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AT&T gets slapped for deceptive third-party charges

Chris Ziegler

Suffering a rash of complaints after allegedly free ringtone downloads from shady random companies started showing up on AT&T subscribers' bills, the state of Florida stuck it to the carrier -- and they've agreed to pay up. AT&T and the state have jointly announced that as much as $10 million or more could ultimately be refunded to customers, depending on how many folks file claims, in addition to a $2.5 million fine payable to the state itself and $500,000 for educating consumers on "safe internet use." What's really funny about the whole deal is that Florida's attorney general has flat-out admitted that they went after AT&T only because the actual offenders -- the fly-by-night shops operating the free ringtone schemes -- were too difficult to round up and sue. The carrier has said that it has since made unauthorized charges more difficult to rack up, and is quick to point out that other carriers have been just as guilty of allowing the shady dealings; indeed, Florida says there are other investigations underway.

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