The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a statement revealing that it has recently entered into a settlement with major US wireless carrier AT&T, wherein AT&T will need to pay $6.8 million to wireline customers who were charged $9 a month for availing of directory assistance services that turned out to be run by scammers. The scam was originally discovered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and after some investigation, it was determined that that the phony directory assistance services was set up as a tool to assist in money laundering activities.
Through an official statement it has released, AT&T said that a couple of companies were involved in the complicated scam, and these two entities had successfully found a way around the security protocols in order to submit third party charges that were not authorized by AT&T, but otherwise billed by wireless carrier. As noted by the FCC, AT&T got a certain fee every time the scam directory assistance service appeared on the bill of customers. But in reality, no directory assistance service was ever extended to affected customers, most of which consist of small enterprises.
Apart from the $6.8 million that AT&T will pay back to affected users, the wireless carrier will also be made to pay a fine in the amount of $950,000 to the United States Treasury. However, considering that the second biggest wireless carrier in the United States registered revenues of $40.5 billion during the most recent quarter, a fine of less than a million dollars may be nothing more than a negligible amount to the mobile operator.
A couple of years back though, AT&T was made to pay a settlement of $105 million for slipping in bogus fees into its customers’ bills. And AT&T was not the only carrier punished. Also in 2014, T-Mobile was made to pay $90 million for cramming fraudulent charges. And then some may remember last year, Verizon Wireless and Sprintagreed to pay $158 million over charges of unfair billing practices.
In its released statement, AT&T has promised to refund all charges on behalf of the two scamming companies going back to the start of 2012. The wireless carrier also announced that all existing and former wireline customers of AT&T will get the refunds by way of check within a period of three months. AT&T also noted that it has ceased billing for these two companies as of June of last year, and it is also planning to stop wireline third party billing for other third parties, with limited exceptions.
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