Texas AG slams cellphone crammers with a lawsuit

ID-100128578You know those text message services that offer horoscopes, celebrity gossip, ringtones and the like? Better beware. You could end up with unexpected charges “crammed” onto your cellphone bill.

Fortunately, government and state agencies are onto the scheme. This week, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an enforcement action  against four text-messaging content providers and their billing aggregator, Mobile Messenger U.S. Inc. for alleged cellphone cramming.

The defendants allegedly enroll customers in premium text messaging services programs without properly disclosing the cost and bill the customers without their consent. The defendants’ deceptive services include ringtones, horoscopes, celebrity gossip news and various coupons.

The attorney general’s enforcement action names the following short-message content providers: Bear Communications LLC, MDK Media Inc., Anacapa Media LLC and Tendenci Media LLC.

The enforcement action also names California-based billing aggregator Mobile Messenger U.S. Inc., a middleman between the content provider and wireless cellphone carriers.

Mundo Media Ltd. of Canada, a paid third-party advertising network that drives cellphone users to the content providers’ offers was also named as a defendant.

The state alleges that the content providers, with help from aggregator Mobile Messenger and ad network Mundo Media, used deceptive websites to fool consumers into entering cellphone numbers and a personal ID number. Although there was no meaningful disclosure, the defendants considered entering that information as consent to be billed.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the companies’ business practices as well as civil penalties.

The Federal Trade Commission has also been cracking down on mobile crammers.

If you have experienced fraudulent, unfair or deceptive business practices, you may file an online complaint with BBB or with the FTC.