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 have had third party billing in the past for several months.

Where on the bill did you find this, Donald A Smith?

I was with ATT, for about 14 years. I switched to T-Mobile, a couple of months ago, With ATT, I was getting very high data overages, when I had done nothing, differently. This went on, for a period of 3-4 months. I called 4 times, and they were very rude. The only thing they would tell me was, "It doesn't show us where the charges are coming from, but it shows they're valid." Really? How does that work? I was charged for 2 GB, of data, while I was sleeping, for instance. Had I'd gone over my data allowance, I would've paid. I knew I hadn't, however. My last 2 bills were over $400 dollars. I didn't pay, either,based on principle. I wonder, if there is anything I can do, since I am no longer a ATT customer. I know, I was overcharged, within the 14 years, I had their service.

I've had this same issue for over a year!!! I'm always connected to wi-fi so I wasn't understanding. I was told by AT&t to watch my use during every call and others blamed my modem. I had to bring my plan to the 10g plan because it was less expensive. I wonder f this is a separate issue. This angers me!

Yep, had the same thing happen here. I kept being charged for data I KNOW I didn't use, to the tune of 120 bucks in just one billing cycle! I caught the customer service rep off guard. They stopped their happy-go-lucky smiley BS, stammered, and told me that my phone should be taken to a service center. This company is rolling in the dough from their FRAUDULENT practices and laughing all the way to the bank. If this were a more just world, this suit should BURY them for good.

I've had $85 overage this month. When I called to speak with them, they acknowledged it was not reasonable. They "tried" to give me a $25 refund, but thecomputer wouldn't "Let" them. ???
We're paying abt $50-$75 in overage every month and they KNOW it's wrong, but can't explain anything. I HATE contracts. My acct has 7 lines, 5 of them Smartphones. Even when I turn ALL lines Data off, Gigs still sucking my bank acct dry. 7 Contracts/Ugh...

This has been happening to me as well. Their solution is to turn off your mobile data completely EXCEPT for when you need it. Why is this a problem all of a sudden? I should be able to leave my mobile data on and when I am in wifi spots (90% of the time) that should kick in. The past several months has led to a problem and I now have to constantly go to setting to turn mobile on and off. Its bullshite quite honestly and they have no answer as to why and the only solution is a major inconvenience.

that happened to my son and we finally figured out there was an issue with the Facebook app. He had to delete it and re download and the overage stopped. Try it

Excellent reply from Lump2899, as it's often apps unknowingly running in the background.

For iPhone, double click the home button and it will display all apps running in the background -- often and surprisingly it will be dozens. Scroll through and upwardly swipe the unused apps and they will fully close. I had one iPhone consuming 800MB per day due to garbage apps running in background. Just because you exit/close them after use/interaction does not mean they close entirely.

Routinely do the double click to display and close those you aren't currently using.

You can also go into settings and disable data access for specific apps. Most game apps and many others that run locally have no need for Internet connectivity. Block them.

You can also install Kill Task App. I use it every time I leave an app especially games. Many of them do not have a quit option or if they do they are hidden, candy crush, so when I finish I use the Kill Task app to close everything. Those apps that must continue for operating system stays but anything else close.

I went into apps and the kill app isn't coming up

This same thing is happening to my wife. She's been told by AT&T that she'll need to turn off her mobile data or else she'll use it all & be charged. She doesn't use her phone for internet that much if at all & when she's home she's connected to our home network so I don't see why, if she's not using apps or surfing the web from her phone, that she'd need to turn off the data. So she pays for data so you can use it when she wants to but has to keep turning it off when not on wifi because it's being used somehow just not by her. It makes no sense & she gets the same answer every time she calls.

They messed up my credit

They have done it to me also. And I had to call every time I get a bill.

They have billed me 20.00 almost every month forcing me last week to add Data . And since I'm always on my home WiFI , I don't get . It's nonsense when u call . So my son has turned something off in my settings to stop data cost .
Be glad when my contracts up !

