Dear John Legere, stop blaming others and fix your own issues

July 3, 2014
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Several weeks ago, Android Authority wrote about T-Mobile issuing a statement proclaiming that they were being “proactive” in stopping ‘Premium SMS services’  all the while leaving out how T-Mobile (and others) have benefited from these same services for years.

Then two days ago, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint alleging that T-Mobile made hundreds of millions of dollars off these services and purposefully made it as hard as possible for consumers to get refunds from these services.

6272b494f51d5949_tmobile-samplebill.xxxlarge (1)T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere decided to respond to the recent complaint by blaming just about everyone else including the FTC, other carriers and the third party providers. In his response, Legere mentions that the “real bad actors” were getting off while T-Mobile was being “proactive” by stopping such services a year ago. He also lays blame on the FTC for “sensationalized legal action” and claims that the “entire industry” needs to make changes.

I agree with Legere that T-Mobile has made a number of pro-consumer and industry-changing moves since he took over T-Mobile. But, the notion that T-Mobile made immediate changes and has been simply looking out for the consumer is laughable and wrong.

First, T-Mobile has been engaged in this practice for years now. The FTC notes in the complaint that T-Mobile was involved in this scam from 2009 up until December of last year. But, a basic internet search can find a number of T-Mobile cramming stories dating all the way back to 2006.

In 2008, T-Mobile was involved with a class action lawsuit over wireless cramming charges where it was alleged that T-Mobile was continuing to allow third-party companies to charge customers for services that customers never requested.

“Defendant T-Mobile caused plaintiff Moore’s cellular phone to include the unauthorized charge of $9.99 per month for Ringazza, and similarly caused plaintiff Butler’s cellular phone bill to include the unauthorized charge of $9.99 for Flycell. In doing so, defendant T-Mobile omitted necessary information from plaintiffs’ cellular phone bills that was required by [California statute], including the means to contact the offending third-party company, such as a toll free number.” - RCRWireless

In 2010, the Florida Attorney General’s office had to threaten T-Mobile to get them to stop telling customers that cramming charges were “sales” by third parties and therefore not their own fault.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said T-Mobile will continue its practice of issuing credits and refunds to consumers for unauthorized charges for third-party mobile content subscription purchases. McCollum said a large number of complaints about cramming led to an investigation which revealed that thousands of Florida consumers had received these charges on their cell phone bills for mobile content downloads that they neither knowingly authorized nor wanted.

As part of the settlement, the company will pay a total of $600,000 to reimburse the state for the costs of its investigation and to help the Attorney General’s Office fund the efforts of the CyberFraud Section as it continues working toward similar reform across the industry. - Consumer Affairs

In 2012, a Baltimore Sun writer discussed his issues with T-Mobile adding over $350 worth of charges to his bill in not even a year.

I spent the better part of a recent staycation day on the phone with various people at the other end of 800 numbers, trying to figure out why my phone was being charged $19 here and $9.99 there, monthly, for “text alerts” and “text subscriptions” and “text trivia.”

The T-Mobile representative I spoke with on the phone said she could not refund me any money; she could only offer to block future texts. (I learned, by the way, that the block option was always there, but customers have to ask for it.) The T-Mobile representative gave me six 800 numbers to call, each of them to third-party companies that had charged me for unauthorized text messages. I was told I’d have to call each of them to demand a refund.

So that was fun. - Baltimore Sun

The writer eventually spoke to T-Mobile’s media relations department who gave him the same line that T-Mobile has given for years with wireless cramming.

“T-Mobile provides customers with the ability to purchase various services and products from certain third-party service providers (e.g., games, apps, ringtones, etc.) and have the charges for those services or products included on your T-Mobile bill. Third-party charges that appear on a customer’s wireless telephone bill are those charges that the customer affirmatively authorizes prior to the processing of the charge on the bill.” - Baltimore Sun

In fact, last year, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell announced that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile had struck an agreement with forty-five states to stop billing from these same Premium SMS services. In March of this year, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) sent letters to AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile warning them that they needed to crack down on wireless cramming.

“I am deeply disturbed by the FTC’s allegations that T-Mobile allowed millions of dollars in unauthorized charges to be crammed on consumer wireless bills,” said Rockefeller in a statement. “The FTC’s allegations only heighten my concern about the industry’s repeated assertions that voluntary oversight effectively protects consumers from cramming.” - Washington Post

Legere is absolutely correct that other carriers are as much to blame. AT&T tried to claim that they were not profiting off these services yet as a New York Times story notes, AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile made millions off these scams since the carriers were receiving  a cut of the profit.

John legere t-mobile ceo Wikipedia

As one site notes, “Legere’s statement comes off a bit like the whiny kid whose bully friends put him up to stealing one cookie while they made off with the bag, but regardless, if T-Mobile is in fact “the most pro-consumer company” out there, we’d hate to see what the rest of them have been up to in comparison.”

