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 had similar charges too and all i used the mobile phone they told me to get with my wireless i ended up with a $400+ bill and a broke phone they wouldnt replace. They sent a last bill saying it was $600 on the ending bill and final bill from them.

To God what belongs to God , to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to me what I have being bilk.

always something at&t should on their own dime find and repay all customers involved.

And I thought I was the only one at&t left hung out to dry.....

i agree with ALL of the comments!! There should be no reason that we should have to monitor our bill each month but we do because it's never the same. Now we have to wait for a refund for at least 9 months!! AT&T didn't have to wait for our payment each month. I really believe that FTC should also do an investigation of AT&T's U Verse billing-- this bill is very expensive as well and we are charged fees coming out of the woodwork.

Most of you sound like idiots. You should check your bills before you pay and check the usage. Most of you probably accrued these charges by your own fault. Even if it was accidental.

Been with AT&T since it was Bell South Mobility...My smart phone bill is $51 a month, every month with AT&T and I have had very few problems. I don't understand all the issues with the data problems, again never had an issue, use mine like an average person I feel. Strange so many people have huge data bills. If I got charged for something I didn't notice, then I'll take the refund, but it hasn't been recently.

you probably don't have a smart phone, or as at&t calls it, stealphone... meaning its easy to steal from customers.

People may be dumb. But if you suspect there is a question about the charges on a bill, have you ever had to deal with ATT customer service? Well if you have you will understand the level of frustration people are complaining about. ATT customer service is intentionally making all inquiries VERY difficult. They are rude, obnoxious, liars with not a clue of what their job is. Reminds me of a John Grisham book I think it was called 'THE RAINMAKER' where an insurance company was doing similar things by refusing to acknowledge all claims. The insurance company was counting on their customers just giving up due to the level of frustration they were experiencing.
I have had the same problem with ATT and other big companies just raking in the dough because of these type of scams. I believe there is a federal agency that is supposed to be overseeing this type of CRIME and it is a crime. But as with many other federal agencies they are dysfunctional. Good luck world... we are just getting screwed again...

I am experiencing higher bills then in the past. I am thinking about changing my provider.

Ms. Fleming, I just received a text message about this settlement today telling me to come to this site. Is AT&T required to send this text to everyone or is it just going by word of mouth? I have always watched my bill like a hawk, but I am still concerned. I wish there was some way for the FTC to determine exactly who all had been charged improperly and issue refunds accordingly. Should I bother the FTC if I am uncertain about fraudulent charges? Or should I just go through each bill since 2009 and look for lines like the ones shown above?

AT&T is sending out text messages to customers who had premium text message charges added to their bills sometime after January 2009. If you didn't authorize any premium text message services, then you will want to file a claim at ftc.gov/att.

I've been with AT&T for over 17 years. True, my bill has gone up, but is still incredibly reasonable at $85.xx for 2 lines, unlimited talk and text and 2gb data. I don't doubt some of you have had problems, but some of us are very satisfied with their service and customer reps. I like to give credit where credit is due.

I worked for AT&T/Cingular for years and continued service even after leaving their employment. It is sad what had happened. You provide users on your account with devices. Essentially, authorizing them to act on your behalf with purchases then blame the company. Nothing is hidden if you read your bill. Not page 1 but the break down, your information is there. When call to cry about your bill, have it available. Your statement also tells you how to check your usage. You also recurrence messages when you get close to going over. Stop blaming the companies for your ignorance.

I was an at+t employee for 15yrs.I have 3 lines 1 for me 2 for my kids.Billing has gotten crazy!I thought being an at+t employee would give me some sort of respect.With what found out today I feel sick!Im sure im owed 100's of dollars.Thanks for looking out for me!

I had to call AT&T every single month for almost a year because of over charging me over $100 each month. With every call, they took the money off, but I shouldn't have had to call every single month. We never went over our usage. They were very nice to me, but I'm too patient. Still shouldn't have had to call all the time. Shame on AT&T!!!!

Same here! Random charges, etc? Been with them over 30 years. With the buy out years ago the service seems to have gotten progressively worse!! Tired of spending so much of my time calling them. We've always got random 3rd party charges. Shame on AT&T is right! I'm searching other options. Tired of it and have more important issues to be following up on than to be concerned by to off services. Oh and I replied on another post as well. When I pushed submit I got a message that my reply was being reviewed for posting. Hmmm?

It's crazy. My first cell was Comcast, then Cingular and ATT. I am 36 and my first phone Comcast was when I was 18. I talked to ATT the other day because they screwed my brothers line and they talked me into the next. Thank god I look at my bill because I told them not to put any data on his phone. Yeah well I was charged 52 because of his line. They really screwed me the past 3 months. My bill was over 300 when I pay anywhere from 160-168 thanks to my % off. This is just bs

If you have multiple lines on your account, do you need to fill out a request for each number?

