T-Mobile accused by FTC of adding millions worth of “bogus charges” to customer bills

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The Associated Press tweeted out a shock update just a few minutes ago, reporting that T-mobile has knowingly been billing its customers for hundreds of millions in bogus charges.

The FTC alleges that T-Mobile has been continuing to charge its customers for “premium” SMS subscriptions which – in some cases – were “bogus charges” that the customers never authorized in the first place. According to the FTC, T-Mo received somewhere between 35-40 percent of the total amount charged for these text subscriptions, which typically cost around $9.99 per month.

“It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

Perhaps worse than the amount being charged is the allegation made that T-Mobile’s billing practices made it difficult for customers to see that they were being charged, and certainly couldn’t tell who was charging them. Bills – allegedly – weren’t showing that they were being charged by a third party, and didn’t show that it was for a recurring subscription.

“The heading under which the charges would be listed, “Premium Services,” could only be seen after clicking on a separate heading called “Use Charges.” Even after clicking, though, consumers still could not see the individual charges.”

The complaint also alleges that T-Mobile’s full phone bills, which can be longer than 50 pages, made it nearly impossible for consumers to find and understand third-party subscription charges. After looking past a “Summary” section as well as an “Account Service Detail” section, both of which described “Usage Charges” but did not itemize those charges, a consumer might then reach the section labeled “Premium Services,” where the crammed items would be listed.

This news comes not long after T-Mobile announced a program in which it would start repaying its customers for any fraudulent premium texts they were charged for. A move it indicated it would be making months earlier, in November last year. It also comes shortly after we found out that T-Mobile will be offering simpler billing for its customers to make them easier to understand and see charges broken down in an easy-to-find manner.

The FTC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks a court order to permanently prevent T-Mobile from adding this kind of charges to bills, and to refund customers affected. Something which T-Mobile has already stated – back in November – that it will be stopping.

We’ve reached out to T-Mobile for a comment on this and will update the post when we get one.

Source: MarketWatch

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  • Steve Hester

    I check mine every month, never seen one, but that’s just me

    • Rose Yvette Mosher

      Same here. My bill has only went down in price since i got with them (90 cents lol but ill take it!) and nothing is ever out of the ordinary. Unless this tweet is relating to their “Regulatory Programs Fee $1.61” charge

  • Craig

    Never had a bogus charge with T-Mobile. Now when I was with AT&T for about 1 year, I had to call them at least 4 times to have bogus charges removed from my bill.

  • sushimane

    That’s a lie t-mobile goes into detail with charges. The one people should watch out are the other big carriers

  • Chris

    The only thing I can think of is EVERY time I buy a new phone, without fail, they put the damn insurance on it even tho I tell them several times not to. I just found on my last bill that I had been paying insurance on a phone for over a year that I didn’t want. I called them immediately and they refunded all 14 months of insurance.

    Other than that, haven’t had any weird charges.

    • Verizonthunder

      Just curious did you ever check your bill monthly?

      • Chris

        Yes, but it was the same every month, so I didn’t realize it was 10 over

        • Verizonthunder

          I never trust a bill and I look to make sure no surprises, same goes for bank statements. I would from now on keep tabs on your bill it will save the drama but glad you got your refund

        • Chris

          Yes I will do that :) It was the same time my mom got her upgrade. I knew the bill was going up since it was the 0 down and X per month, and I just was stupid and didn’t do the math right. I was very impressed they refunded all those months. I was only going to try to get 1 or 2 months back. We didn’t use the insurance of course so that’s probably why.

    • Jesse James

      you are an idiot for paying for it for a year before you realized, but I guess you just have money to burn

      • Chris

        Wow thanks for calling me an idiot. Glad to know I have more money than you.

        We had just upgraded, and I knew the bill was going to be higher, so the increase in payments was not unexpected.

    • Spanky

      Happened to me several times when I was with TMo. I specifically declined insurance every time I upgraded and still found insurance charges added to every post-upgrade bill. I always check my bills, so I’d quickly call TMo and have the charges removed. However, that doesn’t make the practice any less shady.

      • TheCudder

        If I’m not mistaking T-Mobile forces the handset protection by default. You have to manually cancel it after purchasing the device.

        • Spanky

          I don’t know about that. It didn’t always happen, but every time it happened, it was at the same store. If, however, T-Mobile does force PHP, it’s a ridiculous practice and needs to be done away with.

        • 21stNow

          It depends on what you mean by default. Some (all?) reps filled out their right-fit forms in advance with the insurance option checked off already. I noticed this and not only crossed out and initialed this selection, I wrote a comment stating that this should not have happened and I didn’t appreciate the practice.

          I’ve never had insurance on any of my devices and I’ve never had to remove the charge.

        • MissT

          As a former T-mobile rep I can assure you that it is not on there by default. We add it regardless if you like it or not so we could keep our jobs. At least at the location I worked at thats how it was and our managers knew about this and did not care as long as the metrics were being met.

