A federal judge on Friday preliminarily approved a class action lawsuit settlement with AT&T Inc. over allegations it illegally billed thousands of landline customers for third-party services they didn’t order, a practice known in the industry as “cramming.”
The AT&T cramming settlement will resolve a 2009 class action lawsuit, titled Nwabueze v. AT&T Inc., that alleges AT&T purchased accounts receivables from other billers, billed its customers for third-party services, took a cut of the collected money and gave the remaining money to the original services. According to the class action lawsuit, however, AT&T had no system in place to make sure the third-party charges were legitimate. This allowed companies to piggyback onto AT&T’s bills just by using a customer’s phone number, without having to prove that the customer actually owed them money.
AT&T denies wrongdoing, despite eliminating third-party billing on January 1, 2011.
The practice of cramming has come under fire in recent years, leading the FCC in April 2012 to pass new regulations requiring telephone companies to inform customers of their right to block third-party charges from their bills. The FCC also mandates that third-party charges appear separate from the telephone company’s charges on bills.
“Most consumers don’t know when there are crammed charges on their bills,” the FCC said in a statement. “Crammers often avoid detection by charging a small amount to each consumer — as little as $1.99 per month — or describing charges in a manner that makes them appear to be for services from the phone company.”
Under the AT&T landline cramming class action settlement, AT&T customers who were billed for third-party services from 2005 to the present will be able to file claims to receive a refund. Current AT&T customers will receive the refunds as phone-bill credits, while former customers will receive checks.
Details on how to file a claim for the AT&T third-party billing class action lawsuit settlement can be found in our Open Class Action Lawsuits section.
The AT&T Landline Cramming Class Action Lawsuit Settlement case is Nwabueze v. AT&T Inc., et al., Case No. 9-cv-01529, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
Plaintiffs are represented by Jeffrey F. Keller of Keller Grover LLP, John G. Jacobs and Bryan G. Kolton of Jacobs Kolton Chtd. and Michael W. Sobol and Jahan C. Sagafi of Leiff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP.
UPDATE: The AT&T landline class action settlement was approved at the Final Fairness Hearing but settlement distribution was delayed by an appeal filed by a single Class Member in December 2013. That appeal was voluntarily dismissed in March 2014, allowing the Settlement Administrator to begin processing claims and payments.
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