Back in 2011, and even before that, AT&T and other U.S. carriers were offering third-party premium services for stuff like special ringtones, messages and other sorts of junky options. Unfortunately, because AT&T and other U.S. wireless carriers opened up the billing to third party vendors, they didn’t necessarily always have control over the billing process. As such, some of the scammier-style options started billing folks monthly without any expressed permission to do so. Customers were understandably upset and began to complain.
Now, several years later, AT&T is issuing refunds to customers who were affected by the previous practices and who were billed for third-party services they never wanted in the first place. AT&T will pay $105 million in damages in total, including $80 million of which will be refunded to affected customers.
“In the past, our wireless customers could purchase services like ringtones from other companies using Premium Short Messaging Services (PSMS) and we would put those charges on their bills,” AT&T said in a statement. “Other wireless carriers did the same. While we had rigorous protections in place to guard consumers against unauthorized billing from these companies, last year we discontinued third-party billing for PSMS services. Today, we reached a broad settlement to resolve claims that some of our wireless customers were billed for charges from third-parties that the customers did not authorize. This settlement gives our customers who believe they were wrongfully billed for PSMS services the ability to get a refund.”
AT&T should start notifying customers about the refunds now, though we don’t know how much individual customers can expect to receive.