I was having the same problem. When I asked why do I have to use my mobile data to receive picture texts and they said it was a different network. That is odd cause I don't have to do that when I am at home on my pc. Wifi is supposed to take over and save the data on the data plan. I have not heard anything more about this settlement. I too had several third party charges. This is ridiculous how they are screwing people out of money.

A DIFFERENT NETWORK?? Did you sign a CONTRACT or give permission for another network? SUCH A CROCK!
Same issues with overages, and I'd checked 3 years back before lowering amount to see if I went over what I was going down to.

Actually this is correct. You cannot receive text messages (SMS) or Multimedia Messages (MMS) with photos in them over WiFi. Those services come directly from your carrier. Only recently has the technology change to allow this called "Wifi Calling" that allows those services to come through Wifi.

I got a overage on data for 1965.00 how is that possible someone please help

You can contact your service provider.

I had an att rep straight up tell me they att uses YOUR data to do data sweeps on your phone every day. Pretty sure she wasn't supposed to tell me this but if you look at your bill you should notice a data usage everyday around the same time. It'll do this even with your phone off. The more "data" you used that day the more they steal from you and use your own data to run their "sweep".

I have been charged for Netflex and didn't even order it

Here's my comment for you guys and this is weird I had device blow up in my pocket and one guy tells me they would give me up to $2,500 for medical expenses and pay all three of my devices that I have and then AT&T takes the $2,500 credit that was on my account because they didn't give it to me in cash they gave me any credit and pay it off the three devices and now they're trying to say I owe $2,500 plus they're still charging me per device on the next program so what are you doing about that do you just find a lawyer to sue him for everything that he has and try to get try to make my own cell phone CEO or what

If you have a device that doesn't work, you can try returning it or exchanging it with the business that sold the device.

If you got hurt by a device, you can report it to your state Attorney General’s office. 

If you want to report a dangerous device to the government, you can report to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission.

If you have a complaint about your phone service provider you can report to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

If you have a complaint about a lawyer, contact the Bar Association in your state.

AT&T charged me for over a year. The kicker was, I was never with AT&T. I was a Sprint customer. And when i refused to pay the 600.00 some phone bill, they sent it to a collections. It took me 2 yrs to get them to take it off my credit record but i was never refunded. They did however find another person with the same name but never said that person had AT&T.

I've had this same problem AT&T proclaim I was going over my data. I need to raise my data and the representative told me just the other week that I need to raise it to 10g get my phone bill it was $656.31 and suppose to be $150.00 and I call them and told them I am not paying that AT&t is reaping the customer off terrible.

Been customer for years had a blackberry that had 2 gig a month watched videos on you tube, searched the web, etc continuously and only went over twice. Got S5's and a tablet got the 10g plan didn't use hardly any data first 3 weeks but the last week of billing period all of sudden they text us saying we used up rest of the 10g and added 1g for $15 and kept adding 1g 1 to 2 times a day till start of new billing period. But we didn't do anything different the last week than the first 3 weeks, this happened every month till we got wifi and made sure we set all apps to wifi when available. This worked for while now they back to telling us we going over 10g, and we've changed nothing. Know people who have go phones with 2 or 3 gig a month, do more than us and never use up there data. AT&T just found another way to rip off there customers. The FTC and FCC need to force phone companies to calculate data the same way for everyone no matter what kind of phone you have.

I have had all these same problems everyone is talking about with being over charged for Data that is unexplained because we use our WIFI all the time we turn our Data off when we leave the house! My phone bill has went from in april $160. then in May $278., June $657. ,July $457. and it keeps going up .I call & have to waist my time waiting on the phone to try to talk to a service agent for ever ! They go over all the same stuff over & over say they have it fixed & your bill will be right next month it just has to catch up with billing,It never happens!I'm tired of being ripped off being lied to when I have been a loyal customer for a long time 2003.No one has money to just throw away and I'm sick of this company's lies and them stealing my money! They better listen to us or no one will stay with them if they even care?they are to big & they don't care about us little people!

