AT&T customers who have seen unusual charges for ringtones and other content show up on their cell-phone bills will be eligible for refunds as part of the settlement of a group of class-action lawsuits. Customers will be able to claim refunds for spurious charges that appeared on up to three of their monthly bills between January 1, 2004, and May 30, 2008. I understand this is the first nationwide settlement over the business of third-party content. Similar suits have been filed against Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA.
Vendors of ringtones and daily text-message services, using a number of innocent-sounding messages, solicit customers to sign up by entering their phone numbers on Web sites or by sending text messages. The charges, which can be hidden or poorly explained, show up later on cell-phone bills, often as recurring charges. The cell-phone carrier keeps some of the fee and passes the rest on to the content provider. Sixteen class-action suits, which are part of the settlement, alleged that AT&T was legally responsible for failing to be more careful in vetting the services.
AT&T now requires customers who sign up for third-party services with recurring fees to confirm by replying to a text message. The company also requires the content providers to send monthly reminders with instructions on how to unsubscribe from such services. Notifications about the settlement are being sent out to 70 million current AT&T Mobility customers. The settlement received preliminary approval by the Superior Court of Fulton County, Ga. A final approval hearing for the settlement is scheduled on December 8th. Claims must be filed within 90 days of the final approval of the settlement. Jeff Edelson, a lawyer from Portland, Oregon, represented the class.
Source: Associated Press
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