FTC investigating T-Mobile for Bogus Charges on Customer’s Bills

T-Mobile LogoThis one is news to me.

Apparently there’s a practice called “Cramming”. It’s where a carrier will charge customers for premium SMS services, even if the customer never used those services. Getting celebrity gossip, horoscopes, or any other subscription entertainment media via text often comes with additional charges.

640px-US-FederalTradeCommission-Seal.svgWell now the FTC is investigating T-Mobile’s relationship with these kinds of SMS based services, as new evidence might show that T-Mobile continued to bill customers for years after being made aware that some of these charges might be fraud. Why would T-Mobile do this? They get a pretty hefty cut of that Premium SMS fee.

What’s most troubling is these charges are often contested by subscribers who notice, but the maximum refund rate in any given month only approached about 40%. Which means most months, over 60% of these fraudulent charges were uncontested. The FTC is alleging that the UnCarrier’s billing practices made it more difficult for consumers to discover these kinds of charges. Their complaint seeks to permanently ban T-Mo from this kind of practice, and to seek refunds for customers affected.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Samsung Fined for HTC Smear Campaign

galaxy s4 real person review somegadgetguy comparison long term (5)Dammit Sammy. You should know better than this.

I know you’re the top dog right now, and the idea of slipping even a little can be terrifying considering how fast our current tech darlings become yesterday’s old news. I get it. Combined with the fact that the smartphone market is cooling off a little, I can totally see why you might want to shake things up a bit.

But not like this Samsung.

See I write about tech online. I have relationships with PR and with vendors and agencies. I have a small but loyal following of similarly-minded tech enthusiasts, and over years of producing in this space I’ve built up a little credibility. What you’ve done here Samsung is undermine all of that.

The internet is a skeptical place. I can’t praise or criticize anything without being accused of being a “fanboi” or being on a company’s payroll. The fact that you paid and organized writers to post negative commentary on your competitor’s products hurts our entire industry. The fact that you got caught is as unsurprising as it is tragic.

ATT HTC One Mini software update jelly bean 4_3This story just takes a somewhat insidious turn knowing that you’re picking on a MUCH smaller company. HTC is fighting to stay out of the red. Remember a time not long ago when Apple was the Big Bad, and you were fighting to get Galaxies into consumer hands. You were the underdog. It was charming when you were plucky. You aren’t anymore. You’re the new Big Bad. This just makes you look like a jerk, a bully.

I don’t even know if the FTC’s fine of $340,000 even registers on your bank sheet. That’s a blip in a market where you proudly announce 40 MILLION Galaxy S4 sales. All I know is that this makes me skeptical of anything nice written about your products. It makes me skeptical of negative reviews against your competitors.

If it makes me skeptical, I can only imagine how my readers must feel…