More than 2.7 million current and former AT&T customers across the country could soon get a check in the mail or refunds on their accounts for bogus fees they were charged without their knowledge. It's a practice known as "cramming" in the wireless industry, and it's something the FTC has been cracking down on in recent years.
For years, AT&T added third-party charges to customer bills for things like ring tones and horoscopes, costing subscribers as much as $9.99 per month, according to the Federal Trade Commission. AT&T has agreed to refund its customers a total of $88 million, with customers getting an average refund of $31. Statement credits will appear on customers' bills within the next 75 days, and the first round of paper checks were sent out this week.
“AT&T received a high volume of complaints related to mobile cramming prior to the FTC and other federal and state agencies stepping in on consumers’ behalf,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a press release. “I am pleased that consumers are now being refunded their money and that AT&T has changed its mobile billing practices.”
The FTC sent a complaint to the company in 2014, after AT&T was already audited and investigated for cramming, but the company kept doing it anyway. At that time, AT&T received as much as a 40 percent cut of the charges that its customers weren't aware of.
AT&T customers who receive their refund in the form of a check in the mail will have to deposit or cash it within 60 days, or it will be voided, according to the FTC. For more information, see the FTC's blog post on how the refund program will work.