So, while we really love what T-Mobile has been doing with their uncarrier moves, giving consumers exactly what they want, they have also secretly been screwing customers out of money for no reason. Sure, you can stream music for free (even though this is questionably violating Net Neutrality), but T-Mobile has actually been “cramming” consumers for the past 4 years, from 2009 through 2013 according to an FTC complaint. The FTC claims state that T-Mobile has been billing customers with unauthorized charges and hiding them deep within customers’ bills where they wouldn’t see them. An example of this was posted to the FTC’s website using an actual T-Mobile customer’s bill.
Unfortunately for T-Mobile this is actually a very carrier (as opposed to uncarrier) thing to do as Verizon settled with the FTC for partaking in similar practices. However, this is the first time the FTC has actually gone after a carrier for such practices even though they’ve gone after more than 30 companies before for similar practices. If T-Mobile wants to retain their uncarrier and pro-consumer branding, they are going to seriously have to explain why they were doing this. Because a simple software bug explanation isn’t going to be good enough if the FTC is actually bringing charges.
T-Mobile’s own CEO John Legere responded to the FTC charges by saying that, “We have seen the complaint filed today by the FTC and find it to be unfounded and without merit.” He did, however, say that the ‘premium’ SMS services (cramming) that were getting charged were terminated last year (when the complaint alleges they ended) and that consumers could easily get those refunded if they did not agree to them. What’s interesting is that John Legere does not deny that these programs existed nor that the company ended them, but rather says that they are gone and over with which doesn’t necessarily say that it wasn’t happening. He also claims that the FTC’s charges are sensationalized and that they should be going after the other carriers for worse behavior.
Even though John Legere does have a somewhat convincing argument, one of the most interesting things is how well made the graphics are for the FTC’s complaint, I don’t know about you but it seems odd that the FTC would find it necessary to annotate a T-Mobile bill using T-Mobile’s well-known magenta color. In all honesty, this looks like something AT&T would cook up to fight T-Mobile or make them look bad. So, I would say that this FTC complaint may be coming from somewhere other than consumers’ own complaints. Sure, there is probably good reason to go back and check your bills from those periods just to be sure, but there’s a good chance that this could be part of an AT&T bad pr campaign. After all, AT&T has a lot of lobbying power within the government and they’re probably still bitter that their merger with T-Mobile didn’t go through and T-Mobile has focused almost all of their uncarrier attacks on AT&T.
Looks like lobbying work of big greedy carriers! http://t.co/5SFIzCi080
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) July 1, 2014
But, to counter that, the FTC did state, “When consumers were able to determine they were being charged for services they hadn’t ordered, the complaint alleges that T-Mobile in many cases failed to provide consumers with full refunds. Indeed, the FTC charged that T-Mobile refused refunds to some customers, offering only partial refunds of two months’ worth of the charges to others, and in other cases instructed consumers to seek refunds directly from the scammers – without providing accurate contact information to do so.”
Interestingly enough, part of this entire ordeal actually involved the FCC, which makes sense, but may also be where the complaints had originated from. The FCC is certainly one of those places where the larger carriers hold far greater influence and can suggest that one of their competitors is partaking in ‘bad behavior’ in their eyes. Either way, there’s clearly no denying that this went on and the complaint has been filed in Western Washington District Court (where T-Mobile is headquartered) and will likely seek to exactly understand the depth that these charges were exactly made and how many millions of dollars were made by T-Mobile over these 4 years.