting at home not even using the phone for anything. ATT is being very evasive with me. Called once, but I couldn't talk. She said she'd call back in 2hours. 2 days later now and still no call. Instead, I returned to work to find she emailed my work (.mil) email only. How can I help with the class action suit you mentioned? There are, and have been for years, FAR too many people with the EXACT same problem for this to be coincidence or people just trying to get out of paying for what their actually using.

Same problems here..I turned my data off for the month on my tablet on purpose didn't even connect to wifi..and what do you know it showed I used 1.5g that month I called they had no explanation but it didn't happen again either

i just file my claim 2weeks to get some refund regarding on this issues but when i called the FTcCompny

i spoke one of the representetive guy.. name: 'RICk" -@1st everything is smooth taking,and when i open up my concern about my claim from he said WE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WHIT THIS ISSUE ETC BEC OF DELAY FILE ??!! and i said can you pls see if theres othere way to help me etc ... he said we try but for sure they not gonna honor my claim ...and i ask if he can transfer me to his/her big boss.. and he said ok but some thing what i said what his/her boss gonna say to me .. i said its ok gonna try to please his/her if there a way to fix my claim .. etc he put me on hold about 12min... and when he came bac hw said "there NO SUPERVISOR AVAIBLE " like are you for real ?? and he want me to leave a messga to VOICE MAIL w/ espanis pipol ? like serriouly how in the wolrd more i can explne my issues?? ..
WELL MY POINT ONLLY IS i though they willing to help us to as much they can but how come idnt feel that now ..the reason i complain this is i PAID what i paid before that i dnt know the iwa s over charge by AT&T and nowthis the chance i can refund some of my money ..and they dnt help me to re -claim it i was begging to thte guy to consider my issue but then he hesitant to listen ...i but i never lose hope to received 1day in my box a check FROM FTCCOMPY..

... THNKN U ANY 1 FILE CLAIM ? UPDATE ME WHAT HANNPND TO UR FILE TYT

The Federal Trade Commission is a government agency, not a company. If anyone told you they were with the "FTC Company" that is not the same as the Federal Trade Commission.

If you have questions about the refunds to AT&T customers who were charged for third party services like ringtones and text tips, go to ftc.gov/att.

The deadline to file a claim for a refund was May 1, 2015.

If you filed a claim before May 1 and you have a question about your claim, call 1-877-819-9692.

Same happened to me. I was billed for data I never used while I was sleeping. How did I know this? Because I would always put my phone on airplane mode. When I called to get the refund, the rep told me that the phone had probably connected to my wireless internet. Well, little did he know, at that time I had no internet connection from home.

TMobile is owned by ATT and they too have opened a filing period for this. Just read it.

I received a 11,00. refund 4-20-15

how much is the refund?

The amount of the refund will depend on how much you were charged, and how many people apply for refunds.

The amount each individual receives will be a pro-rata share of the total amount of the unauthorized charges. The total amount paid to all claimants shall not exceed 80 million dollars.

How much will the FTC collect and not dispurse to the consumers?

FT gets nothing; they are a federal agency.

Donald- Reply simply with "STOP" to the messages. That will cancel them. You should get a confirmation text shortly thereafter informing you they have been cancelled. BTW- was it your phone or one used by a child? Yup- one of your kids wanted ringtones?

I did that and the charge still keeps coming back.

These third parties bill through AT&T. You can Google the number to the third party that is billing and they can stop the billing.

I have never had a problem like this, ever from AT&T. I've had service with then for over 12 years. Never a dropped call, seriously never. I must be the only customer that has never had an issue with them. I'm sorry to hear about all of your issues with AT&T, you all deserve better than what you have been dealt. I'm shocked at the sheer volume of of this in ethical practice in the billing and especially the customer service department. Get it right AT&T, please.1

I've been an AT&T customer for over 40 years—they've been my mobile carrier for about 28 years—and I can't believe we are talking about the same company! I have been very pleased with my service from them and have found them to be a very well-trained team of professionals that can handle all aspects of customer service, especially when it comes to finding ways of saving me money on a regular basis! In one instance about a year ago, they actually removed (without my first asking) an $80+ charge from my month's bill because I had misunderstood the terms of a payment arrangement I had made with them the previous month! I have never felt that they have ripped me off in any way and whenever I have had any type of question, concern, or problem, they've gone out of their way to work with me to make sure it's resolved to my complete satisfaction. In my opinion, AT&T has the best customer service team of any business I have ever dealt with!

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