    • Alex

      As a t-mobile rsa, I will tell you it’s not on there by default. It’s because the company expects all they’re reps to have insurance/jump on 90% of the devices we sell. Thats a ridiculous standard to have and we all know no where near 90% of people will want insurance so some will just put it on there anyways to keep their job. It’s shady for sure, but that’s how it is. And no it’s not for commission, most could care less if you take it off the next day, but as long as it’s on there for one day it counts towards the 90%. Same goes with extra high speed data…

      • Chris

        Well that freaking sucks. They do it every time.

  • Tuba101

    How uncarrier of them to have “bogus charges” lol

    • x646x

      Speaking of uncarrier, once you run the numbers, Uncarrier is a not a good deal for the user is just pure profit for the carriers, who no longer need to have any skin in the game. It’s no wonder that Verizon and AT&T jumped into uncarrier so quickly.

      Prior to uncannier, yes we were in a contract but were able to cancel for various reasons and leave the contract without paying any fee. Today, we have to pay out the MSRP of the handset – no exceptions.

      Lets say you decide to cancel your phone service after one month. Under the old contract approach, you’d pay a disconnection fee ($200) + promotional handset rate ($199). So under this scenario, $400 + tax you would be your cost. With the equivalent scenario under uncannier, I have to pay $660 + tax. Sure, it’s ‘not a contract’ but who gives two hoots, as I need to look at what I am paying out of my pocket.

      Heck, you could make some cash reselling handsets purchased on sale and could turn over a hundred in profit. That’s gone now, as we are paying MSRP – no matter what.

      • Justin747

        The difference with T-Mobile now though is you have options of getting a phone where you choose and getting a discounted plan when compared. T-Mobile is trying to act purely as a service provider by separating the plan from the phone purchase.

        You scenario is extremely rare and silly seeing as every carrier has a return policy. Who cancels service a month after signing up? If you don’t like your services, return everything and get a refund. No excuses here.

        This has been explained a million times so I won’t waste my time here. Just Google it. It baffles me that people still don’t understand the math behind plans + phones.

      • Justin747

        Google the price of a T-Mobile plan offer the course of 2 years with full MSRP phone prices

        vs

        the cost of the other carriers with discounted phone prices over 2 years.

      • This is only true if you patronize the CDMA plantation. The rest of the world carry their GSM phone bought from one carrier over to another GSM carrier, no problem.

  • Dakota

    So you still think Tmobile is your friend? Just the friendly neighbor trying to help you out?

    • Paul

      I don’t have these charges on my bill, so yes I’m still happy with T-Mobile.

      • corona10

        Me either, mines unlimited.

    • Paul

      Seems you trolled too soon:
      – All carriers have this issue, T-Mobile was just pointed out in this one.
      – T-Mobile officially announced ” In fact T-Mobile stopped billing for these Premium SMS services last year and launched a proactive program to provide full refunds for any customer that feels that they were charged for something they did not want.”
      – Also, just to drive this homerun in and kill the trolls;
      http://www.tmonews.com/2013/11/t-mobile-ending-premium-text-message-billing-in-order-to-fight-fraud/
      As posted by Tmonews last year.

  • Dakota

    Happy to be at Straight Talk… Paying 46.52 AFTER fees (no tax) & 3 gb of LTE

    • Paul

      Bless yer heart. Why not try trolling in the Disney forums for a bit? You aren’t ready for the big leagues.

  • Paul

    I do check my bill for any inconsistencies, especially since the taxes vary monthly. I’ve never noticed an additional charge I wasn’t able to confirm or weren’t expected. Then again, I’ve had unlimited messages for forever it seems.
    Hopefully this is remedied quickly. The other carriers had better be cautious about exploiting this seeing as they too have been accused of ridiculous charges not that long ago.

  • HothTron

    And people wonder why I don’t have my bills on “auto pay”?

    • Paul

      This is a great point. I don’t either.
      People should also read the bills and see what they are being charged for.

    • Jesse James

      auto pay itself is a scam!!!!!!!!!!! I’d rather look at my bill and then decide I’m paying it instead of authorizing anyone to take whatever money out my account they feel like it.

    • thepanttherlady

      Reminds me of this story where a woman was found dead in her home after more than 5 years. No one realized anything was wrong because apparently she had all her bills paid via auto pay. :

      http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/07/us/michigan-mummified-body-found/

  • chuey101

    never had this issue. has anyone?

    • Nearmsp

      me.

  • SEBA

    That’s why John tweeted “I am on a conference call now the same way most people in world are… With Argentina/Switzerland Match and on mute!”

  • Jeremiah McCurry

    Drive that stock price down to save Sprint a few dollars.

    • Jesse James

      Since they aren’t offering the exact stock price, your post is meaningless. thank you try again

      • Jeremiah McCurry

        It would matter if the stock rose above a hypothetical offer. Thank you very much.

        • Jesse James

          maybe, but you are just a troll trying to bring up the sprint deal when the issue itself is something totally different.

  • Rep

    I will add a sales rep perspective to the mix….

    Being in retail stores for the past couple years I have run into the “premium charges” a lot. If I had to estimate the ones I personally helped, it would be in the thousands. A percentage of them were downloads (Google Play), some were T-Mobile TV or music service; while a large percentage had no idea they were being billed. I would generally offer to submit a refund for a couple months for our customers (especially if they were being billed for more then 3 months). For the most part, they would understand at some point they signed up for this service with their number accidentally.