Again, I do not doubt that Legere has pushed hard to end this practice since he took over T-Mobile. That is not the argument at issue. Legere is arguing that T-Mobile is and will be proactive when it comes to cramming. Yet, T-Mobile has known about this issue for years now and made many millions off this scam. Whether Legere was in charge of T-Mobile or not, there is nothing pro-active about T-Mobile stopping the cramming services. Period.

Maybe AT&T and Verizon are just as guilty. I don’t think that is really something that anybody would disagree with based on their shady billing histories. Unfortunately for T-Mobile, their history with cramming suggests that they need to look into the mirror and fix this almost decade-old problem.

(Updated – T-Mobile’s CEO issues another response - http://newsroom.t-mobile.com/issues-insights-blog/doing-right-by-consumers.htm)

Comments

  • Anonymoose

    Wait… apparently T-Mobile isn’t proactive despite blocking 3rd parties from charging + refunding all affected since last year? What?

    • http://www.androidauthority.com/author/wneilsonjr/ William Neilson Jr.

      After making millions for many years, I find it hard to really be “proactive”

      • djacob

        They are ‘proactive’ in the sense that they are proactively contacting customers who had been previously charged to give them refunds, as they stated in their press release

        • http://www.androidauthority.com/author/wneilsonjr/ William Neilson Jr.

          Interesting. After being part of a $2B per year business (with AT&T/Verizon) since the mid-2000′s, I will be interested to see how much of the money they actually give back.

      • Rickrau5

        Considering they are the smallest carrier out of the big 4, AND ATT and VZW still apply these charges (same 9.99) . yes they are very proactive

  • S. Ali

    Author of this article is a supreme moron. These charges ended in 2013. The very picture you use is dated 1/11/13 and your other source is from 2012. All customers have been given the opportunity to request a full refund. No wonder Android Authority is considered the worst news site by /r/android, they are reporting 2 year old news like it happened today. Shame on you.

    BTW, T-Mobile remains the only carrier who pledged to end these charges. Sprint, Verizon, and ATT have made no such pledge and still continue the practice to date.

    • Tanner Hoyt

      The reason they posted this article is because the story has come up again since the FTC recently filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile. They’re commenting on the case, not reporting old news. Stop being an ass.

      • Jamison Shaw

        Don’t worry about him Tanner. S. Ali is the supreme defender of T-Mobile. Legere and S Ali are best buds in real life.

      • Rickrau5

        “Unfortunately for T-Mobile, their history with cramming suggests that they need to look into the mirror and fix this almost decade-old problem.” so they haven’t fixed the problem.. Um ok. Reading > you

      • S. Ali

        The entire article is full of libelous statements and unsubstantiated claims. There is nothing to comment on because there is no case.

    • Jerry Rich

      So if S,Ali points out that the evidence in the article is ancient history, doesn’t that negate the premise of this stupid article in the first place?.

      • http://www.androidauthority.com/author/wneilsonjr/ William Neilson Jr.

        I think it is incorrect to call last December…”ancient history”

        • Jerry Rich

          I see you need help with your math. 1-11-13 is not last December. It could be argued that 1-11-13 IS ancient history in the world of cell phones.Think how many phones weren’t around back then. Like the S4, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z.

          • http://www.androidauthority.com/author/wneilsonjr/ William Neilson Jr.

            Jerry, when I say December of last year, I am not referring to the picture dated 1-11-13. Read the complaint.

    • Rickrau5

      Exactly..this is my favorite though.. “Whether Legere was in charge of T-Mobile or not, there is nothing pro-active about T-Mobile stopping the cramming services. Period.” .. Bwahaha worse argument ever. I know a famous 5 year old that could do a better job at logic than that.

      • http://www.androidauthority.com/author/wneilsonjr/ William Neilson Jr.

        What is wrong with the logic? T-Mobile has known about the issue since all the way back to 2006. I am not sure why it is therefore wrong to wonder why T-Mobile thinks it is being ‘proactive’ by stopping the practice nearly a decade later

        • Rickrau5

          Besides doing what you think they should be doing, TMOB is the (only) one doing something about it. And by being as objective as possible in the definition of the word proactive “controlling a situation by making things happen”

        • S. Ali

          I’m sorry, but you aren’t reporting any facts, you are editorializing the information and introducing your own exaggerations by drawing conclusions from irrelevant, inconclusive, and unsubstantiated anecdotes. I mean, re-read your title. This is yellow journalism being passed off like its headline news.

          • Gator352

            Your opinion. Besides you haven’t shown any facts, only hearsay, yourself. If this wasn’t a problem in the first place as you claim, the FTC wouldn’t be bringing this up now would they? Sure it’s old news….old news that hasn’t been fixed.

            AND if you think this site is the worst, then please stop reading and posting. We will all be better off.

    • Heimrik

      While I agree with most of these points, there really is no reason to be rude.

