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FTC Accuses T-Mobile of Knowingly Charging Customers for Fraudulent Services

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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The United States Federal Trade Commission today filed a complaint against T-Mobile, accusing the carrier of charging customers for unauthorized SMS subscriptions that delivered information like horoscopes and celebrity gossip at prices up to $9.99 per month.

T-Mobile reportedly collected 35 to 40 percent of the amount charged to consumers, at times continuing to bill customers even after it was clear the charges were fraudulent. According to the FTC, T-Mobile made "hundreds of millions of dollars" using these tactics.

The FTC suggests that the charges were unauthorized because of the high volume of T-Mobile customers seeking refunds. The company has allegedly received a high number of consumer complaints since 2012. T-Mobile is also said to have made it difficult to detect the charges, as a summary bill did not show a third-party charge or a recurring subscription. T-Mobile bills also made it "nearly impossible for consumers to find and understand third-party subscription charges."
After looking past a "Summary" section as well as an "Account Service Detail" section, both of which described "Usage Charges" but did not itemize those charges, a consumer might then reach the section labeled "Premium Services," where the crammed items would be listed.

According to the complaint, the information would be listed there in an abbreviated form, such as "8888906150BrnStorm23918," that did not explain that the charge was for a recurring third-party subscription supposedly authorized by the consumer.
T-Mobile also failed to provide full refunds to customers after the charges were discovered. The FTC is asking for a court order to prevent T-Mobile from continuing to charge customers for fraudulent services and to provide full refunds for its "ill-gotten gains."

T-Mobile has not yet commented on the FTC's complaint, but the company's outspoken CEO, John Legere, will undoubtedly have a response.

In recent months, T-Mobile has worked hard to distinguish itself from other mobile phone carriers with its "UnCarrier" initiatives designed to disrupt traditional mobile service. The company has uncoupled device costs from service costs, introduced a Jump upgrade plan, provided unlimited texting and 2G data in 100 countries, offered customers up to $350 to switch carriers, and announced plans to allow customers to "test drive" the service.

Update 1:30 PM PT: T-Mobile has released a statement calling the FTC's complaint "unfounded and without merit." T-Mobile goes on to state that it stopped billing for Premium SMS services last year and has launched a "proactive program" to provide full refunds for customers.

Article Link: FTC Accuses T-Mobile of Knowingly Charging Customers for Fraudulent Services
 

GeneralChang

macrumors 68000
Dec 2, 2013
1,546
1,213
Well there goes their good name! Wait, T-Mobile… good name…

What did I just say?
 
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godrifle

macrumors 6502
Oct 20, 2003
259
110
Fort Thomas, KY
I switched from AT&T to T-mobile, for among other things, AT&T charging me for these kinds of purchases. Since moving to T-Mobile, i've not experienced anything other than a *substantially* lower bill. Hopefully they're looking at other carriers as well.
 
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AdonisSMU

macrumors 604
Oct 23, 2010
6,745
2,287
AT&T was doing the same thing. I had to threaten to quit paying for my expensive top of the line AT&T phone plan before they would stop.
 
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xizdun

macrumors regular
Nov 13, 2011
181
191
T-Mobile is still a douchebag carrier.

T-Mobile doesn't make it easy when switching from pre-paid to post-paid. They treat you like a new customer (as though switching from a different carrier) and make you purchase new SIM cards at $10 a pop. WTF?

Thank you, FTC!
 
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chrisbru

macrumors 6502a
May 8, 2008
802
166
Austin, TX
T-Mobile is still a douchebag carrier.

T-Mobile doesn't make it easy when switching from pre-paid to post-paid. They treat you like a new customer (as though switching from a different carrier) and make you purchase new SIM cards at $10 a pop. WTF?

This seems like a silly complain compared to what its like at VZW and ATT
 
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Tiger8

macrumors 68020
May 23, 2011
2,479
649
T-Mobile is still a douchebag carrier.

T-Mobile doesn't make it easy when switching from pre-paid to post-paid. They treat you like a new customer (as though switching from a different carrier) and make you purchase new SIM cards at $10 a pop. WTF?

Thank you, FTC!

$10? AT&T prevents you from doing that altogether altogether, I had to take a number to another carrier for a month, then come back as new one. I wish they charged me $10 a pop rather than having to do a looparound
 
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gretafour

macrumors regular
Aug 26, 2006
129
273
Rochester, NY
Sprint used this very "tactic" on me when I still had them. T-Mobile is at least shaking up the market, but let us not forget they are still a faceless corporation of a person who cannot go to jail.