    I do know for a fact T-Mobile does NOT sign them up “just because”. In each scenario you have to submit your phone number online or via text to receive “free horoscopes” or “free wallpapers” which then after 30 days will start billing your T-Mobile account. To be clear, this can be done at ANY postpaid carrier (one perk of having a billed service is the fact you can “add” services to it like a download). Also, I would like to argue these customers were NOT checking their bill nor taking the responsibility of knowing how their actual bill should be. To me, that is irresponsible. Do not blame the company for your ignorance.

    Now to the juicy part. Did T-Mobile know about this? Very likely. They were receiving these premium charges on the bill and anyone from accounting 101 could see a ginormous influx in that category. It also was going on for several years. To be fair, if you wanted these blocked you would have to block all premium and 3rd party charges (which is usually fine with most customers) but others do use the service to bill apps/games/etc. Should T-Mobile have stopped these sooner? Absolutely. Should they receive props for at least doing this now? Absolutely.

    For the record, I always told my customers I should have invented the bogus 3rd party subscriptions because I would not be here right now, rather on my private beach with a cold one.

    • Cam Bunton

      It’s the same in the UK. I had the same issue when I worked for T-Mo here. So many people wondering how they started getting horoscope texts when “they never subscribed”.

      I’m interested to see how T-Mobile responds to this. I’ve reached out for comment.

    • tenured rep

      Sales rep of many years here to back you up… You absolutely should read your freaking bill before blindly paying it.

      With that said starting a few years ago I began to notice an uptick in these “other charges” we just shrugged it off, submitted refunds, disallowed ALL services like this (yes we can do that) and began to proactively put the free “block content sub” feature on every customers account to hopefully prevent it.

      I remember a while back seeing an internal memo about T-Mobile was going to start cracking down on these kinds of services and to my knowledge has because I haven’t seen any in a while…

      What’s going on here is standard practice in the industry – why they’re choosing to target T-Mobile I have no idea… **UNLESS*** there’s proof of T-Mobile being complicit in the fraud… if so? That’s messed up and wrong and there needs to be punishment. But if not? I never got the inkling of there being anything fraudulent going on other than people not reading their damn bills.

    • JointhePredacons

      So its the usual thing. An idiot clicking on things they don’t understand then crying about being charged for it. Typical

  • dkbnyc

    Has anyone here been effected by this or know someone who has? Must be AT&T making the allegations.

    • Nearmsp

      I was repeatedly charged for some ridiculous amount. I complained to T-mobile they said nothing can be done by them. I need to call the third party and the US laws allows third parties to send us charges. Finally I removed all 4 of our lines from internet messaging and third party charges to prevent this happening. I knew at that time, T-mobile was profiting from such activity. People should go to jail for defrauding millions of Americans, regardless which wireless provider knowingly allowed this to happen.

    • Spanky

      It was only a matter of time until someone made this comment! Smh…

  • Loganopolis Jammyjamjamjam Bop

    all carriers did this. the question is which carrier paid for this prick job to be a story

  • vinnyjr

    Looks like AT&T has a blow boy at AP to spread this bull shit story. T-Mobile is #1 with me and no bull shit made up fabricated so called news story can change my opinion. Thank You T-Mobile for the fastest and most reliable Service in the US.

    • Spanky

      If T-Mobile was the most reliable service, they’d be the no. 1 carrier. Cut down on the Kool-Aid.

  • Jesse James

    I’ve been charge a few times by scams and every time i did I called Tmo and they took the charges off. No harm. If people were scammed and didnt catch it, that is your fault for not paying attention to what you are paying for, not T-mobile

    • Kevin

      No Dummy. It’s T-Mobile fault for scamming people in the first place.

      • Justin Merithew

        It’s not them scamming people, the article even says it’s 3rd party charges.

        • Jesse James

          wait someone else read the article? NICE.

        • Justin Merithew

          Reading comprehension ftw!

      • Jesse James

        explain how Tmobile themselves scammed people? In fact if you read the article you would learn that months ago t-mobile was refunding people who did get scammed and wasn’t caught. Since you don’t like to read let me sum up what Tmobile is being accused of. Making the bill unclear what you were getting charged for, which just meant if you didn’t know what the charge was for all you had to do was call CS and it would of been taken care of.

      • Spanky

        Only AT&T and Verizon scam people. T-Mobile is a benevolent corporation whose only goal is to act in the best interest of the consumer.
        /sarcasm_off

  • D Nice

    Amen I noticed this. Thought it was just me.

  • Pauly Shore

    All the good pr has turned in a constant rotation of bad pr…

    Is this the beginning of the end?

  • Scot

    People are full of shit….it shows on the bill and includes the phone number to call if you want a refund.

    • GinaDee

      Oh wonderful. That must make this okay then, right?

      If the FTC has to step in then you know it’s not just an accident. T-Mobile knew they were doing this and got caught.

      Probably using this revenue to offset the ETF payments they were issuing out.

