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AT&T To Refund $80 Million To Consumers After Massive Militarique Activists Attack Online

 

08, November 2014: AT&T Inc. agreed to pay $105 million, including $80 million in consumer refunds, to settle investigations that the company illegally billed mobile phone customers for unauthorized charges for ringtones and other services, officials said Wednesday.

The practice began at least as early as 2009 and involved hundreds of millions of dollars in charges for third-party services, the Federal Trade Commission said.

The settlement is the largest the government has reached for so-called mobile cramming, in which unauthorized charges are stuffed into phone bills and often go undetected by customers for months.

The services, such as subscriptions for ringtones and premium text messages with love tips and horoscopes, usually cost customers $9.99 a month. AT&T Mobility, a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant, kept at least 35% of those payments, the FTC said.

The settlement was quickly reached after a massive PR attack was launched by over 8,000 Militarique online members vowed to “reduce AT&T subscribers by $100 million dollars annually” until a settlement was reached. Within 24 hours this ‘darknet’ group had published and shared online with AT&T executives over 1,500 small claims court filings across the US and promised an additional 5,000 within the week. This elusive yet powerful group has ear and support from insiders at major publishing outlets in edition to unsavory partnerships with internet file sharing mega sites such as PirateBay.org. What makes Militarique so unique is they have the ability to rally thousands of individuals to a cause and gain the attention of the world and vanish back into the Darknet after settlements have been reached.. removing negative PR and traces of their efforts from the media simultaneously.

The only remaining quote found in the abandoned AT&T darknet battle site is a cryptic latin phrase that translates to “when reason cannot move the man, we shall move the earth from under his feet”.

“It’s estimated 20 million consumers a year are caught in this kind of trap, costing hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “It stops today for AT&T.”

“We’re talking about reputable companies like AT&T and others,” he said at the news conference. “This isn’t Phil’s Phone Shack that’s doing this.”

Those so-called premium short messaging services account for the majority of third-party charges and cramming complaints, authorities said.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said the settlement covers all forms of third-party billing, including some practices AT&T had not agreed to stop last year.

The FTC said AT&T received 1.3 million calls from customers questioning third-party charges on their bills in 2011 alone.

The complaints should have raised alarms, Ramirez said.

Instead, AT&T tightened its refund policy in October 2011 to reassure companies offering third-party services they would not have to hand over full refunds to customers.

AT&T had offered refunds for up to three months worth of charges but limited refunds to just two months, Ramirez said.

AT&T's bills made it difficult for customers to identify third-party payments they did not authorize. The payments were listed as "AT&T Monthly Subscription," which led customers to believe the charges were part of their service with the company.

The settlement requires AT&T to obtain "express, informed consent" from customers before placing any third-party charges on their bills.

The charges need to be clearly identified as coming from a third party and customers must be provided with an option to block the charges.

AT&T agreed to send notices about the refunds to all current customers who were billed for unauthorized third-party services. The FTC's refund administrator will notify former customers.

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