Fla. AG settles with AT&T over charges added to consumers' bills

Bryan Cohen Dec. 30, 2011, 2:51pm


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a settlement on Friday with AT&T Mobility resolving allegations that roadside assistance plans were charged to customers' cell phone bills without their consent.

Under the terms of the agreement, AT&T Mobility will provide full refunds for Florida customers, provide prepaid telephone cards with a face value of $550,000 for donation to members of the U.S. military, pay $1.2 million to Bondi's office for future enforcement, fees and costs, and donate $10,000 to the Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year program.

"All customers who paid for unwanted services deserve to be made whole, and we have guaranteed that AT&T Mobility will fully refund their money," Bondi said. "Additionally, AT&T Mobility must notify customers via text message of added charges and service cancellation procedures."

AT&T Mobility allegedly billed customers $2.99 per month for roadside assistance plans. Bondi's office alleges that more than 600,000 cell phone numbers of Florida customers were charged for the plan during the time period and that a substantial number of those customers will be eligible for refunds. This is the first case that specifically requires a cell phone company to use text messages to confirm a service has been added to the cell phone of a customer and to provide a simple method for the consumer to cancel the service if it is unwanted.

The settlement requires AT&T Mobility to provide any future customers multiple disclosures concerning charges associated with roadside assistance and how to cancel the service. AT&T Mobility will send an initial text message five days after a customer is enrolled in roadside assistance confirming the details of the purchase and will provide an easy way to cancel. In addition, the company will send an additional text message to customers five days before the expiration of any free service periods, reminding the customer of the charges and providing further notice of how to cancel. If the customers does not have a plan to receive text messages, AT&T Mobility will send a letter to the customer to confirm the purchase of roadside assistance along with information on cancellation.

Under the terms of the agreement, AT&T Mobility must clearly and conspicuously disclose the cost of roadside assistance and other AT&T Mobility services when offered in certain types of billing plans. The company must obtain the authorization of the customer for any added charges.

Those who were charged for roadside assistance between February 2004 until such time as AT&T Mobility implements the text message disclosures and did not consent to use the service are eligible for the full refund. These consumers will receive a postcard with information on how to file a claim.

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