Verizon and Sprint may owe you a late Christmas present in the form of cold, hard cash, but you’re going to have to get a move on. Back in May, the two telecommunications giants agreed to a $158 million settlement with the FTC after the regulatory agency found that both companies allowed third parties to charge customers for “premium” texts without their knowledge or consent. The practice, now known as “cramming,” is clearly illegal, and if you were unfairly billed for it, you might be owed some money. But you only have until December 31, 2015 to file a claim for your refund.
If you think your cell phone bills may have been unfairly inflated, you can head over to either www.sprintrefundpsms.com or www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com to log your complaint. In 2014, both AT&T and T-Mobile had to settle similar lawsuits as well, paying $105 million and $90 million respectively.
According to documentation, Verizon was charging its customers for third-party messages up until at least January of 2014, forcing their subscribers to pay an average of around $9.99 a month. Verizon got to keep at least 30 percent of that, officials claim.
As for Sprint, the settlement claims that the service provider subjected users to cramming between 2004 and December 2013, and “charged its customers by creating a billing and payment-processing system that gave third parties virtually unfettered access to its customers’ accounts.” Furthermore, the lawsuit states, Sprint “automatically enrolled its customers in its third-party billing system without their knowledge,” making hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
Both companies claim that they attempted to right their wrongs before being forced to do so by the government.
“Well before any government action, Verizon Wireless stopped allowing companies to place charges for premium text message services on customers’ bills,” said Verizon spokeswoman Debra Lewis in a statement.”Customers who believe they were billed improperly for these services may seek a refund.”
And a statement from Sprint claims that the company “returned tens of millions of dollars long before the government initiated its investigation of our industry.”