Pennsylvania receives settlement over “unlimited data” and “free phone” ads

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania will receive more than $260,000 as part of a settlement over cell phone companies using deceptive claims of “free” phones and “unlimited” plans.

Attorney General Michelle Henry announced the settlement, which will spread $10.25 million across 50 jurisdictions.

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The settlement was reached with AT&T, Verizon, Cricket, and T-Mobile, and will require those companies to be truthful in future advertising and disclose all attached fees and agreements.

Henry says the settlement addresses misrepresentations in advertisements claiming to offer unlimited data plans, free phones, monetary incentives to switch networks, and more.

Under the terms of the settlement, Henry said the companies will be required 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; and

  • 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.

“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,” Henry said. “For far too long, these major carriers have been advertising free devices that actually involve significant costs for the consumer.”

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