AT&T reaches settlement of old billing claims

The class-action deal would pay consumers small sums for pre-2004 suits against AT&T Wireless

AT&T and lawyers representing class-action plaintiffs have reached a proposed settlement of lawsuits over billing by AT&T Wireless before 2004.

However, consumers who have been waiting this long to get some of their money back may be disappointed in the terms of the deal: The benefits offered range from US$7 to $10.

The settlement covers several suits filed in California and Washington against AT&T Wireless, a cellular service provider that merged with Cingular Wireless in 2004. The merged company adopted the name AT&T Mobility in 2007.

Subscribers alleged AT&T Wireless introduced unauthorized charges, failed to tell them about some charges and charged for minutes in the wrong billing period. The suits claim these actions violated consumer protection laws. In a press release Friday, AT&T denied the claims of wrongdoing and said the suits are unrelated to practices of Cingular Wireless or AT&T Mobility.

Under the proposed deal, eligible consumers may receive settlements for four types of alleged improper billing practices:

1. Subscribers who allege they were charged for the mMode Data Service without their authorization or didn't understand the disclosures about mMode may receive a check for $8.

2. Subscribers who say they were charged for the EDID (ENH Discount International Dial) service without their authorization or didn't understand disclosures about EDID may receive a check for $10.

3. Subscribers who claim they were charged for phone calls during a billing period after they were made, if they didn't understand the disclosures about the charges, may get a check for $8 or a 250-minute AT&T Phone Card.

4. Customers who say they were not aware when they subscribed that they would be charged a Universal Connectivity Charge may receive a check for $7.

Consumers who want to take part in the settlement need to submit a claim form by mail or online by Feb 13, 2011. AT&T can't make payments until after Judge Christina Snyder of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where all the suits are being handled, has ruled that the proposed settlements are fair. Objections to the settlements are due by Sept. 29 and will be considered in a fairness hearing on Nov. 15.

Claim forms and information are available at a Web site about the proposed settlement.

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