August 23, 2016
One would think by now, that those 800-pound gorillas, the big four carriers, would realize that doing nefarious activates like bill cramming is bound to get them caught. Even if these activities are done by third-parties. Well, we have another case where AT&T claims they didn’t know what was going on.
Here are the dirty details. AT&T has committed to refund $6.8 million, and pay nearly $1 million in fines in an investigation that involved both the FCC and the DEA. It arose from AT&T’s part in allowing unauthorized third-party billing in the telecom’s wireline business. While this isn’t a wireless segment issue, it goes to show that such activity crosses all business units.
In this particular case, AT&T allowed “scammers to charge customers $9 per month for a sham directory assistance service.” The firms are Discount Directory and Enhanced Telecommunications Services. The companies were allowed to bill thousands of consumers for a monthly directory assistance service through local AT&T landline phone bills, without ever providing any directory assistance services. What makes this deplorable is that AT&T received a fee from the companies for each charge placed on consumer bills. Really? AT&T, did you not have a clue as to what was going on?
To add insult to injury, the nefarious part is that, apparently, drug trafficking or money laundering was involved. That is why the DEA was the lead on this investigation, since the two companies mentioned above were being investigated for drug-related crimes and money laundering.
Oh, and BTW, this isn’t AT&T’s first such rodeo. In 2014, AT&T Mobility had to fork over to the FCC, $105 million in fines. That was related to bogus charges for third-party subscriptions and premium text messaging services.
And of course, this is just the latest in so many incidents by all the big players. I guess if these companies fail in underhanded business practices in one business unit, they might as well try another to see if it will work there.