Sprint to pay $800,000 over complaints of cell phone 'cramming'

young woman looks askance at a cell phone callSprint is making it harder for unauthorized third-party charges, known as "cramming," to appear on cell phone bills.

Under a settlement with Florida's attorney general, the company says it will continue using the standards that office has set for advertisements on websites. This includes prohibiting advertisers to use the word "free" without disclosing the actual price of, for instance, a ringtone. It also includes restrictions on website design, meaning ads must make purchase terms and conditions clear to consumers

The agreement follows the attorney general's investigation of complaints from consumers who said the unwanted charges for ringtones and other content advertised as "free" showed up on their cell phone bills. Some of the other content included music, wallpaper and horoscopes that ended up costing as much as $19.99 a month, in some cases recurring. Some charges appeared on the bill under names like "OpenMarket," "M-Qube," or "M-Box."

Customers did, however, have the option to block third-party content and add parental controls at no cost prior to the state's investigation.

Sprint agreed to reimburse the state $800,000 and continue to issue credits or refunds to customers who received unauthorized charges. Jason Gertzen, a spokesman for Sprint, told Consumer Ally that the company doesn't want consumers to be surprised when they see their bill.

"We want to make sure that consumers are fully informed and that they have an understanding of what they're agreeing to," Gertzen said.

The settlement with Sprint is the fourth such agreement between the state and a wireless provider. T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility previously agreed to adopt the same standards and refund consumers.
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