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AT&T ordered to pay $7.75 million for bogus directory assistance tools

Engadget Engadget 8/08/2016 Nathan Ingraham
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US wireless carriers are often the absolute worst, and today we're finding out yet another way that AT&T attempted to screw over its loyal customers. The FCC just released a statement noting that it reached a settlement with AT&T in which the carrier will pay $7.75 million after allowing scammers to charge $9 a month to unsuspecting customers for a "sham" directory assistance service. Adding insult to injury, it seems this service was set up as a tool to help launder money; the scam was originally uncovered by the DEA.

According to the FCC, AT&T received a fee each time this fraudulent service appeared on a customer's bill, but the so-called service provider never actually provided anything to these customers, most of which were small businesses.

Out of the $7.75 million AT&T is paying up, $6.8 million will go towards refunds and a paltry $950,000 will go to the US treasury as a fine. Given that AT&T pulled in $40.5 billion in revenue in its most recent quarter, it's a stretch to call that fine even a slap on the wrist.

This is hardly the first time US wireless carriers have gotten in trouble for such shady practices -- in 2014, AT&T itself paid a much larger $105 million settlement for cramming false charges onto its customers' bills. T-Mobile also paid $90 million in a 2014 settlement, while Verizon and Sprint paid $90 million and $68 million, respectively, last winter. Good news consumers: all four of the country's biggest carriers have been caught ripping off their customers. We're just hoping the FCC continues to pay close attention to these shady practices.


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