      • Bob Barker

        That just makes too much sense, your going to make op’s head explode…
        Don’t you have any sense of humanity? ;p

      • JoeDaniel

        Don’t just assume the worst, FTC always steps in when people file lawsuits, that doesn’t mean anything… not every investigation leads to wrongdoing… I’ve used this service legitimately many times and really enjoy it. There’s always some fraud out there, no doubt, but as someone who works in a bank (and has for ten years) and constantly has people yelling about debit card charges they forgot they did, I would never, for a second, believe that all of the fraud people are claiming really is actually fraud.

  • D_Wall__

    Going to check my bill right now…

  • mreveryphone

    Checking bill… Unchecking AUTOPAY!!!

    • JoeDaniel

      this has nothing to do with auto-pay, it’s when you give another company the right to bill your t-mobile account.

      • mreveryphone

        Oh I know… There’s nothing wrong with being safe these days

        • JoeDaniel

          True, I mean I don’t like doing auto pay either, but partially because I don’t always have the money lol… but it’s good incase you do get fraudulent charges.. you could always set reminders on your phone in something like Google Calendar if you forget, or just get e-mail alerts lol

    • Adrayven

      It’s not t-mobile directly, it’s another company that gets initial approval to charge you FROM YOU.. They make it sound like T-mobile did it, but it’s not.. and my understanding T-mobile was already moving to put a stop to it..

      I’ve never let anything use SMS for any pay-service.. so I’ve never had an issue.

      What really they are after is the ‘profit’ amount t-mobile got from these services from the past. Seriously, this is a political grab really.. most of the people they are ‘hoping to refund’ probably won’t see much of it back. Ironicly, they won’t be going for the thieves themselves.. the free horoscope and movie texting companies themselves..

      Why? because they closed up shop with money in hand and all the FTC can do is blame T-mobile.. ANY prepay phone is subject to this issue though.. not just T-mobile..

      • Roger Sales

        The thing is, a lot of apps that have fees associated with subscription often have free trials that people end up using, and they make it clear that if you do not explicitly cancel they will start billing after the free trial. That ends up being these “bogus” charges – customers that don’t have foresight as to what they are doing on their phone when they use certain apps even temporarily.

        • kalel33

          I used to see these premium SMS all the time and what you describe was never an issue with customer’s bills. I’m sure they’re out there but what you state is only 1% of premium SMS.

      • Tina

        These charges come from places like the ones that tell you text ###### to ###### for a ring tone. if u go to the site directly, you will see the fine print, if u send one text you are authorizing the whatever monthly charge is. This is what is charged on your phone bill every month. In short, dont download any crazy frog ring tones, lol!

      • kalel33

        They don’t get permission from you in many cases. I had one on my T-mobile home phone and it didn’t even get text messages.

  • JoeDaniel

    I can’t tell you how many people call my bank yelling about debit card charges they just forgot about, it is BS in most cases… most of the time they just yell that it’s fraud and when I tell them where the charge is from they say “oh ok”… problem is it shows on your bill so much later that it’s easy to forget, especially when it just shows up as “premium services”… I use this to link to the stores on my PS3 and PS4 so I don’t have to link a credit card and I really like having that ability… I mean there’s always some legitimate fraud going on, no doubt, but most of the time this is people just being unaware and immediately blaming T-Mobile for it… Meanwhile people who enjoy the service are going to suffer now because of it… They should just make people opt-in to have the ability!

  • Rick

    Every carrier has, is, or will go through this. Subscription services for third parties, their own partners, etc. plague the industry and have since the beginning of SMS. If the FTC can show that TMO is doing this deliberately (extending or renewing either ignoring subscriber instructions or knowingly letting billers reinstate without authorization) then there will be some embarrassment, but most of these premium services are either pure scams or rely on inattention. SMS premiums in particular are commonly found when a user installs an app that quietly enrolls them, whether disclosed or not.

    My bill is short, but I have no sympathy for users that fail to read their bill at least twice a year. C’mon, guys.

  • Mad As Hell

    Where’s my refund, Frenchie????

  • James

    im not surprised, my bill is different each month and when I call tmobile they never can give me an answer for the extra charges, thats why im going to cricket next month

    • Jesse James

      if they can’t tell you what the charges are then demand they take them off. Simple.

  • Haverhill_John

    This happened to me years ago. When I called the second time I told tmobile to never charge me for one of these services again. It happened like this, someone in my family got a text asking a question, the fact that they responded gave the sender permission to charge you for a non existent service.

  • Tmo1082

    Sounds like the federal regulator who is alleging this is in AT&T or Verizon’s back pocket. I have had nothing but great a experience with T-Mobile since I switched from AT&T and anytime I had a problem T-Mobile is quick to correct it if the problem is their fault. I also have never had a surprise bill or a bill that didn’t make sense after I talked to a T-Mobile rep about the issue. The federal regulator who is alleging this should go after AT&T and Verizon for the data overage fees that they don’t tell you about until your about to go over or after you go over your limit.

    • 21stNow

      That would be on those customers if they don’t get notified. Verizon Wireless allows you to get notifications from VZW once you reach 50% of your data allotment for the month. I think that AT&T does this, as well. If you choose not to get the notifications or ignore them, that’s on you.

