FCC To Fine Sprint $105 Million for Bill-Cramming

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is reportedly weighing a fine of $105 million against Sprint for adding unauthorized third-party charges to its wireless customers' phone bills. The practice, known has "cramming," has come under increasing fire from the agency this year. Any decision on a fine must first be approved in a vote by the FCC's five commissioners.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "an FCC official confirmed that the agency is preparing to fine Sprint for billing customers for text message alerts, horoscopes, sports scores, ring tones and other unwanted services. . . ." The officials told the Journal, the FCCEUs probe focused on a three-month window from August to October 2013, during which Sprint allegedly received almost 35,000 complaints from consumers about the unwanted charges.

Sprint today was also targeted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which announced that it has filed a lawsuit against the mobile carrier in connection with a number of cramming allegations. The CFPB's lawsuit is seeking both refunds for affected customers and penalties to deter future cramming practices.

CFPB Lawsuit 'Disappointing'

We reached out to Sprint for comment on both the FCC and CFPB actions. Stephanie Vinge, Sprint's spokesperson for litigation, privacy and security issues, told us the company doesn't comment on "rumor and speculation" so had no statement regarding the reported FCC fines.

As to the CFPB's lawsuit, Vinge said, "We are disappointed that the CFPB has decided to target Sprint on this issue, and we strongly disagree with its characterization of our business practices. Sprint took considerable steps to protect wireless customers from unauthorized third-party billing and is an industry leader in proactively preventing unauthorized charges. We recognize this is an important issue for our customers, and we consistently have encouraged any customers who think they may have incurred an unauthorized third-party...

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