McCollum reaches settlement with Verizon over "free" ringtones

Keith Loria Jun. 25, 2009, 9:45am

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has reached a multimillion dollar settlement with a wireless company over third-party charges on consumer's cellular phone bills.

Under the settlement, Verizon Wireless LLC has agreed to refund Florida Verizon Wireless and Alltel consumers who believed they were getting free ringtones, music, wallpaper, horoscopes and other material, but were in fact charged for the services.

Verizon has also agreed to adopt a series of "best practices" standards which will protect consumers from third-party charges, including charges for "free" ringtones and other cell phone content customers either didn't order or didn't realize would result in a monthly charge.

"Consumers deserve to get their money back when a company misrepresents something as free that isn't," McCollum said in a statement. "I commend Verizon Wireless for providing full restitution to their Florida customers and changing the business model to better protect consumers nationwide."

As part of the settlement, Verizon will pay a total of $1.5 million, with $1 million for Verizon Wireless and $500,000 for Alltel, to reimburse the state for the costs of its investigation and to help the attorney general's office fund the efforts of the task force as it continues to press for similar reform across the industry.

The Republican attorney general said the landmark advertising model obtained in the settlement will provide consumers protection from fine print in the future.

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