Verizon and Sprint ordered to pay $158 million in fines over cramming charges

verizon sprint cramming charges
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have slammed Sprint and Verizon with a collective $158 million in fines after the conclusion of an investigation over “mobile cramming” allegations. Verizon will be fined $90 million, and Sprint will receive a lesser fine of $68 million.

The investigation hinges on a particularly dastardly method of revenue collection, wherein major carriers add seemingly minor increases to their customers bills for small fines and services. This tactic is referred to as “cramming, and the FCC and FTC have been investigating carriers for a while now. Sprint and Verizon are not the first companies the two agencies have set their sights on. Recently, both T-Mobile and AT&T were fined for cramming charges.

The FCC memo states that Sprint and Verizon “billed customers millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party premium text messaging services [PSMS], a practice called ‘cramming.”

“The monthly charge for these third-party premium text messaging services ranged from $0.99 to $14.00, but typically were $9.99 per month,” the memo reads. “Verizon retained 30 percent or more of each third-party charge that it billed, while Sprint received approximately 35 percent of collected revenues for each of its third-party charges.”

The many customers who complained to the FCC stated that they never added the third-party services for which they were charged to their plans, or authorized the charges at all. When the customers contacted their respective carriers for a refund, the carriers refused to reimburse them. When the FCC later sought proof that customers had asked for the services in question, the carriers were “unable to prove that these services were ever requested.” The carriers were thus found guilty of cramming charges.

About $120 million of the total settlements are intended for customer refunds. The carriers agreed to halt the practice in 2013, after being called to the attention of the federal agencies, but the settlements indicate that the companies continued the charges into 2014.

Current and former Verizon customers can submit claims for refunds here, and Sprint customers can do so here. If you have had any un-refunded PSMS charges billed since July 1, 2010, you can submit a claim until December 31, 2015.

Gaming

Has it really been 17 years? The past, present, and future of the Xbox

From "DirectX Box" to "720," it's been a long, strange trip for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console. Here is what happened, from its odd beginnings to the rumored Scarlett console with streaming.
Computing

Everything you need to know about routers, modems, combos, and mesh networks

Modem vs. router: what's the difference? We explain their functions so you can better diagnose any issues prior to contacting technical support. We also talk about a few variants you'll see offered by ISPs and retailers.
Home Theater

Make the most out of your new Apple TV with these must-have apps

If you're looking to turn your fourth-generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K into an all-in-one entertainment powerhouse, we can help you get started with this list of the best Apple TV apps you can download.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Google Pixel 3: Can Samsung beat the stock Android king?

The Samsung Galaxy S10 is here, offering modern specs, a beautifully high-resolution display, and an edge-to-edge design with a small cutout in the display for the front-facing camera. But can the phone take out the Google Pixel 3?
Deals

Protect your iPhone or iPad with the IPVanish VPN, on sale through February

One of our favorite virtual private networks for iPhones and iPads, IPVanish, is now offering a huge discount on its two-year subscription as part of its 7th-birthday promotion. Read on to find out more about how this VPN works and how you…
Mobile

Samsung’s wide range of Galaxy products means there’s something for everyone

Samsung launched a host of new products on February 20, with prices ranging from just $35, all the way up to nearly $2,000. This was not by chance, and the company believes it has something for everyone in 2019.
Mobile

Verizon is launching real standards-based 5G in 30 cities in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Deals

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. OnePlus 6T: Can the Flagship Killer survive?

The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the new affordable flagship on the block, but at $750, it's $200 more than the OnePlus 6T. Does the Flagship Killer stand a chance against the new generation of flagship devices? Let's take a closer look.
Deals

Make some time for the best smartwatch deals for February 2019

Smartwatches make your life easier by sending alerts right on your wrist. Many also provide fitness-tracking features. So if you're ready to take the plunge into wearables and want to save money, read on for the best smartwatch deals.
Product Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are a brilliant combination of value and comfort

With six hours of battery life, an extremely comfortable fit, sweatproofing, and a very palatable price tag, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds are putting all other true wireless earbuds on notice.
Deals

Amazon drops a sweet deal on the Kate Spade Scallop smartwatch for women

Unlike many other smartwatches geared toward women, the Kate Spade Scallop offers a more chic and minimalistic look. With this Amazon sale going on right now, you can get it for $109 off its retail price.
Cars

Lyft’s Shared Saver service offers cheaper rides, but you’ll have to walk a little

Lyft has launched a new ride option called Shared Saver that offers cheaper rides if you're willing to walk a little. Shared Saver designates a nearby pick-up point and drops you off a short distance from your final destination.