No, you don't need to fill out a separate request for each number. When you fill out the refund form, it will allow you to enter multiple numbers (if they are all on one account).

I filled the claim form out online, but I only see spaces to list 6 phone numbers and I have 7. Where can I add the 7th phone number?

Contact the FTC’s refund contractor at 1-877-819-9692 for more information.

not sure under service summary if i am due anything

I have been a at&t customer for over 15 years. I was grandfathered into the unlimited data. Last year i went to them to add my daughter and guess what? for some reason I didn't have unlimited for my number anymore. They don't know what happened and it was too bad for me. Tired of all the fees. I think they are a rip off.

Granted, AT&T not perfect but Verizon is a 100 times worse!!! They screwed us royally.

I've had a problem with "going over my data" about FIVE TIMES A MONTH, while I was sleeping, connected to wifi, I wouldn't even use my phone and I would get text messages saying I used all of my data and my bill alone, just for my number, was triple what it's supposed to be. And for what? We tried everything, I would turn all of my cellular data off, but that would interfere with business communications in my personal work field, my mom even bought me a GPS for my car so that I wouldn't have to use the one on my 5S to avoid using data. Everything. I don't know if this had anything to do with it, but the "airport utility" app, I noticed the setting was switched on to use cellular data, so I switched it off - don't even know what the app is for..? I cant recall everything else I did differently but whatever I did, seemed to have helped and I haven't gone over my data since.

If you switched from an iPhone 3GS to an iPhone 4S, of course it's going to use more data. The Iphone 3GS uses 3G data speeds while the iPhone 4S uses basic 4G (not 4G LTE). 4G uses data at a faster rate to give you quicker speeds. If you are going over your data, you need to learn how to close out of your apps, otherwise they will run all the time in the background. It's not AT&T's fault you are going over your data, it's yours. AT&T sends you notifications every time you get close and you can go online into your account to check it, but most of you are too lazy to do so. Stop blaming the company for YOUR problems.

We have also been overcharged. I have applied for the refund and hope I get something. Venting for a different reason. Recently went to upgrade my phone because my iPhone 4 is choking and losing battery power very quickly. Signed up for Family Plan in spring to save money--now to upgrade will cost me over $800 for phone or $40 per line instead of the current $15. Really at&t, I changed plan to save money not to be raped by you with the AT&T Next program! I took my current phone home and will use it until it no longer functions at all before I give you anymore of my hard earned money!

Refund on my Att cell phone

I asked ATT to supply the bill history back to 2009. They charge $5 for every bill reprint after the first one. That would cost me more than the possible refund from the claim. Why should I have to pay for my billing history?

If you think you were charged for third-party services that you didn't authorize, then you can apply for a refund. You don't need to know the exact amount you were charged. You just need your AT&T phone number or billing account number. Visit ftc.gov/att.

I have been up and down adding gigabits and still my bill be high i call and ask why my bill to high ,reply u going over your uses.bill one month 300.00 i ask how when i mostly text.april
H

I had a problem with billing when I was with sprint. I tried to blame them but it was my fault. I didn't understand the rules and fees that come along with having a cell phone. My bill fluctuated and got larger every month. I have been with AT&T for 7 years now and have learned how to manage a phone and its bill. My bill never increases. It is the same every month. If I have ever had any questions the representatives are very helpful in educating me or fixing a problem. I wonder why so many people stayed with AT&T for over a decade if they were so unhappy with their service. I don't doubt that this charging happened, but it's not what caused people's bills to become grossly higher. This type of third party charging goes unnoticed for so long because it's a small amount. There will be no big payday here people if that's what you think you're going to get.

So confusing to read the bill. I'm ready for a refund.

Info for my ATT refund.

almost everyone in America has a cell phone now no one even has landline Jeff the costs keep going up on cell phone bills.

With all the dumb laws our legislators pass you would think that they could pass one that ( REQUIRES THE CARRIER TO TEXT MESSAGE THE CUSTOMER THAT A THIRD PARTY WAS TRYING TO ADD A SERVICE CHARGE TO THEIR BILL. AND THEN REQUIRE A AUTHORIZING RESPONCE BEFORE THEY CAN ADD THE CHARGE ! ) . Does this make sense to anyone else but me ?

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD AN APP KILLER ON YOUR PHONES; DO THIS EVERY NIGHT; AND YOU WILL NOT INCURE ANY DATA USAGES AT 12:00AM, 3:00 AM, 6:00 AM, 9:00 AM.

Can you recommend an app killer that doesn't cost anything?

Does anyone know how long it takes to get the refund? Do they send you a check, or just credit your ATT account?

It says that refunds will not be sent until as early as May 2015.

