Sprint settles with McCollum


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced on Friday that his office has reached a settlement with a wireless provider over alleged unauthorized billing for third-party charges on cell phone bills.

Sprint allegedly was involved in third-party "cramming," where charges for so-called "free" ringtones and other cell phone content customers did not order or did not realize would result in a monthly charge appear on their cell phone bills.

This sort of content includes ringtones, music, wallpaper, horoscopes and other material that people believe are free, but end up costing as much as $19.99 a month, McCollum says. The charges allegedly often appear on a subscriber's monthly wireless bill under indiscernible names such as "OpenMarket," "M-Qube" or "M-Blox."

Sprint does offer its customers the ability to block third-party mobile content and to implement parental controls free of charge, but many people don't take advantage of this offer.

Under the agreement, Sprint agreed to prohibit the use of the word "free" without clear disclosure of the actual price and will require all content providers and advertisers to clearly and conspicuously disclose the true cost of cell phone content.

This is expected to aid consumers in understanding all terms and conditions of the purchase.

The company will also pay a total of $800,000 to reimburse the state and to help the attorney general's office fund the efforts of the CyberFraud Section as it continues working toward similar reform across the industry. Sprint also agreed to practice a series of standards that McCollum has created.

With this latest agreement, Sprint has become the fourth and final wireless provider to adopt a series of "best practices" standards previously established by McCollum. T-Mobile reached an agreement in July 2010, Verizon Wireless reached an agreement in June 2009 and AT&T Mobility reached an agreement in February 2008.

McCollum's efforts to stop unauthorized billing for third-party charges on consumers' cell phone bills has so far resulted in millions of dollars of restitution.

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