It seems that the high profit margins AT&T has enjoyed all this time as a mobile carrier hasn't been enough: The company has just been handed a massive fine by the FTC for its part in 'cramming'. Cramming is the act of adding unauthorized charges to a bill; in this case, that happened by way of unsolicited text messages. These messages included anything from horoscopes to love tips, so if you're an AT&T customer and were on the receiving end of these, take note.
AT&T's total fine is $105 million; $80 million will go towards paying customers back, $20 million will go towards penalties in each state, and the other $5 million will go to the FTC itself as a fine.
FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez says, "I am very pleased that this settlement will put tens of millions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers harmed by AT&T’s cramming of its mobile customers." I don't think anyone will disagree with that, but it can't help but make me wonder if cramming is more common than we think. Surely, it can't only be AT&T guilty here.
Possible coverage map of those ripped-off
In its complaint, the FTC says that AT&T's customers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on these unsolicited text messages, and while that's a lot more than the $80 million that AT&T has to pay back, the excess belongs to third-parties. That's unfortunate, because it means these third-parties seem to be free-and-clear, and admittedly, they probably are keeping within legal bounds - it's just that most people being billed don't even realize it. The FTC says that many of these charges came to AT&T's customers in the form of a $9.99/mo charge.
If you were affected by this thievery, you're able to head on over to http://www.ftc.gov/att and submit refund claim. You won't get back all of the money you unknowingly spent, but something is certainly better than nothing.
It goes without saying, but while checking over your bills carefully is tedious, it really can help you avoid being effectively scammed like this.