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November 21, 2013
AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile to stop unauthorized third-party charges

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced a major breakthrough in the fight against ‘mobile cramming’ — unauthorized third-party charges that appear on mobile telephone bills. Cramming on cell phones and landlines is estimated to cost Americans $2 billion per year.

Three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers — AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile — will no longer charge their customers for commercial Premium Short Messaging Services, also known as ‘PSMS,’ or ‘premium text messages.’ PSMS is the platform that third-party content providers use to charge consumers via their cell phone bills. Examples of PSMS charges include those for horoscopes, weather information, dating advice, sports alerts, and similar services.

“This is a victory for cell phone users in Washington and across the nation,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “I am hopeful other phone carriers will follow this lead. My office will continue to work with other states for industry reforms and to recover money for consumers victimized by unauthorized mobile charges.”

PSMS accounts for the majority of third-party charges on cell phones and for the overwhelming majority of cramming complaints. While PSMS has some benefits, like charitable giving, it is also a major contributor to the current mobile cramming problem.

Forty-five attorneys general led by Washington, Vermont, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Oregon, and Texas have been engaged in discussions aimed at stopping the practice of mobile cramming.

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are the second, third and fourth largest providers of mobile telephone services nationwide. AT&T and T-Mobile have confirmed they will continue to allow charitable donations to be billed via PSMS. Sprint was unable to confirm if they will do so at this time.


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