FCC Fines T-Mobile at Least $90M for 'Cramming' Bills
The FCC penalty against T-Mobile is second in size only to a $105 million fine imposed against AT&T in October for the same infraction.T-Mobile USA will have to pay at least $90 million in refunds, fines and penalties to consumers and state and federal government agencies for "cramming" customer phone bills with unauthorized charges for years and then ignoring complaints and requests for refunds. The settlement with T-Mobile, which was announced Dec. 19 by officials from the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and by a representative of state governors across the United States, could conceivably rise to hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds, depending on how many affected customers submit claims to get their money back, officials said. In a 16-page consent decree with the FCC and FTC, T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $67.5 million in direct refunds to consumers who file claims for phone bill charges that they did not authorize, as well as $18 million in fines to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a $4.5 million fine to the U.S. government. "This is a major settlement that will put tens of millions of dollars back into the pockets of consumers," Jessica L. Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said during a conference call with reporters on Dec. 19. "This case is about a core principle, that no business should bill a consumer for charges that they did not authorize, period."
Those charges were in many cases fought by consumers who called T-Mobile with complaints, but the company failed to resolve most complaints, even providing erroneous information to consumers who called to challenge the unauthorized charges, the agencies stated.