Victory! AT&T can't hold you liable for fraudulent calls

We just love it when a telecom loses in court. Not because we hate them (we pretty much do), but because they’re often trying to stifle the rights of its subscribers. This time it’s AT&T, and they were being tried for charging customers for calls made after their phone was stolen. See, normal, reasonable people would say: “Yeah, they should refund the charges. Sometimes it takes people a while to realize that their phone has been stolen.” AT&T, though, thought it appropriate to squeeze these customers for thousands in fraudulent charges. Many thanks to the California Attorney General for stepping and and making this situation right. The best quote, by far, goes to the Attorney General himself, Edmund Brown Jr.: “No cell phone company should profit from calls made by thieves or unauthorized users.” Preach on, Mr. Brown! It’s probably the most reasonable thing we’ve ever heard anyone say…ever.

The judgment requires AT&T Mobility to inform each of their customers of their legal rights regarding lost or stolen phones. Under the agreement, AT&T must either credit the disputed charges or inform customers of their legal rights. AT&T must notify customers — in writing — of these new requirements and assist customers to obtain credit for amounts already paid on lost or stolen phones, back to year 2003. AT&T will also pay the Attorney General’s Office $500,000 for costs of the investigation and for the Unfair Competition Law Fund, administered by the California District Attorneys Association.
While we really appreciate the decision, we’re confused by the language. “Either credit the disputed charges or inform customers of their legal rights”? What’s to stop AT&T from saying, “there are your rights; see ya!”? We suppose that was all taken care of, and that we’re just misinterpreting this as an ambiguity. Another thing that irks us is what Brown said afterwards:
“This groundbreaking settlement makes AT&T the first cell phone company that has agreed to protect its customers from cell phone rip-offs and other unauthorized uses,” says Mr. Brown. “It is now time for the rest of the cell phone industry to step forward and follow AT&T’s example.”
They didn’t exactly set an example, did they? No, they were forced to do this by a court. Yes, they’re the first cell phone company to do this, but it’s not like they did it on their own volition. So let’s hold off the praise, shall we? It’s a big victory, though. No longer shall you think you left your phone in your car, only to have found it stolen with $1,000 worth of charges on it. Well, maybe that will happen, but AT&T can no longer bilk you for the dough. And that, our friends, is the sweet smell of victory. [Central Valley Business Times]]]>

Posted in ,