Time is running out to collect on money that’s owed to you. Sprint and Verizon customers are looking at more than $150 million in refunds, from a settlement over mobile cramming. The deadline to do it is before the new year.
It’s the cost of two tall lattes at Starbucks, or a matinee movie ticket to see the latest Star Wars movie. You can even buy a pack of 44 diapers for less than $10, so why would you let you cell phone provider charge you $10 extra a month?
“I didn’t even know this was going on,” said Dominique Dunmeyer, a Sprint customer.
That’s why consumers are getting a refund. Of the $150 million, $90 million from Verizon and $68 million from Sprint will be divvied out to customers after they reached a federal settlement for mobile cramming.
“The unauthorized, unconsented charging of consumers for services they never wanted or asked to receive,” explained Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT.
Services like astrology, celebrity gossip and sports tips have been disguised in fine print on phone bills in the amount of $9.99.
A 2014 Senate committee report found that the practice, which dates back to landlines in the 1980s, has been a billion-dollar industry for wireless carriers. The practice was ceased in 2013 by all four major mobile carriers.
When NBC Connecticut asked customers if they noticed any added fees in their bill, they all said yes.
“I noticed the fees. They go up. The bill is pretty high but I never really questioned it,” said Sprint customer Trang Pham.
“I’m supposed to be paying $60 a month but I’m paying like $120 and when I call they’re like, 'Oh it’s just because extra taxes,' but maybe it’s because I was getting charged hidden fees. I’m going to have to look into that. I could definitely use some extra money, this is holiday time,” Dunmeyer said.
The deadline to do so is December 31st.
Every carrier is now required to offer, free to consumers, the opportunity to block these third party charges in the first place.