If you’ve ever taken a close look at your phone bill, you may have noticed some suspicious numbers. These additional charges, usually for some add-on service you never requested, have been crammed into bills by most major carriers for years. Now the federal government is breaking up the party.
Verizon is being ordered by the Federal Communications Commission to pay a $90 million settlement for stuffing extraneous charges into consumers’ bills, according to TechCrunch. Sprint will fork over $68 million for the very same reason.
The charges singled out in the FCC’s scathing rebuke were for “premium text messaging services,” which cost customers an extra $10 a month on average. About $70 million of the fine being paid by Verizon will go toward repaying current and former customers for the unwarranted charges.
In a press release, the FCC laid out how the fines will break down:
Under the terms of the agreements the FCC announced today, Verizon’s $90 million settlement will include a minimum of $70 million to fund a consumer redress program, $16 million for state governments participating in the settlement, and $4 million as a fine paid to the U.S. Treasury. Sprint’s $68 million settlement will include a minimum of $50 million to fund a consumer redress program, $12 million for state governments participating in the settlement, and $6 million as a fine paid to the U.S. Treasury.The settlements were negotiated in coordination with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the attorneys general of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The settlement only appears to cover cell phone bills, although consumers (myself included) have noticed similarly fraudulent charges on their Verizon home Internet bills, as well. (For a good year, I paid $10 a month to Verizon for a bogus “security package” I never ordered or noticed before.)
The FCC is cracking down on these kinds of practices, which it describes as “fraudulent” and “unlawful.” Hopefully for consumers’ sake, this scrutiny continues. But just to be safe, you might want to double-check your phone bill this month.