    • yaby1979

      You sound really moronic. Really.

    • kalel33

      Verizon tells you the data usage at 50%, 75%, 90%, and 100%

  • CrazyEyes

    T-Mobile has its issues for sure but my bill has never been one of them. In 13 years I have never had erroneous charges on my account. Just sayin.

    • kalel33

      As a former rep for many years, you are lucky.

  • shadlom

    Fishy, just trying to take down tmo!

  • Stan

    Auto-Pay has always been a scam. The same as cable companies over charging people with auto-pay. Gym memberships do the same with all of a sudden yearly maintenance fees without telling you in advance. The best thing you all can do is what I do. Register your t-mobile bill with your bank and pay through your mobile bank app once T-Mobile emails you your bill. It’s safe and you can dispute any extra charges they tack on before you pay.

  • Justin Merithew

    The thing I find funny about this blowing up today is the fact that they released a statement on 6/10 announcing a refund program for issues like this, after blocking charges like this from occurring again in November. T-Mobile is already fixing the problem, which was caused by third parties, not themselves

  • Maximus

    This is all a bunch of crap. Blaming T-Mobile for “bogus” charges is like blaming Bank of America for people getting interest-only loans. T-Mobile has no way of knowing whether or not someone legitimately requested the “premium” services or not. Is it really their responsibility to check in with all their customers to see if they meant to purchase those services? If you make poor, uninformed choices as a consumer then you should pay the price.

    • Ky

      T-mobile should share some of the blame. They make it possible for these Third parties to charge these premium services after all. No effort at the time to limit these crooks from repeatedly charging consumers. Yes, we all could individually could hunt down these charges one by one as I have done. At least T-Mobile finally decided to rectify the situation once and for all by blocking these charges all together – that was the right choice. A good analogy are credit card companies – if you are going to let people charge your customers – have a process in place to handle to perform proper due diligence by investigating repeated fraudulent offenders and blocking them permanently. Only then are you not “responsible”.

      • philyew

        Ironically, support for service recharging of this sort was a requirement from the FCC upon all carriers.

        It was manageable when the only way that people could get your mobile number was when you called them up, but in recent years there have been plenty of scams, to which the federal authorities have turned a blind eye, that have had the prime purpose of putting a name to a mobile number and/or teeing up the imposition of unwarranted premium charges.

        This isn’t the first time, however, that TM have been accused of profiting from this abusive trade. The lowest point came after the AT&T failure when TM started to refer customers to the third party to obtain reimbursement. I was one of the lucky ones who got a direct refund from TM right before that policy was imposed.

        I don’t see anything here which differentiates TM from any of the other carriers regarding this policy, other than TM’s already stated intention to fix abuses and the fact that their billing data is reached through a series of drill down queries.

        It would be a sad reflection on the politicization of the federal process, if the only reason that the FTC is able to make this accusation against TM, rather than the industry as a whole, is because they provide a sophisticated billing interface.

  • I’ve never seen any of these charges on my bill.

  • HothTron

    I would like to post a link to my current bill to see exactly what these “extra” charges are, but you guys won’t allow linking here. What, do you hate the internet mods?

    http://imgur.com/hKB0Qe3

  • Michaelk706

    Maybe you should post John’s reply to this…

    • Jeffrey Wang

      His reply will probably be something like this:

      “These allegations are SHIT and we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

    • Jeffrey Wang

      Hmm… that was indeed his response.

  • HothTron

    I see nothing out of ordinary http://imgur.com/hKB0Qe3

  • WK80

    My wife got these charges on her bill about 14-16 months ago. I called CS, they removed the charges, and blocked future ones. No problem.

  • JaswinderSinghJammu

    I have had charges that showed up for certain things and called tmobile and they were taken care off

  • Paul

    Umm, if you call these charges “bogus,” then other companies’ charges must be called “highway robbery.” But seriously, do people not even read their monthly bills? Wow. Maybe they deserve it as the stupidity charge.

  • Jeffrey Wang

    Actually, I was refunded an extra 5¢ for bogus premium SMS charges proactively. So this comes as a shock to me. Looks like the consumers didn’t bother asking T-Mobile…

  • Guest

    I’ve never had this issue and been with them since the PowerTel days

  • VC

    Never seen quite so much anti-consumer garbage posted in one place. Yes there are a lot of people out there who don’t pay much attention to their bill but that doesn’t give anyone the right to illegally profit off of it. It also doesn’t give Tmobile, Verizon, etc. the right to make it easier for them.

    • kalel33

      Verizon and AT&T cut out those charges long ago.

  • Guest

    It seems a little fishy that this happens at a time when T-Mobile is surpassing AT&T in new subscribers and is coming out ahead of or equal to Verizon in network speed test’s and T-Mobile seems to have cleaned up these issues a while back and both AT&T and Verizon seem to have done the same thing before.

  • AK

    I had a $2.80 premium sms charge on my bill about 2 months ago.

  • This just in: people who reply to emails from Nigerian princes also reply to texts from Nigerian princes.

    • kalel33

      I had one of these on my home phone, through T-mobile, which wasn’t even able to get text messages.

