Verizon to pay $1.5M settlement over 'free' ringtones

Verizon Wireless will pay the state of Florida $1.5 million as part of a settlement reached with the Florida attorney general for third-party charges that appeared on consumers' bills.  The customers were charged for ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile content that had been marketed as free or that they didn't realize would result in a monthly charge.

The content wound up costing customers up to $19.99 per month. The charges appeared on the subscriber's wireless bill as company's names, including OpenMarket, M-Qube and M-Blox. As part of the settlement Verizon agreed to adopt "best practices" standards to protect customers from the charges. An investigation found that thousands of Florida customers had been affected by the charges.

"Consumers deserve to get their money back when a company misrepresents something as free that isn't," Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said in a statement. "I commend Verizon Wireless for providing full restitution to their Florida customers and changing the business model to better protect consumers nationwide."

In late February, AT&T Mobility agreed to refund thousands of Florida consumers for the same problem. AT&T agreed to pay Florida $2.5 million and contribute $500,000 toward consumer education on safe Internet use. The carrier also agreed to the same kind of safeguards that Verizon will adopt.

For more:
- see this release

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