Refunds won't be available before July 2015. If you're a current AT&T customer, the refund will be credited to your account. If you're not a current customer, you will receive a check.

Dont start looking for the refund till at least October. They will have to send you a check, because many people have switched cell phone service carriers.

Anyone stating they have never had an issue with AT&T must be a current employee! That company is the worst! unfortunately in some areas people are stuck with them and fighting with them EVERY month about your erroneous bill gets to be too frustrating! (and it obviously works for them).

I seriously have never had an issue with them and have several friends who can say the same thing. I do not work for ATT. People who are content and have no problems generally don't go around saying so; besides, skeptics will believe what they want.

I personally haven't had a problem with AT&T that I know about since switching from Verizon where I received these type of random charges; was in the field preparing for deployment for 4 weeks. My phone was off the whole time and Verizon still charged me over $400 for overages and misc fees. This is a problem for all companies and I hope other companies are checked.

I would like more info about refund

Most of you are uneducated money grubbers. If you can't speak correctly and can't read how can you ever expect to understand a phone bill. It shows a great example at the top of this article along with great big words : "APPLY HERE FOR REFUND". It also states these charges are being considered from 2009. How many "How do I get its" along with a reply on each request on how to get it, along with several "I've had them for years, what do I gets" have I seen on this post. It makes me weep for the American consumer.
How many of you go over your bank statements? If you see a charge with a company name and contact info do you call the bank? If the bank won't recend don't you call the company in question? Or do you blame the bank and complain, not bothering to defend or educate yourself?
9 times out of 10 it's a charge your child or someone else on your plan has wanted a ringtone or some similar item, which I can assure you those third party companies certainly make this *one ring time LOOK free. But it's a scam, it's a start to a subscription that will cost you if you don't look out for yourself.
I can also see that many of you are intelligent but bewildered. I will be the first to admit, the 'new' Att wireless is one of the most unscrupulous companies I've ever encountered. I worked for att wireless when it WAS att. Then Cingular bought it out, promptly fired all the old workers because we were making far more then they were willing to pay. Then, after Cingular had soiled thier reputation *bought* the rights to the name *att* so they could use att's decent reputation to continue their crap.
So this doesn't have anything at all to do with Uverse or att home or long distance and it disheartens me to see so many commenters jump in for the kill with incoherent wording and complaints that you are a victim when you don't know why, when or how; but your bill is high
Ignorance is not an excuse. If you go into the jungle with bloody steaks in hand do we blame the tiger, or you when you get eaten.
Now before I get niggled to death on grammar or spelling (which I know I will, I'm horrible at spelling AND grammar ) ( oh and niggle means roughly *to obsess with small details, not what some of you think I said), I will be the first to admit this company is a scam. Unfortunately so is every corporation out there! Did you know the *National bank for the USA is a private corporation? It is, and like att it's after it's own intrests ( ie money).
But I digress, if you get anything from this please note the following.
1.Att Wirelwss is a company, (not actually related to att) and it will screw you six ways from Sunday to make a buck, but it's all nice and legal. They are paying this fee because it's cheaper to do so and it makes it look like they'll mend their ways.
2. Virtually every company does this, they are in the business to make money. Example: the city charges my electric with roadway and trash charges, however I do not own a car and my apts have a private company to pick up trash.
3. I'm on disbuluty because I'm too disfunctinal to work, let alone for comporations. I hate them as much as you, but that's the toll for having convience.
4. Your refund will not be any portion of your actual bill, they're breaking up the settlement to split between whoever applies and it's most likely a arbitrary fine; not representative of what was actually charged. And it's from 2009 on. And you get it from hitting the APPLY FOR REFUND HERE button or by calling the # posted here several times.
5. Since this is a set fine and not repsetative of your actual bill, any schmoe who wanders in here and applies for the refund because "thier bill was high and they don't know why so it must be a scam" is screwing you out of a % of the money based on thier greed. Just. Like. Every. Money using entity in exsistance.
So have a care consumers, no one is watching out for you in corporate America and never will. Jumping on bandwagons will not improve the situation. Educate yourself, the information is free and avaliable, if you'll take the time to look.
Now to apply for my refund. Have a great day ^_^

I agree with you on this. I have seen so many complain about being over charged for data and that is NOT what this is all about. I have seen charges on my bill for third party charges and did not understand completely what it was for. I have called and didn't get far with this. Now I am definitely getting involved in this. If people are so angry about data charges then they need to do something about it. This is not going to help them get any answers for that. Thank you for the comment you made. You are a lot smarter than a lot of people.

Disgruntled EX-emoloyees always make for fun reading... I've been overcharged, brought it to their attn & they promptly credited my bill. Have patience & talk to your provider... They do listen sometimes.

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