Senate blasts mobile carriers for profiting from phony fees

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all allegedly “crammed” customers with third-party charges that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Senate report says.

The Senate has joined the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission in chastising the four top US wireless carriers for skimming money from customers.

In a lengthy report (PDF) released by Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are accused of a practice known as “cramming,” in which wireless carriers allow mystery fees to appear on consumers’ phone bills without notification.

These mystery fees are typically fraudulent and unauthorized third-party charges, ranging from $1.99 to $19.99 a month, for things like ringtones or “premium” services, such as a daily horoscope. Users don’t normally see these charges because they’re buried deep within monthly phone bills.

The report calls cramming a “widespread” problem and says that “hundreds of millions of dollars” in unauthorized charges have likely racked up on users’ monthly phone bills.

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