  • billy mayor

    Your article says it all. Tmobile makes it difficult on their website to figure out the maze to locate fragmented titles for the bogus charges. FTC should be getting out the can of whoop azz on that one too. Tmobile will really have to cut out the shadiness.

    I had to help a friend who accidently clicked on a tmobile banner ad conveniently placed next to the menu button. If you accidently tapped the banner ad, it automatically added 1.50 a month to your bill without confirmation.

  • t moible is lying

    T-MO’ BILL
    The backlash against T-Mobile in the US is officially underway

    It feels like just last month, TMobile CEO John Legere accused Verizon and AT&T of “raping” (ugh) its customers and that “the fuckers hate you”.

    In a complaint filed today, the Federal Trade Commission is charging mobile phone service provider T-Mobile USA, Inc., with making hundreds of millions of dollars by placing charges on mobile phone bills for purported “premium” SMS subscriptions that, in many cases, were bogus charges that were never authorized by its customers…

    The FTC alleges that T-Mobile received anywhere from 35 to 40 percent of the total amount charged to consumers for subscriptions for content such as flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip that typically cost $9.99 per month. According to the FTC’s complaint, T-Mobile in some cases continued to bill its customers for these services offered by scammers years after becoming aware of signs that the charges were fraudulent.

  • fentonr

    This is total BS. I’m not saying that the charges aren’t crap or that they didn’t exist, I’m just saying that in the summarized paper bill customers receive, it says exactly who was charging for these premium services. I also find it hard to believe that T-Mobile was adding these charges to customer accounts. Seems more likely that the third party was and T-Mobile was just the go between.

    Either way, the part that makes me angry is that MONTHS after T-Mobile has said they’re going to stop allowing these charges, simplify billing AND refund customers these charges, the FTC decides that is when they will sue to get the funds back that T-Mobile is already returning. Good use of money FTC. Might have been helpful back before T-Mobile discontinued these, now, you’re just wasting tax payer money.

    • cwa1979

      Makes you angry???? Get a life.

  • MoeizW

    My family has been with T-Mobile for 10+ years. This past year l took over, and I noticed my father’s line was getting these $9.99 premium SMS charges for a few months. I called T-Mo and the rep explained to me that third-party scammers send texts to phone numbers randomly, hoping to get a response and thereby allowing the premium charges to begin. The rep explained to me that T-Mo was definitely getting a cut of the charge, but that the process was initiated by the third-party and they had no way of stopping it.

    I investigated my father’s phone and sure enough, I found the original text and my father’s response dated the month before the charges show up on the bill.

    I’m convinced that this is the cellular phone equivalent of the ‘Nigerian prince’-type email scams, and therefore more likely to work with the older generation of folks who don’t quite know how to avoid these new-ish technology-based scams. I’m also convinced that this could and would have happened if my family was with another carrier, depending whether or not these third-party scammers have a preference for T-Mo numbers or hit each carriers equally.

    Note: I’m in no way affiliated w/ T-Mo other than being a long-time customer.

    • kalel33

      That T-mobile rep lied to you. They can stop the subscription. I did it all the time when I was a rep but when the AT&T acquisition attempt happened, they no longer wanted us to refund the charges and only block if the customer pushed for it.

      • stopyourmouth

        I am with T-Mobile and also was during the ATT thing…at NO TIME did t-mobile ever say not to refund these charges, quit making shit up!

        T-Mobile has ALWAY had a policy to refund premium charges that were not authorized!

        The big problem here is that people are saying they didn’t authorize the charges, but they are forgetting that they clicked the lin or replied to the text. They might not understand it but they DID AUTHORIZE the charges…just not in a way they understand.

        Anyone that says they work for t-mobile and they were instructed to NOT refund a customers money I will be happy to send you the online community article on the intranet that is STILL there showing otherwise

        • kalel33

          Look at my history and you’ll see I was a rep for almost 3 years there and YES they did change that policy. I don’t see any history on yours. Even my profile on T-mobile.com(which is also kalel33) is marked by the mods there as a former employee. I worked at the Wichita Kansas customer service center and yes they did change that policy during the attempted acquisition. T-mobile wanted to suck as much money from customers as possible before the sale. That’s why there was so many anti-consumer policy changes and the pushy sales tactics.

          Also, you can get those charges for signing up for sweepstakes, Facebook quizzes, coupons, ringtones, etc. Surprised that someone who states they know so much about subscriptions knows very little about how you can get them. I even got one on my T-mobile home phone, which can’t even text. Huh, that can’t be right because you stated I’d have to reply to a text.

          Last question. Why are you calling it the “intranet”. If you actually worked there then you’d call it T-community.

      • MoeizW

        I just read T-Mo’s press release and it included that they stopped the subscriptions after last year, so I guess you’re right about what that rep said re: their ability to stopping it.

        When you were a rep, were you getting the sense that it was mostly older people having the problem? I remember getting texts to start a subscription over the last couple of years, but I never responded.

