If you are an AT&T mobile service customer you may want to check your past bills carefully. For at least four years content providers have been sneaking charges onto AT&T bills for services like ringtones, jokes and horoscopes. These fees, which may be hidden or poorly explained, show up on cell-phone bills, often as recurring charges. In a bid to win back customer trust, AT&T decided to settle a class-action lawsuit yesterday that addresses the problem.
Customers will be able to receive refunds for such charges on up to three of their monthly bills that occurred between Jan. 1, 2004, and May 30, 2008. This is the first nationwide settlement over the business of third-party content. If other companies follow AT&T’s lead, service providers will have more responsibility to protect customers from nefarious third-party billing practices.
AT&T now requires customers who sign up for third-party services with recurring fees to confirm the purchase by replying with a text message. Content providers must send monthly reminders of the charges along with instructions on how to unsubscribe from the service.
“AT&T has taken aggressive action to put industry-leading safeguards in place to protect our customers from unauthorized changes from third parties. We believe this settlement is consistent with that approach,” company spokesman Marty Richter said.
AT&T Mobility customers will soon get notifications on how they can participate in the rebate.
Similar lawsuits have been filed against Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA. Hopefully, in the name of consumer protection, all service providers in the United States will work out ways to put to right past wrongs and protect customers in the future.