AT&T Cramming Settlement with Attorneys General
Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Oct 17, 2014 in Personal Injury
Recently, you may have seen news accounts that Attorneys General from across the United States have announced settlements with AT&T over cramming charges on mobile phone bills. This involves complaints about charges typically for premium text message subscriptions covering such things as horoscopes, sports scores, and trivia that you as a customer had never asked for or wanted.
It is important to note that as part of this settlement, AT&T Mobility will pay $80,000,000 to the Federal Trade Commission. In addition, AT&T is going to pay $20,000,000 in penalties and fees to 50 states and the District of Columbia, and a $5,000,000 penalty to the FCC. AT&T has been accused of deceptive acts and practices. Many consumers we have seen are not even aware of the particular charges on their bill until they catch them after looking at their bill with a fine tooth comb.
Consumers who believe that they were wrongfully charged should go to www.ftc.gov/at&t or contact the Settlement Administrator at 1-877-819-9692.
Interestingly enough, AT&T has gone out of their way to try to keep consumers from bringing claims against them. Contained within the fine print of your AT&T mobile phone agreement is language where you have agreed to give up your constitutional rights to a trial in the court system of the United States because you have signed what is referred to as a mandatory binding arbitration agreement. In addition, you have signed away your rights to participate to the benefit of class action settlements.
Many consumers, including some who have successfully been able to bring such claims in the court systems have found their recoveries are substantially greater as AT&T, as well as other cell phone companies have been known for sticking on other charges which were not ordered or requested.
A perfect example of this is the roadside assistance plan. Stewart Bell, PLLC went after AT&T in a punitive class action on behalf of over 50,000 West Virginians, and for even a greater number, in the state of Florida, AT&T was adding on a roadside assistance plan, ostensibly free for the first month or so, and then instituting charges at a rate of just under $3.00 a month.
Unfortunately, AT&T found a very friendly legal defense through the enaction of CAFA legislation (Class Action Fairness Act), and through the U. S. Supreme Court decision which came down in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion ET UX, 131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011) which basically found that individuals who signed up for cell phone service signed away their constitutional rights to otherwise bring claims for these consumer protection fraud cases and to participate in class actions.
These mandatory binding arbitration agreements, be they in cell phones, credit cards, appliance purchase, and/or warranty agreements, are all terribly non-consumer friendly. They are ones which you should look at very carefully.
Again, scan your phone bill to determine whether or not you have been subjected to these charges, and make sure you complain loud and long. Next time someone tells you that CAFA and arbitration are a good, but just know and understand that this is a good way to limit liability for businesses that take advantage of consumers.