        • kalel33

          It was everyone, with no specific demographic that was more susceptible than another. You could do a Facebook quiz and get one. You could put yourself into a sweepstakes and get one. Download a free ringtone from online and you were guaranteed to get one. You could sign up for coupons and get a $9.99 subscription to horoscopes. They’d put it in very fine print about the subscription. The companies did/do some pretty shady methods of getting you on a subscription. Also, if someone signed up for something and put a random phone number down and that phone number was yours then you were screwed. There were quite a few people who didn’t even text or sign up for things online that incurred those charges and I bet someone just changed a few numbers on something they signed up for.

  • OnlineRefugee

    Those who think there’s no merit to this case, think again. I assure you the government does not go after businesses unless there’s substance to the charges. The govt. is just like you or I, they don’t like to lose cases.

    If this case was a close call or questionable, the FTC would not have filed it.

    And charges are not filed until AFTER the govt. does a complete investigation, has thousands of complaints, and has the evidence to prove the case.

    Sidenote: Is there a company yet that has not said at the beginning of a case that “there’s no merit to the charges or the case.” (And by the way, so too are all felons in prison innocent, not a single convict committed the crime and are all wrongfully incarcerated.)

    T-Mobile, like other businesses, sought to take advantage of the SCOTUS gutting private class actions and litigation. Everything is now subject to individual arbitration. That means businesses can cheat consumers without being held accountable.

    It is now up to govt. agencies to go after businesses, since customers don’t have the time or inclination to go after a company like this over a $100 claim. Corporations can now pocket billions in stolen money and laugh all the way to the bank.

    For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, check out a case called “Concepcion v. AT&T Mobility.” That was the beginning of the end to consumers protecting themselves from activity like this.

    • Trust No One

      Cool Story. Just like we trusted govt to put our peoples best interest in foreign policy? I’m not siding with either side let them hash it out.

      From my personal experience I call if my bill looks unusually out of wack, I can’t recall in the past 5 years something like this happening to me. So based on that I’m waiting before I pass judgement.

  • OnlineRefugee

    Watch for the eventual headline: “T-Mobile settles FTC suit for $100 million, but says not an admission of fault, just wants to avoid the expense of litigation.”

  • A Guy

    I worked at TMO for about 6 months and these SMS things were a problem. If possible we would request the funds to refunded to the account. The problem with these is that it is not TMO cramming or slamming anyone with them. Kids get ahold of phones, People don’t read the fine print of what they are signing up for. These things happen. We would also block those services from the phone. Years ago when I was with Verizon I had a $400 cellphone bill because my wife had subscribed to horoscopes and text trivia. Each time it sent a text to her phone it charged us $10.

    However the consumer has to take some accountability into the things they download and utilize on their phones. So for TMO to be sued is pretty comical. I am pretty sure there will be a settlement. And John Doe will laugh him self to the bank with his 1.99 check.

  • tech916

    F you tmobile hope their is a class action. You charged me for bogus charges, You sell my phone numbers to Debt Collectors even though you claim I have been an excellent customer for 6 years.

  • OnlineRefugee

    About three years ago I ended my 8 year relationship with T-Mobile because they used a “bait and switch” scam on me. That was the last straw (see below for other incidents).

    Bait and Switch

    I had ordered two new phones, The then-new HTC One, something like that. To sell me on the idea of signing a new two year contract, they would give me the two HTC Ones for free. T-Mobile also agreed to $10 on each line for 5 GB data.

    In the afternoon I received a text message and e-mail confirming the deal. But buried in the message – I would be paying $25 for 5 GB data on each line.

    I called T-Mobile in the afternoon to talk about the inconsistency. I remember where I was when I called, standing outside a Target store. The CSR rudely said his records did not indicate the $10 deal. He said I must have heard wrong. Of course, having no proof, I was stuck, as the CSR well knew.

    The CSR’s tone was condescending, implying I was a liar, and making the whole thing up. He also implied I must be financially desperate for trying to work T-Mobile over for $10.

    Despite my being long-term loyal customer the CSR rudely refused to give me the $10 deal. The CSR thought I wouldn’t do anything about it. When I said to close the accounts he thought I was bluffing. He cavalierly responded “OK, I’ll close em for ya.” He didn’t try to save the account. (This was about the time that T-Mobile customer service started its rapid decline. Many people on the T-Mobile boards were telling about how CSRs were not making any effort whatsoever to retain accounts.)

    Impossible To Close Account

    Despite closing the accounts, the CSR lied about doing so. It actually took five days and five calls to finally get a supervisor to close down the two lines. (All I can figure is that T-Mobile’s quarterly numbers were due in about five days, and the CSRs were under orders to keeps accounts active until after the quarter ended, this so their numbers did not look so bad.)

    Or it could simply be that T-Mobile has petty, vindictive CSRs, which would be in line when an expose came out that certain T-Mobile customers were blacklisted. When those customers called they would not pick up the line, if talking to them, they would hang up the call mid sentence.

    MOBI TV – Evidence of Cramming

    A few years earlier, in 2010, I had an HTC HD2. I had tried out that Mobi TV, whatever it is called. I did not like it so I canceled before the 30 day trial period was up. Despite this, T-Mobile started charging me $10 monthly for the service. When I saw the charge on the bill I would call T-Mobile and each time they said they would cancel it, I got a $10 credit and all was well, or so I thought.

