Disputing data charges on cell phone bills can be a tedious and annoying experience. You may wonder if it is intentionally time consuming so that people eventually give up and forego their potential refund. According to a recent action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there may be some truth to that notion.
AT&T has reportedly agreed to pay a $700,000 fine and provide refunds to its customers as part of a settlement reached with the federal government. The telecommunications giant was accused of overcharging wireless data customers by automatically switching pay-as-you-go plans (which tend to save customers money) to standard monthly wireless data plans without their knowledge.
The FCC had been investigating AT&T last year after it began receiving complaints from customers about unauthorized charges. In 2009, AT&T made monthly data plans a standard part of their cell phone offerings, but also promised that customers who used pay-as-you-go plans could keep them. The FCC found that customers who replaced their phones (through warranties or insurance) were switched to the monthly plans. Customer who kept their old phones and had simply changed residences were also affected.
According to the consent decree, refunds could be as much as $30 for each month unwitting customers were affected. A spokesperson for AT&T explained that only a minute number of customers were affected, and that it had previously discovered the issue and had corrected it by November 2010. AT&T also agreed to let affected consumers to choose between monthly data plans and pay-as you-go.
Despite this, the FCC recommends that customers review their bills and contact AT&T if they believed that they are overcharged for wireless data.
Source: TopClassActions.com, AT&T to pay $700,000 fine and refund customers for data overcharges, November 9, 2012