A federal class action lawsuit says Verizon Wireless “crams” third-party charges into customers’ bills. “Cramming” is an industry term used to describe the practice of allowing unauthorized charges from third-party companies to be added to customers’ phone bills without verification of their authenticity. This often leaves consumers’ footing the bill for unauthorized and unwanted charges.
The Verizon Wireless class action lawsuit accuses the wireless provider of letting outside vendors sell horoscopes, sports scores and other third-party content to its subscribers on their mobile phones, but of having no way of knowing whether the purchases were authorized. This is because middlemen known as “aggregators” help mobile content providers “piggyback” on consumers’ phone bills. The consumer pays the wireless company, which then makes payment to the aggregator, which in turn remits funds to the content provider.
In addition to Verizon, the mobile cramming class action lawsuit names three mobile content providers as defendants, including SendMe, Inc. and Funmobile Games, Inc. SendMe operates WT411.com, a website that features news about celebrities for a monthly and allows users to leave comments and enter monthly contests for a monthly phone bill charge of $9.99. Funmobile Games sells ring tones, video games and wallpaper for downloading on mobile phones, and also operates hot-hot-news.com.
“[A] substantial part of mobile content ‘sales’ are effected through websites using misleading, oblique, or inadequately explained ‘consent’ procedures,” the Verizon class action says. “Defendants’ continued conduct in billing telephone subscribers for premium content, combined with their failure to implement a billing system that would ensure consumers who did, in fact, authorize charges for such services were billed for them, is a deliberate strategy by defendants to unlawfully collect small sums of money from a large number of consumers.”
Plaintiff John Considine claims in the Verizon Wireless class action lawsuit that the mobile content providers placed charges on his Verizon phone bill for services he did not order. The lawsuit says Verizon refused his requests to take the charges off his bill, which were virtually hidden because they were listed with indecipherable notations. The identity of the aggregator in Considine’s case remains unknown.
According to Considine’s lawyer, mobile content providers that obtain someone’s wireless number is tantamount to having their credit card number because it allows that person to be billed for products and services whether or not that person agreed to make the purchases.
The Verizon Wireless cramming class action lawsuit is alleging violations of the Consumer Fraud Act; the Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act; and unjust enrichment. The case is Considine v. Verizon Wireless, 2:11-cv-02461.