It's all the data used for advertising that pop's up when you open an app.

I'm unhappy about at I pay too much to be treat like this and second their rates are so way out there in still trying to fight out what company plan will work and plus they owe pay me cuz too much I pay night 110 to 109 month unlimite plus date waste my time

i pay my bill and my Father is on my data He only has a Flip phone and I have iPhone5S My bill has been 155.00 a month they used to Text me and tell me I went over my Data plan every month for a year. I'm sick of all the high bills they should have to Refund our money to all AT&T Customers For a year long this isn't good Business!

Ive had all kinds of charges on my bill ive since changed companies n they r saying i owe monies to them

that happened to my son and we finally figured out there was an issue with the Facebook app. He had to delete it and re download and the overage stopped. Try it

Yet another reason to stay with a flip phone which has no data access!

How do you fix this they do it tone all the time I have an iPhone 6 Plus and it dose it to me all the time and then they send me a bill that says they fixed it and I had my bill paid and it was $4 over then all of a sudden three days later my bill said it was $303 how do you get help to fix this I thought about calling a lawyer

i had no contract so i changed phone service i was paying month to month normal bill 75.00 after i changed they sent a bill for 365 dollars so im filing a lawsuit you can file yourself without a lawyer its 50 dollars here

I had the exact same issue every month I went over my data 1-3 times over which was impossible since I am always on wifi. I spoke to AT&T risk management department and told them I had installed 2 separate apps on my phone that monitored my data usage and both apps verified I was way under what they were claiming and I flat out told them that they were rigging the system somehow and I would report them and that I was sure the FTC could figure it out. I was then refunded all the overages and gave me a 4GB for the price of 3GB. Obviously if they did nothing wrong they would not have conceded.

I'm having major issues with AT&T myself, but I want to say that just because a company issues a refund or some other fix, that doesn't mean they are guilty of any wrongdoing. Many companies simply make good faith fixes in order to keep the customer happy. That said, I'm on the phone with AT&T now to dispute data overages. Even after 22 years with AT&T wireless, I'm not opposed to switching carriers, but are any of the others any better?

We had the same issue but we. Had to bring our plan up to 30g plan because one month we had to pay extra 80 dollars for extra usage never had any issues till the past couple months have been a customer since 2004

I had the same issue. Was connected to WiFi 90% of the time and CSR told me that even when connected to wifi I needed to turn data OFF on my phone or it would still be charged. A different person called me back after I left them terrible service reviews and offered me a "limited time" upgrade from 10gb of data to 30gb for only $10 more a month. My next bill showed it was $50 more a month. AT&T is SO shady!

I'm having the same issue concerning data and WIFI, I'm told by AT&T that I must turn off the data on my cellphone before using WIFI. How am I supposed to know this there's no instructions when I receive my cellphone at the time of purchase. Something must be done about this unfair charges. I have pay a great deal of money to AT&T for data overage.

My husband and I are going through the same exact same thing!!!!! The CSR was so nice and made me think that we were saving money by doing it this. Now every month, we are on the phone with ATT about out 350-400 monthly bill. It's more than my car note for 2 months. What is ATT doing?

I used to have at&t home phone years ago till one day i looked at the back on me bill at the long distance calls to another state over $300 worth to a state i never been in so it was not my bill and they told me i have to pay it thats when i told them to shove it n cut my phone off of course i didnt say it that nicely lol but i never had at&t since and never will they r so rude watch ur bills closely

You aren't and weren't liable for for those long distance calls if you did not make them. We have always had their service and billing errors on regular phone bill were corrected immediately. Cell phone is another issue. I've been with them since they were Cingular and had some major bills in past years due to a free service that sent text but you couldn't turn it off even tho the online app had that option and you were supposed to be able to turn it off from your phone too. Didn't work. No data plan involved here as it was just a standard flip phone. I had bills @ $500 for several months

I have been charged wrongly for adult entertainment and again monthly got dating sites which I do not belong to. I'm sure if these ones I found there are so many more that I am not aware of.

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.

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