Updated 7/1 5PM PST with T-Mobile statement.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced today that it’s investigating complaints that T-Mobile billed its customers for millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party subscriptions and premium text-messaging services.
The FCC investigation comes on the heels of an announcement from the Federal Trade Commission that the FTC has filed suit against T-Mobile, charging that the carrier “crammed” charges for third-party services into the phone bills of millions of customers.
While the FTC can go to court and, if victorious, demand that the wireless carrier return millions to its customers, the FCC has the power to bring charges and fines against T-Mobile.
“Consumers should not be charged for services that they did not order,” said Travis LeBlanc, the acting chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in a statement today. “We will coordinate our investigation with the FTC, and use our independent enforcement authority to ensure a thorough, swift, and just resolution of the numerous complaints against T-Mobile.”
[Updated 7/1 5PM PST]
T-Mobile responded to the FTC lawsuit with a statement from its CEO John Legere late Tuesday:
“We have seen the complaint filed today by the FTC and find it to be unfounded and without merit,” Legere says. “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.”
“T-Mobile is fighting harder than any of the carriers to change the way the wireless industry operates and we are disappointed that the FTC has chosen to file this action against the most pro-consumer company in the industry rather than the real bad actors,” Legere says.
The FCC says that “numerous” T-Mobile subscribers have filed complaints with both the FCC and the FTC, alleging that unauthorized charges for unwanted third-party services were added to their bills.
The unwanted charges were for things like ringtones, wallpapers, and text message subscriptions to services providing horoscopes, flirting tips, and celebrity gossip.
During the past four years, the FCC says it’s taken nine enforcement actions against companies for cramming, and these have totaled more than $33 million in proposed fines to the U.S. Treasury.