from the go-fuck-yourself-surcharge dept
At some point U.S. regulators effectively declared that it was okay to rip off consumers with a dizzying array of bogus fees, letting companies falsely advertise one rate, then sock you with a bunch of additional surcharges when the bill comes due. That’s particularly true of the cable and broadband industry, which has saddled consumers with billions in fees for decades, with little real penalty.
Case in point: since 2013 or so, AT&T has been charging its wireless subscribers an “administrative fee.” AT&T openly admits this isn’t a government tax or surcharge; it’s just a completely bogus bit of nonsense AT&T says “helps cover a portion of costs to AT&T related to wireless service.” But that’s what your full bill is for. What it really does is allow AT&T to nickel-and-dime you beyond the advertised price.
With regulators completely AWOL (a common theme on this front) a class action lawsuit attempted to hold AT&T accountable. That lawsuit (Vianu v. AT&T Mobility) was quietly settled in May for $14 million, netting each impacted user a one-time payment of between $15 and $29. That will be credited back to your account, so there’s no opportunity to use it for anything other than AT&T service.
The Verge’s Sean Hollister notes that a Judge tentatively approved the settlement in June and AT&T is now getting ready to refund users a tiny fraction of the money that was taken from them:
That’s only a fraction of what AT&T’s own records show it charged: $180 per customer on average since 2015, according to documents. The settlement “represents a refund of approximately 6-11 months of the average fees,” they read. Meanwhile, the lawyers are likely to get $3.5 million.
This is just what we do here in America. We pay billions upon billions in predatory, completely nonsensical fees charged by companies that rarely see any accountability for fraud. And when they are “held accountable,” it usually involves a settlement far smaller than the total money stolen from U.S. consumers, incentivizing the telecom, bank, airline, or hotel industries to do the same thing all over again.