Want a refund for AT&T's sneaky charges? The deadline is Friday

Mobile subscribers face a May 1 deadline to get reimbursed for "cramming" -- added charges for third-party services without consent of a subscriber -- on AT&T phone bills.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

AT&T mobile customers, if you're looking to get a refund for unwanted charges on your monthly bills, you'd better act quickly.

AT&T will pay $80 million to the FTC, which will be used to refund customers. AT&T

Paperwork for the refunds must be filed by Friday, May 1, under a settlement between AT&T and the Federal Trade Commission. The goal of that deal is to reimburse customers hundreds of millions of dollars in charges for subscriptions that came from other companies. These unwanted subscriptions were for things such as ringtones and text messages that contained horoscopes, love tips and so-called fun facts.

The practice is known in the industry as "cramming," and it happens when mobile carriers allow third-party companies to charge customers for services without the knowledge or consent of a subscriber. The FTC has been aggressive in going after companies involved in these scams.

AT&T settled its case with the FTC for $105 million in October. In December, T-Mobile reached a $90 million settlement with the FTC for cramming, and its customers have until June 30 to apply for a refund. Verizon and Sprint are still negotiating a settlement with the commission over similar allegations.

This is part of an actual AT&T bill, annotated by the FTC. FTC

As part of its settlement with regulators, AT&T will pay $80 million to the FTC, which will be used to refund customers who were victims of the unauthorized charges. The company will pay an additional $20 million in penalties to 50 states and Washington, DC. And it will also pay a $5 million penalty to the Federal Communications Commission.

In its complaint, the FTC claimed that AT&T held onto at least 35 percent of the amounts that were charged to customers.

AT&T was required under the settlement to send three separate text messages over a period of three months to notify customers of their eligibility to apply for reimbursement. It also inserted notices in customers' bills. For customers who receive their bills electronically, the company notified them by email alert.

T-Mobile customers should be notified in a similar way regarding the refunds, but the company is handling the refunds itself. AT&T customers must apply to the FTC for a refund.

To find out eligibility for the refund, customers can call 877-819-9692. Customers can apply for the refund at the FTC's website: https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/att-refunds

T-Mobile customers can apply for their refunds at http://www.t-mobilerefund.com.