Known as “third-party billing,” T-Mobile would place the charge on their customer’s bill for services the customer received from another company. This is perfectly legal if the customer has signed up with the service. When the charges are placed on a customer’s bill without their authorization through some type of scam, this is referred to as “cramming.” This is not legal and what the FTC alleges T-Mobile was tacitly permitting to happen, then continue, for the revenue it generated.
Some of the FTC allegations are as follows:
T-Mobile charged customers for services which brought in so many complaints that T-Mobile was forced to refund as many as 40% of the charges. With refund rates this high, T-Mobile should have known the charges from these companies were never authorized by the customers, and should have refunded them all. They may have been aware this scam was going on since 2012.
T-Mobile purposely made it difficult for customers to understand they were being charged for the services. The bills didn’t show the charges were coming from a third party, or that it was a monthly reoccurring charge. Instead, the charges were listed by a generic names such as “Premium Services.”
T-Mobile bills were so long it made it nearly impossible for consumers to locate and understand the third-party subscription charges. As the FTC said, “After looking past a ‘Summary’ section as well as an ‘Account Service Detail’ section, both of which described ‘Usage Charges’ but did not itemize those charges, a consumer might then reach the section labeled ‘Premium Services,’ where the crammed items would be listed…The information would be listed there in an abbreviated form, such as ‘8888906150BrnStorm23918,’ that did not explain that the charge was for a recurring third-party subscription supposedly authorized by the consumer.”
It didn’t end even if the customers were able to detect the fraudulent charges. The FTC alleges that T-Mobile outright refused refunds to some customers, offered only partial refunds to others, and sometimes even directed the customer to trying get the refund directly from the scammer. At times, T-Mobile claimed the customer had authorized the charges even though they had no proof the customer had done so.
The FTC is seeking through the complaint to make T-Mobile pay back all the ill-gotten charges to consumers. If you believe you may have had some of these charges billed to you on your T-Mobile account, you can contact the FTC to file a complaint online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
(Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart)