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T-Mobile hit with $40M fine for fake ringtones in rural calls

The Un-carrier admitted it failed to correct problems with rural calls, and even used fake ringtones to simulate the completion of calls.

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T-Mobile was hit with a $40 million fine from the FCC. 

James Martin/CNET

T-Mobile injected fake ringtones into rural calls that it couldn't actually connect.

That's according to the Federal Communications Commission, which fined T-Mobile for the practice, as well as for failing to correct its ongoing problem of connecting calls in rural areas. The nation's third-largest wireless carrier agreed to pay $40 million to the US Treasury and entered into a settlement to avoid further actions. 

"It is a basic tenet of the nation's phone system that calls be completed to the called party, without a reduction in the call quality -- even when the calls pass through intermediate providers," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement on Monday. 

The admission of injecting fake ringtones is a black eye for a company that prides itself as more consumer friendly than the competition. T-Mobile CEO John Legere touts the fact that it's more straight with its customers, part of the "Un-carrier" campaign that's successfully drawn in new subscribers. 

T-Mobile injected false ringtones on many phone calls, letting callers believe the phone was ringing on the other end. The FCC said it leaves a misleading impression that it isn't the service provider's fault that the call isn't connecting. The agency said false ringtones are a problem on calls in rural areas, where the signal may not be adequate. 

T-Mobile said the issue was corrected in January 2017, and that the "oversight" was unintentional. 

"We have settled this matter -- and will continue to focus on our mission to change wireless for good for consumers everywhere," the company said in a statement.

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