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AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile Will Stop Billing Problematic Third-Party Charges

November 21, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska – Attorney General Michael Geraghty announced today a major breakthrough in the fight against “mobile cramming” (unauthorized third-party charges appearing on mobile telephone bills). Three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers – AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile – will no longer charge their customers for commercial “premium short messaging services,” also known as PSMS, or premium text messages. PSMS accounts for the majority of third-party charges on cell phones and for the overwhelming majority of cramming complaints.

Alaska has participated as one of 45 states, led by Vermont, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Oregon, Texas and Washington, in discussions over several months with the mobile phone carriers to stop mobile cramming. 

“This is a significant step for cell phone users in Alaska and across the nation,” said Attorney General Geraghty. “Although PSMS has some benefits, especially in charitable giving, it is also a major component of the current mobile cramming issue."

Attorney General Geraghty went on to say, "We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have taken this step to protect consumers from having their hard-earned money diverted toward unnoticed and frequently unauthorized billing items put there by third parties, which often turn out to be scam artists. We hope other carriers will do the same. My office will continue to work with other states for industry reforms and to continue looking into any consumer complaints on behalf of Alaskans who may be victimized by cramming.” 

Cramming on cell phones and landlines is estimated to cost Americans $2 billion per year. In May, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell released a survey showing that 60 percent of third-party charges placed on the mobile phone bills of Vermonters were unauthorized, or “crammed.”

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are the second, third, and fourth largest providers of mobile telephone services nationwide. Two carriers have confirmed they will continue to allow charitable donations to be billed via PSMS.

Attorney General Geraghty also urged Alaskans to check their mobile phone bills for unexpected or unauthorized charges, and if they do not get satisfactory answers from their providers, to file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Unit of the Alaska Attorney General’s Office. Complaint forms are available on the Consumer Protection Unit website or by calling (907) 269-5200, or toll free, (888) 576-2529.

For questions about the development, please contact Assistant Attorney General Andy Harrington at (907) 451-2811.

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