    Every two months for the next six months I had to call T-Mobile to again request they stop charging me tor Mobi TV. Each call they would (supposedly) remove the charge and I would get a $20 credit for two months service.

    IMO T-Mobile was cramming, what they are accused of here. To be sure, I assume many people were NOT like me, someone who would notice the charge on the bill. As it was, I called every couple months because I did not have time to deal with all this.

    And the $10 charge was exactly as alleged here, buried in the bill, something like on page six. And the bills were so confusing I had to look fairly close to notice the charge for services I was not using, and probably not available.

    Bottom Line

    Should a jury find for the Plaintiff FTC? Having experienced first hand T-Mobile’s bad acts, I’d vote yes if I was on that jury.

    After all desperate people do desperate things. T-Mobile numbers have always been
    dismal, so much so that it relies on trick and device to pick the pockets of customers at every turn, including phantom charges buried on page six of the bill, slamming, cramming, fraud, and even refusing to close accounts when requested by the customer.

    Just on delaying closing accounts how many extra millions does T-Mobile make by holding customers hostage.

    I assume the evidence will show T-Mobile is rotten to the core, masters at working every angle to fleece its customers.

    Also, if you search T-Mobile complaint in Google you will see thousands of hits and search results of people complaining about T-Mobile’s billing practices.

    Follow the money, follow the motive. For years T-Mobile was hurting, subscribers were leaving T-Mobile by the hundreds of thousands each quarter. That’s provides a strong motivation to cheat customers any which way it can.

    The current alleged wrongdoing is only an ice cube on top of the T-Mobile dishonesty iceberg. I hope that the FTC and U.S DOJ looks into all of T-Mobile’s conduct, not just the charges in this Complaint.

    I suspect these guys are dishonest as the day is long.

    P.S. I now use S… Talk prepaid (an MVNO carrier who uses AT&T towers), where I get 4G LTE 3 GB data and unlimited talk for $42 monthly. No contracts, no complicated bills, no cramming, absolutely no way to get cheated. (That’s why carriers like post-paid or complex monthly bills, carriers like T-Mobile can hide all their fraudulent conduct.

    • Wow great write-up. Alot of your issues are news to me and sucks you had to go through all this bullshit. I’m also thinking of jumping ship after my July billing cycle is up and just using Aio (Criket) $55 for 5gigs or MetroPCS’s trully unlimited $60 (yes I know it’s still T-Mobile).

      • OnlineRefugee

        Thanks for the nice words.

        And pardon all for my grammar errors and misspellings. I did not proof my comment. Sometimes I post with reckless abandon.

        Quail… you should look into all the various prepaids. There’s quite a few companies now, each offering competitive terms.

        I suggest a GSM prepaid because that allows you to BYOP (bring your own phone). All you do is buy that carrier’s SIM, insert into your current phone, you are good to go.

        There’s a number of GSM prepaids offering great prices. Check out Straight Talk , H2O, Red Pocket, and as you mention, Cricket.

        An advantage of these prepaid carriers is bill simplicity. All of them don’t even provide a bill because there’s nothing to bill. There’s a monthly charge, that you can pay each month manually, or for a slight discount, get $2 to $3 off the bill.

        I love it because I HATE monthly going through 150 pages of billings, which is the total that I get each month from the various utilities, credt card companies, etc. Some people say “Well, this isn’t T-Mobile’s fault, you should be looking at your bill.” That sounds OK, until one realizes that there’s 100 pages + to review each month.

        The nation’s populace should not be required to expend 400 million hours monthly reviewing their bills. (200 million citizens x 2 hrs. each to review monthly bills, including inserts companies like to include to sneak in new terms and conditions.)

    • Dr Haroun Abbas

      You sound like you’re leaving out key facts and details. I declare and call BS.

  • Phil

    You would think FTC would be focusing on Sprints lies and 10.00 premium data charge
    That 10.00 kicked in right after wimax went live customer upgrading to compat device aka premium .
    90% of their customer base was receiving minus edge data speed. The out right lied feeding customers major network upgrades were in progress you would he covered soon enjoying wimax speed aka premium data.

  • Justin

    I was hit with a fraudulent charge. I got a text asking if I wanted to sign up for “Fit Tips” . Then 1 second later I got a new text thanking me for the subscription. Then 1 second after that I got a message telling me to get more sun.

    I called T-mobile and asked if I was charged and she told me there was a charge for $9.99. I asked her to cancel and not let the charge go through. I was told she could not reverse the charge but ask for the company to refund. She then blocked my ability to text ANY short number to stop this from happening again, which sucks because I cannot send any text to a legitimate dealer. I never got the refund and after 3 months of constantly calling they finally refunded my $9.99.

  • Andre Dionne

    About a year ago, one of my phone lines had a premium charge on it, which I noticed because the bill was $10 more than usual. Took a look at the bill, and I was able to see clear as day the company it came from without digging. Asked my friend who had the line if she had initiated it, she said no. So I called up T-Mobile and they said they could cancel it immediately and refund the money. By the next bill, my money was refunded and there were no more charges.

    I realize this is just one case, but I have had absolutely no problems with how T-Mobile’s billing or customer service handled this kind of thing.