Verizon Wireless and Sprint have been accused by the Federal Communications Commission of including phony charges on customers’ monthly bills so they can secure a cut of the profit. To settle the charges brought against them, Verizon will pay $90 million while Sprint will be paying $68 million, the federal regulators announced on Tuesday.
According to Mashable, of the $158 million penalty, $120 million will go toward a customer redress program that will be used to reimburse subscribers charged for texting services they did not subscribe for. As much as $14 were added to customers’ bills as a result of “cramming,” and Verizon and Sprint collected 30 percent and 35 percent of the share.
The FCC had started an investigation against the mobile providers when they received several complaints from consumers that their charges had not been refunded. The complaints said that the carriers refused to reimburse the added charges.
Verizon and Sprint had collaborated with third-party vendors offering a range of premium texting services like horoscopes, trivia and updates of sports scores. However, people who hadn’t opted for these services were being charged as well.
When asked to provide evidence that customers had signed up for the services they were charged for, Verizon and Sprint could not furnish any, the FCC said.
Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, said in a statement, “Consumers rightfully expect their monthly phone bills will reflect only those services that they’ve purchased.
“Today’s settlements put in place strong protections that will prevent consumers from being victimized by these kinds of practices in the future.”
According to NBC News, Verizon and Sprint said in their statements that they had stopped charging people with premium text messaging services before the federal regulators began their investigation. According to Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva, the company had reimbursed “tens of millions of dollars” to its customers.
Silva wrote, “This settlement gives our customers who believe they were wrongfully billed for (premium text messaging) services the ability to get a refund, and allows Sprint to continue to focus on enhancing the customer experience.”
Debra Lewis, Verizon Wireless spokeswoman, said the settlement “reflects Verizon’s continued focus on putting customers first.”
Claims can be submitted under the Sprint and Verizon cramming refund program by visiting the websites, SprintRefundPSMS.com or CFPBSettlementVerizon.com. Upon filing the claim, the phone company will inform its customers whether they meet the eligibility criteria for a refund.
You might also be interested in: Amtrak Train Crash Update: 5 Killed, More Than 100 Injured