Last week, T-Mobile's CEO John Legere brought some negative attention to the company when he went on one of his typical profanity-filled tirades, except he went a little too far. This week, more bad attention comes to the "uncarrier" as the Federal Trade Commission has accused T-Mobile of issuing false charges on their customers' monthly bills, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Because of this, the FTC has filed a lawsuit against the pink telecom company.
You know those weird and odd phone bill charges you sometimes get and don't know where they came from? Back in the day, perhaps your phone number was sold to some third-party who would, in turn, send you your daily horoscope, ringtones, wallpapers or other silly things. In today's age, those charges unknowingly showing up on your bill are becoming harder and harder to come by and usually you have to authorize them by replying with "yes" on your device. However the FTC claims that T-Mobile is actually hiding these charges on your monthly bill.
The FTC says T-Mobile has charged customers for their phone usage as usual, but have also lumped these other monthly subscriptions charges into that same line item without the customers knowing or agreeing to it. This "Phone Usage" item would usually be reserved for things like texting and maybe going over on your minutes. Then, in the expanded billing charges, there would be some vague and non-descriptive explanation of the charge, like "8888906150 BmStorm23918" from "Shaboom Media" for a $9.99 subscription. Nobody except T-Mobile would know what that is. Even worse, T-Mobile has been keeping up to 40 percent of these amounts for themselves, and this is after customers have called in and complained about unauthorized charges.
FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement,
It's wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent. The FTC's goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.
Obviously if you are one of T-Mobile's customers you need to go look at your expanded and detailed bill and make sure you're not victim to this as well. Then, call T-Mobile and demand your money back for each and every month you have these charges. The FTC is working on getting you your money back as well, but there's no guaranteed as of yet. This is because our very good friend, CEO John Legere, has responded to the lawsuit and says it was "unfounded and without merit." Here's the full statement:
We have seen the complaint filed today by the FTC and find it to be unfounded and without merit. In fact, T-Mobile stopped billing for these Premium SMS services last year and launched a proactive program to provide full refunds for any customer that feels that they were charged for something they did not want. T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates, and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry-rather than the real bad actors.
As the Un-carrier, we believe that customers should only pay for what they want and what they sign up for. We exited this business late last year and announced an aggressive program to take care of customers, and we are disappointed that the FTC has instead chosen to file this sensationalized legal action. We are the first to take action for the consumer, and I am calling for the entire industry to do the same.
This is about doing what is right for consumers, and we put in place procedures to protect our customers from unauthorized charges. Unfortunately, not all of these third party providers acted responsibly-an issue the entire industry faced. We believe those providers should be held accountable and that the FTC's lawsuit seeking to hold T-Mobile responsible for their acts is not only factually and legally unfounded but also misdirected.
Now, I'd believe Legere if customers haven't complained to the FTC and T-Mobile as late as last month about these exact things the FTC is going after the carrier for. However I am surprised he was able to restrain himself or his handler from including expletives in his statement. Impressive.
I should also note that the FTC has not denied that any other carrier is doing this, too, so it would be advised that everyone who has a monthly bill with a cell provider (so, everyone) look over their recent bills with excruciating detail and report any erroneous charges to their carrier. We will keep you up-to-date with this lawsuit as in progresses.