In college I recall a time when a friend pranked another friend by secretly signing his cell phone up for one of those “joke a day” text message spam services. We got a laugh as he received these texts from an unknown number with terrible jokes, and he canceled the service as soon as possible after an understandable period of confusion followed by rage. Not before he was billed a $10 “subscription fee” from the third party company, though. Today I learned that this practice is called “cramming” and that, unfortunately, this type of thing happens to people all across the nation, sometimes by accident and sometimes billed monthly for years undetected, incurring unnecessary high costs. Some bad news, then, for the bad joke aficionado: today, a class action lawsuit against the fraudulent billing has been settled with Verizon. The company has agreed to refund 100% of all unauthorized third-party charges from April, 2005 through February, 2012. Considering the time period and number of people affected, the total cost of this settlement could be in the millions. Also, billing practices will be drastically changed to prevent this kind of charge from showing up automatically and unexpectedly in the future. Read the full press release here. To find out if you’re eligible for a refund and how to claim it, visit the settlement’s website here starting March 9th.
I long for the day when unsolicited text message services are no longer active at all. Sometimes late at night or during low-advertisement-cost programs, you can find ads for the companies selling cheesy ring tones or backgrounds or a “love calculator” that uses an arbitrary algorithm to add up two names and spit out a percentage (with a charge-per-use business model — real classy). They tread the border between the merely tasteless and the scam — hopefully this settlement will encourage the other telecom companies to follow suit and sound the death knell for these services. If I never hear the “Crazy Frog” again, I’ll be a happy man.