ATT Fined $700k by FCC, Plus Asked for Refunds

Does AT&T owe you money? If you fit the criteria set forth by the FCC then you might be the lucky recipient of a refund from the telecom giant. The two-fold payment plan arranged between the Federal Communications Commission of the United States and AT&T includes a hefty fine payment of $700,000 and refunds to customers who were directly affected by what the FCC considered poor practices by the company.

The FCC began investigating AT&T last year after receiving a significant number of complaints regarding AT&T's practice of switching pay-as-you-go data customers to mandatory monthly data plans. During this time, certain customers we're supposed to be "grandfathered" into the new plans, retaining their pay-as-you-go data payments. However, the FCC found that the company was routinely converting people who upgraded devices, replaced devices through warranty or insurance, or even those who moved to new areas were being involuntarily switched to monthly data plans.

"Today's action sends a clear signal that wireless carriers can't wrongfully charge consumers,'' stated FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski "These strong FCC accountability measures will ensure customers are not over-charged. I am pleased that AT&T is taking the appropriate steps to resolve this issue."

The FCC encourages customers who believe they may be overcharged to thoroughly review their bills for erroneous charges and errors. AT&T for its part gave the announcement little attention, and spokesman Marty Richter stated that the agreement affected less than 0.03-percent of their customer base. He insisted that the changes were made inadvertently, and that the company had corrected the issue as far back as November 2010, and additionally that the majority of customers had already been refunded when they called to complain.

"Based on a review of our refund process, we believe a vast majority of those customers affected by the billing error have already been made whole," Richter said. "But as part of the decree we'll be providing a bill-page notice to affected customers, offering refunds, and giving them the option to return to a data pay-per-use plan, or to have a data block applied to their phone."

According to the agreement, AT&T will make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Department of Treasury in the amount of $700,000, and will begin refunding any customers who were eligible. Customers who meet the criteria may be eligible for up to $30 per month of incorrect billing. The agreement also includes a compliance program for customer notification, training of customer care representatives, and compliance reports to the FCC.

Source: FCC

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Kody Frazier

Kody Frazier is a freelance journalist focused primarily on mobile technology.