AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against four text-messaging content providers and their billing aggregator for allegedly engaging in cellphone cramming.
Tendenci Media LLC, Anacapa Media LLC, MDK Media Inc. and Bear Communications LLC allegedly enrolled customers in premium text messaging services programs and failed to properly disclose the costs connected with the services. The companies then allegedly billed the customers without their consent. Mobile Messenger U.S. Inc., a billing aggregator, and Mundo Media Ltd. of Canada, a third-party advertising network, were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Wireless carriers do not typically interact directly with content providers, but they do enter into contracts with aggregators and give the aggregators access to the carriers' billing infrastructure. As a result, aggregators can submit charges on behalf of their content provider clients and have the charges appear directly on a customer's phone bill. The contracts require that the aggregators verify that all messaging charges were obtained legally and in compliance with industry guidelines.
The lawsuit alleges the content providers, with the help of their billing aggregator and advertising network, used deceptive websites to trick customers into entering their mobile phone number and a personal identification number. The websites allegedly failed to include meaningful disclosures in keeping with industry guidelines. The content providers, aggregator and advertising network allegedly treated customers' actions as consent to be billed.
Abbott's lawsuit alleges that Mobile Messenger was in the best position to detect and stop the deceptive conduct, but the company instead took deliberate steps to continue the deceptive actions.