Glad to see the regulators doing their job.
 
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rdlink

macrumors 68040
Nov 10, 2007
3,226
2,434
Out of the Reach of the FBI
Sprint used this very "tactic" on me when I still had them. T-Mobile is at least shaking up the market, but let us not forget they are still a faceless corporation of a person who cannot go to jail.

Glad to see the regulators doing their job.

Do you mind if they actually get convicted before applauding the regulators?
 
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gretafour

macrumors regular
Aug 26, 2006
129
273
Rochester, NY
Do you mind if they actually get convicted before applauding the regulators?

Corporations don't get "convicted", even though they are people just like you and I. I don't know the details of the case, but I doubt they would launch it without some substantial evidence of wrongdoing.
 
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rmatthewware

macrumors 6502
Jul 22, 2009
493
126
I got a couple of those $10 charges on my ATT bill once. It was easy to spot and ATT was very quick in removing the charges. They also let me put a block on the account so scammers can't sign me up again.

In my experience, T-Mobile is sketchy. All service providers have their issues and you should be suspicious of one that says they don't.
 
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icyrock1

macrumors newbie
May 15, 2014
25
0
I switched from AT&T to T-mobile, for among other things, AT&T charging me for these kinds of purchases. Since moving to T-Mobile, i've not experienced anything other than a *substantially* lower bill. Hopefully they're looking at other carriers as well.

I would switch to T-Mobile if they actually had coverage where I live.

It's not like I live in the woods, either. I live in the 80th biggest city in the country... You'd think they'd get coverage to the top 100 before anything else.
 
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Parasprite

macrumors 68000
Mar 5, 2013
1,698
144
I'm amazed that they can still automatically charge your account based on a 3rd-party service vouching for your word to begin with. I mean it probably seemed like a good idea at first, during the time of early SMS where they thought you could get a custom weather notification or something automatically sent to you, but I highly doubt that there is a single legitimate use for this now.
 
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Yoshi Yogurt

macrumors regular
Nov 5, 2010
205
32
Just like how they told me they wouldn't charge for data(I have no data on my plan) and that data "would not work" on my iPhone 4S. It clearly works when turned on and I'm charged $2 per MB. Wasted $6 messing around with that but whatever, still lied about how their network would work under my plan.
 
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nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,196
People get very upset when a poor, defenseless corporation gets caught in wrongdoing. Kudos to those who stand up for the natural right of corporations to rob mere human beings.
 
Comment

emvath

macrumors regular
Jan 5, 2009
215
179
I've had T-mobile for my personal line for years now and have never experienced anything like this. That being said, if it is true....T-mobile would STILL be better than any other option in the US to me.
 
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dysamoria

macrumors 6502a
Dec 8, 2011
989
533
Typical behavior of telecoms. I'm still waiting for my refund in a Verizon class action suit from years ago. They're largely omnipotent in this plutocratic society. The only thing free about the market is the freedom corporations have to abuse the market and consumers.
 
Comment

yeah

macrumors 6502a
Jul 12, 2011
945
104
T-Mobile has ended the random charges of Fraudulent Services.

I call BS on this one. :p

Que comments from T-Mobile haters. :D
 
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Amazing Iceman

macrumors 601
Nov 8, 2008
4,116
1,741
Florida, U.S.A.
I've been with T-Mobile since their beginning, when they used to be called VoiceStream Wireless.
I have never had a billing issue related to this matter.
 
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donnaw

macrumors 65816
Apr 19, 2011
1,134
6
Austin TX
ATT did the same to me on my landline. It was supposed to be for 'tech services'. I had to call 3 months in a row and argue each month. "Are you sure you or someone else in your household didn't authorize this? ". BS. I've been in IT for 30 years. My son is a network expert and my husband is an engineer. I've been building computers for right at 30 years, developed software...between us we undoubtedly know more about computer hardware, software and networking than any 'tech service'.

I finally had to threaten to take my landline and mobile accounts elsewhere and threaten legal means to get the charges off. I then had to argue to get a block put on my numbers so it wouldn't happen again. "Well, if we do this you'll never be able to charge anything like this to your phone number again,". I've never charged a service to my phone number (or anything else for that matter) That's what my credit cards are for!! Like pulling teeth.

Watch your bills. They all do this because they get a cut of the pie.
 
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