      But overall, I think T-mobile is still worthy of much praise. They are the only company that actually seems to care about their customers and are doing a TON more for them and a TON more to avoid screwing them. If you’re going to write smear articles about wireless service companies Im quite sure there is nearly an endless amount of scams and shady tactics perpetrated by Verizon and ATT to keep you busy for a few years……

    • Gator352

      Charges ended in DECEMBER 2013. Reading is your friend. Just because they used pics from 2012 and early 2013 doesn’t negate that it happened through that time. In fact, it was happening from possibly 2006 through 2013. So it’s hardly old news. Besides, Tmo only decided to become proactive because they were about to be outed by the FTC.

      • S. Ali

        Nope, you’re wrong. Bye.

  • Moonfisher

    I have been charged for a service “TMobile TV” for more than a year every month. The bill never mentioned what I was being charged for. Later on when I found out, they told me that it was TMobile TV. It was some crap that I never signed up for. I didn’t had any app to watch tv on my phone. I contacted TMobile for refund, they put blame on the third party. I called third party, they shifted the blame on TMobile. I called TMobile again, they asked me to write a letter and file a proper complain and if approved, I would get refunded. This is just scam. I quit at that time. It was too hard to even get to know what I was being charged for. And it was even harder to follow it up, because customer service was just shifting the blame to others. I am very positive that it was a design to scam customers and steal their money. And make the refund process so hard that no one wants to waste time on phone calls.

    • Anonymoose

      TMobile TV is a service you can sign up for which is completely unrelated to this case. From what I read online, many people were given trials to the service that you had to cancel if you didn’t want it. I’m not sure why you were given such a hard time. T-Mobile today is way more proactive than the past, especially after carriers started getting in trouble.

      • Moonfisher

        I forgot to mention, that when I told the customer service (on phone) that I don’t have any app for TMobile TV (I had HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7). The representative was rude and told me that they have no way to verify my claim that I don’t have any TMobile App. They said that it comes hard wired in the phone and cannot be removed. I stuck to my claim. They then asked me to go to the nearest TMobile service center and let those people see my phone and verify that I didn’t have any such app on my phone. I did this, went to the service center, told them the whole story, handed my phone to them, they looked into my phone, and wrote some notes on my account in their system. After that when I called the customer service number, they asked me to write the letter and file the complain.

    • OnlytheTruth

      Look at my previous post. I am not attacking you but I sure as hell want to. Let my post sink in to your mind and read it clearly. Also teach your kids to read. The bills are always on your statement plan and simple. Teach them the fun of math and adding things up and figuring out what a total sum is made up. Its probably too late for you, but your children are still young, they can be taught how to watch their backs! Tootles!

  • djacob

    What do you suggest T-Mobile do to ‘fix’ this problem, that they already haven’t done?

  • CowboyRon

    I had this problem with T-Mobile about 6 years ago. One of my adult children had 10 of these on my bill. I spoke with customer service, but they would not remove the charges. I then informed then that this would be my last day of being there customer and I would not pay the bill.

    • OnlytheTruth

      I understand your issue, I don’t know about 6 years ago but I do know that at least 5 years ago I had 1 of these $9.99 bills and I called T-mobile and get rid of it immediately without any problems.

  • OnlytheTruth

    This is ridiculous! I can’t believe there is even a blame on T-mobile about this. Sure maybe they profited from these premium text charges but this whole thing is exaggerated out of control! Common people! Why blame T-mobile???? You should blame yourselves! I had a few of these incidental charges on my bill, I called up the company and got it cancelled at least 5 times in my 10 year service with T-mobile! Your bill is YOUR responsibility! MAn up! My bill is in the range of $113/month 4 lines unlimited everything from T-mobile every SINGLE MONTH (everyone has an iphone btw). Why do I know this? because I’m responsible. I know how to count at least up to $113 (haha). If the bill one day just so happens to be $116 or even $115, I would look at my billing statement! Common now on page 123?! not everyone makes that many calls. and also Its not that hard to zoom down a page looking for a single $9.99 charge!!!! it would take me less than 2 seconds to look down a statement for that fee. FU*King idiots! if you missed it than you deserve to be charged $9.99!!! You people are the kind of idiots who don’t look at your receipt at the grocery store after you purchase your items! you’re the kind of morons who come back a week later asking for a refund on your apples because you didn’t notice it was 3 for a dollar instead of 4 for a dollar! You are the mind-numbing imbeciles who come to the register swearing on your children that the price says buy one get one free when it really says buy one get 50% off. OMG!

    • Nick

      So you are saying that it is completely legal and honest for any provider to randomly charge random customers with random amounts. Then wait and see who falls in their trap?

      • Manda_Panda_III

        Supposedly, however, these charges were from “free trials” that would automatically be renewed if the customer did not cancel. Legally, if the third party (the trial offerer) had mentioned this in their terms and conditions or their disclaimer, then there would be no ground to sue.

  • Alex

    While I agree with most of these points, there really is no reason to be rude.

    But overall, I think T-mobile is still worthy of much praise. They are the only company that actually seems to care about their customers and are doing a TON more for them and a TON more to avoid screwing them. At least i didnt get screwed when i got my ledlampen (awesome stuff)

  • Yaritza Miranda

    Just like Led Lampen fixed theirs