The Uncarrier's dirtiest trick isn't about the go unpunished. T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million in a settlement about bogus fees it snuck into phone bills. It may pay customers out as much as $150 million for slapping bullshit "Premium" text messaging services onto phone bills.
As part of the settlement, T-Mobile needs to contact all the customers it screwed over and apologize, with money.
This will settle a complaint lodged by the FTC this past summer, wherein it accused T-Mobile of slipping charges for services like horoscope and dating tip texts into bills, even though customers never authorized them (and, likely, thought getting dating tips via SMS was annoying spam and not something they were unwillingly paying for).
The settlement will also prevent future slimy tactics. In a press release, the FTC explained some of the details:
In addition to requiring T-Mobile to provide consumers with full refunds, the settlement requires the company to get consumers' express informed consent before placing third-party charges on their bills. The company also must ensure that consumers are notified of any third-party charges on their bills and provide them with information about the option to block third-party charges.
T-Mobile isn't the only company penalized this year for this type of dirty billing practice, known as "mobile cramming." In October, AT&T agreed to pay back $80 million for similar sketchball tactics.
If there's one thing that telcoms have proven exceedingly apt at, it's finding clever ways to jack up charges. So while these settlements may dampen enthusiasm for mobile cramming specifically, it's always a good idea to comb through your bills for weird charges. And good life advice in general.
If you're a T-Mobile customer who got screwed on this scheme, I'd love to hear from you: Did you find out about it on your own, or when the FTC filed suit? Have you heard from T-Mobile or received a refund? [Washington Post]