If you're a Sprint or Verizon customer who has ever received unwanted text messages like horoscopes or celebrity gossip, you might be in line for a refund from your mobile carrier. The Federal Communications Commission has fined Verizon $90 million and Sprint $68 million, with the majority of the fines -- $120 million -- going to customers as a refund, the FCC announced on Tuesday.
The FCC is levying these giant fines because of a dubious practice called cramming. Basically, the carriers for a long time allowed "premium text messaging services" to send texts with sports scores, weather reports and jokes to your phone while your carrier billed you for the service directly, often buried under a line item like "usage charges." Some people unknowingly ended up paying $10 per month for years for things like horoscopes in text message form.
The FCC is trying to end this practice. Last year, it nailed AT&T to the tune of $105 million, and 359,000 people claimed that AT&T stuffed their bills with fake charges in the first week the claim was open. T-Mobile paid $90 million over its role in the cramming scam last December.
If you think you're eligible, you can file a claim, and you might get a refund from your carrier. If you're a Sprint subscriber, sign up at sprintrefundpsms.com. Verizon subscribers can submit claims at cfpbsettlementverizon.com. Expect the refund, if you're deemed entitled to one, to take at least nine months.