For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Kriss Bivens Cloyd
(208) 334-4119

Date: May 12, 2015

Attorney General Settles Mobile Cramming Case with Sprint and Verizon

(Boise) – Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has reached settlements with the Sprint Corp. and Verizon Wireless over allegations the companies imposed unauthorized charges for third-party services on consumers’ monthly mobile telephone bills.

Idaho joined 49 other states, the District of Columbia and two federal agencies in signing off Tuesday on two agreements totaling $158 million with the telecommunication companies.

“There is simply no good reason why Idaho consumers should have to be responsible for mobile phone charges they never wanted or agreed to pay for,” Wasden said.  “The settlement is a victory for consumers who are now eligible to receive refunds and for holding Sprint and Verizon accountable for their past actions.”

The settlement with Verizon and Sprint is the latest in a series of legal actions against mobile carriers accused of a practice known as “mobile cramming.”

Last October, Idaho joined other states and federal officials in a $105 million settlement with AT&T. In December, the parties reached a $90 million agreement with T-Mobile. All four cases were investigated by the Consumer Protection Division within the Office of the Attorney General.

Consumers who were subjected to cramming were typically charged $9.99 per month for so-called “premium” text message services.  Those text services varied, from horoscopes to trivia and sports scores.  All four mobile carriers accused of cramming consumers agreed in 2013 to cease billing for commercial premium text message services, Wasden said.

Under terms of the deal, Sprint will pay a total of $68 million and Verizon will pay $90 million.  Of those amounts, Sprint will make $50 million available nationwide for consumer refunds, while Verizon will reimburse consumers up to $70 million.

For Idaho, Wasden estimates about 50,000 Sprint customers can seek refunds, while 125,000 Verizon customers may be eligible.  Sprint will also pay more than $138,000 to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to cover attorney fees and investigation costs. Verizon has agreed to pay the office more than $184,000.

Consumers can submit claims under the redress programs by visiting either www.SprintRefundPSMS.com and/or www.CFPBSettlementVerizon.com.  Consumers who have questions about the refund programs can also call settlement administrators at (877) 389-8787 for Sprint and/or (888) 726-7063 for Verizon.

Sprint and Verizon have also agreed to cease providing any premium text messaging services and to take other steps to ensure third-party billing is authorized by customers, including:

  • Verizon and Sprint must give consumers the chance to obtain a full refund or credit when billed for unauthorized, third-party charges.
  • The carriers must inform customers when they sign up for services that their mobile phone can be used to pay for third-party charges.
  • Verizon and Sprint must also place third-party charges in a dedicated section of monthly bills and clearly distinguish those charges from their own, and explain in the same section how to block third-party charges.

Overall, the states, District of Columbia, federal Consumer Protection Bureau and the Federal Communications Commission have reached mobile cramming settlements with the four providers totaling $353 million.

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