|July 19, 2010
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
|en Español||Print Version||Tweet|
TALLAHASSEE, FL - Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced his office has reached an agreement with T-Mobile concerning unauthorized billing for third-party charges on consumers’ cell phone bills. T-Mobile has agreed to continue using a series of “best practices” standards previously established by the Attorney General which will protect consumers from third-party “cramming,” including charges for “free” ringtones and other cell phone content customers either did not order or did not realize would result in a monthly charge.
T-Mobile will continue its practice of issuing credits and refunds to consumers for unauthorized charges for third-party mobile content subscription purchases. As part of the agreement, the company will provide a clear and conspicuous notice to all consumers of their continuing ability to obtain refunds.
Cell phone content includes ringtones, music, wallpaper, horoscopes and other material that is often promoted by online marketers as “free,” but ultimately ends up costing up to $19.99 a month. The charges appear on a subscriber’s monthly wireless bill and are usually recurring. The bill charges often appear under indiscernible names such as “OpenMarket,” “M-Qube” or “M-Blox.”
A large number of complaints related to the mobile content industry led to an investigation which revealed that thousands of Florida consumers had received these charges on their cell phone bills for mobile content downloads that they neither knowingly authorized nor desired. Prior to the investigation, T-Mobile offered its customers the ability to block third-party mobile content and to implement parental controls free of charge. The investigation and subsequent settlement have been negotiated by the Attorney General’s CyberFraud Section of the Economic Crimes Division.
T-Mobile has agreed to continue using the standards previously established by the Attorney General for advertising on websites, prohibiting the use of the word “free” without clear disclosure of the actual price and requiring all content providers and advertisers to clearly and conspicuously disclose the true cost of cell phone content. These compliance standards, which include website design restrictions for online advertisers, will ensure consumers see and understand the terms and conditions of the purchase. T-Mobile will continue to enforce these standards through its contracts with all content providers and advertisers nationwide.
As part of the settlement, the company will pay a total of $600,000 to reimburse the state for the costs of its investigation and to help the Attorney General’s Office fund the efforts of the CyberFraud Section as it continues working toward similar reform across the industry. The agreement was negotiated with full cooperation from T-Mobile.
The Attorney General’s Office has already obtained several settlements resulting in millions of dollars of restitution for consumers with players from each part of the industry, including marketers, billing aggregators, content providers and wireless service providers. T-Mobile is the third wireless provider to adopt these standards and offer consumer refunds; Verizon Wireless reached an agreement in June 2009 and AT&T Mobility reached the first agreement in February 2008.