Bill O’Boyle: AG announces settlement to stop 'deceptive advertising' of mobile device carriers

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May 12—WILKES-BARRE — Attorney General Michelle Henry this week announced a $10.25 million, 50-jurisdiction settlement with several major mobile device service carriers regarding allegedly deceptive advertising practices, including claims of "unlimited" data plans and "free" phones.

The multi-jurisdictional settlement reached with AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Cricket and T-Mobile requires the carriers to be truthful in future advertising, disclose all attached fees and agreements, and train customer service staff accordingly.

Pennsylvania will receive over $260,000 in costs and fees as part of the settlement.

"The demand and need for mobile devices are extraordinary, and Pennsylvanians deserve reliable information and the truth about costs when making important decisions that impact their budgets," AG Henry said. "For far too long, these major carriers have been advertising free devices that actually involve significant costs for the consumer."

The terms of the settlements address misrepresentations in advertisements concerning: "unlimited" data advertisements, "free" phone offers, monetary incentives to "switch" wireless networks, and wireless carrier plan comparisons.

The AG said the carriers allegedly neglected to clearly and conspicuously disclose the limitations, conditions, and differences in these offers.

The settlement, in the form of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, will, among other things, require the wireless carriers to:

—Make all future advertisements and representations truthful, accurate and non-misleading.

—Refer in marketing to "unlimited" mobile data plans only where such plans do not set any numerical limits on the quantity of data allowed during a billing cycle and clearly and conspicuously disclose any restrictions on data speed, as well as the triggers of such restrictions.

—Offer to pay for consumers to "switch" carriers only where they clearly and conspicuously disclose the type of fees and amounts that they will pay consumers, the form and schedule that such payment will take and all material requirements that consumers must satisfy in order to qualify and receive such payment.

—Offer wireless devices or services for "free" or similar terms only where they disclose clearly and conspicuously all material terms and conditions that the consumer must meet in order to receive the "free" devices or services.

—Make offers to lease wireless devices only where it is made clear to the consumer that the consumer will be entering into a lease agreement.

Make representations that a consumer will save money by purchasing its products or services only where it has a reasonable basis to do so based on comparisons with the prices of comparable goods or services of other providers, or where any material differences between those goods or services are clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

—Appoint a dedicated employee to work with the attorneys general to address ordinary complaints filed by consumers.

—Train its customer service representatives who speak with consumers to comply with these terms and implement and enforce a program to ensure compliance with these terms.

Settlements were filed with carrier companies: AT&T Mobility LLC, Cricket Wireless LLC, T-Mobile USA Inc. and Cellco Partnership — which does business as Verizon Wireless and TracFone Wireless Inc.

Rep. Meuser co-sponsors Equal Representation Act

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, this week co-sponsored H.R. 7109 — the Equal Representation Act — which would ensure that only American citizens are factored into the population count when determining congressional districts and, in turn, the Electoral College map, which is used to declare the winner of presidential elections.

Meuser said the legislation comes in response to a video revealing a Democrat Congresswoman openly advocating for increased illegal immigration to her congressional district because she "needs more people in her district for redistricting purposes."

Currently, Meuser said illegal immigrants are included in the count for congressional district apportionment, thereby impacting Electoral College votes. He said areas being inflated by illegal immigrants gain disproportionate political power.

In states like California, Meuser said the presence of millions of undocumented residents leads to the state securing additional congressional seats and Electoral College votes beyond what its citizen population alone would justify.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Meuser said non-citizens account for approximately 6.7% of the nation's 333 million person population. Meuser said their inclusion in the apportionment of congressional districts not only distorts representation in Congress but also undermines the constitutional principle of "one person, one vote."

"Illegal immigrants being counted in the census for the purpose of congressional representation is unacceptable," Meuser said. "As crime skyrockets in large metropolitan cities, many are fleeing, yet Democrats persist in opening their doors to illegal immigrants to 'save' their congressional seats. Allowing Democrats to run sanctuary cities and inflate their population is un-American. Illegal immigrants being counted in the census incentivizes Democrats to keep our border open for political purposes. This legislation is common sense—by ensuring that only legal citizens are considered in determining congressional districts and the Electoral College map we're putting Americans first."

Meuser said H.R. 7109 passed the House by a vote of 206-202 and was referred to the Senate for further consideration.

Culver bill to protect domestic animals and Pa. food supply signed into law

A bill introduced by Sen. Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-27) was signed into law this week to help protect domestic animals and the food supply against dangerous transmissible diseases.

"I am grateful the Governor signed this bill into law," said Culver, R-Northumberland. "It is a great step in securing the future of the livestock industry in Pennsylvania."

Culver's Senate Bill 979 was signed into law as Act 15 of 2024. The new law gives the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture the authority to require retailers to post information about dangerous transmittable diseases at locations where domestic animals and feed are sold to the public.

"Bio-security is important and spreading information is one of the strongest measures we can take to attempt to mitigate the spread of diseases," Culver said. "This law will allow the Department of Agriculture to get important information out to small livestock operations that otherwise may not know of an outbreak near them."

The passage of the law is timely as the nation is seeing the spread of avian influenza in cattle. There has been no spread reported in Pennsylvania at this time.

Sens. Casey, Heinrich lead push to increase funding for border security

U.S. Senators Bob Casey, D-Scranton, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, this week led 15 of their colleagues in a letter to Senate Appropriators urging them to provide the United States with the tools to combat the fentanyl crisis by continuing robust funding for border security and drug interdiction initiatives.

In their letter, the Senators push for funding for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire additional agents and purchase more surveillance technology for official ports of entry along the southern border, where illicit drugs are being smuggled in and firearms and currency are being trafficked out of the U.S. to be used by Mexican cartels.

The Senators also request more funding for U.S. law enforcement to investigate trafficking crimes and the transnational organizations, including Mexican cartels, perpetuating the fentanyl crisis in the United States.

"We ask you to build upon past bipartisan investments to ensure that law enforcement officers at our Nation's borders are equipped to combat the flow of fentanyl and other illicit drugs," the Senators wrote. "We also ask you to provide robust funding to support the law enforcement agencies that are investigating smuggling and trafficking crimes and working to disrupt the transnational criminal networks that threaten our country and our communities."

Sen. Casey has led recent efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis by securing the southern border.

Alongside Senator Kelly (D-AZ), he introduced the Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act and pushed President Biden to request additional border security funding in his FY25 government spending request to Congress.

Senator Heinrich has secured a number of new investments to combat the opioid epidemic and protect communities from illicit fentanyl, while helping those struggling with addiction.

Most recently, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Heinrich secured substantial federal funding to combat the fentanyl crisis, as well as report language to establish the creation of a comprehensive fentanyl tracking system and to remove barriers to access for opioid use disorder medications.

Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.