Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Class-action lawsuit filed against T-Mobile and others over fake ringtones on calls to rural areas

A group of local telephone companies have filed a class-action lawsuit against T-Mobile because of the carrier's previous practice of inserting fake ring tones in some calls to rural areas, which misled many to believe their calls were going through. T-Mobile paid a $40 million fine in 2018 as part of a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, Bevin Fletcher reports for Fierce Wireless, a wireless industry publication.

"However, the proposed class action lawsuit, filed Friday in an Illinois federal court by Indiana-based Craigville Telephone Company, which does business as AdamsWells Internet Telecom TV, and Minnesota-based Consolidated Telephone Company, asserts the FCC consent decree did nothing to compensate local carriers for harms from T-Mobile’s 'deceptive practices,' arguing it violated the Communications Act, among others, and seeks a judgement of at least $700 million," Fletcher reports.

The lawsuit also names Chicago-based intermediate provider Inteliqunet in allegations of wire fraud and racketeering. According to the suit, the company wanted to reduce expenses on access charges, which it pays to local phone companies for using their networks to terminate calls made by T-Mobile subscribers, Fletcher reports. Inteliqunet, T-Mobile, and several unnamed companies are accused of conspiring to deter or prevent customers from making high-cost phone calls (such as those in rural areas) by strategies such as forcing failed calls. 

"The new lawsuit comes as the operator awaits a significantly more visible court case to get started. Next month the trial to decide T-Mobile’s pending merger with Sprint will kick off, unless a settlement is reached with the more than dozen state AGs suing to block the deal," Fletcher reports. "In its efforts to promote the merger, T-Mobile has pledged to expand wireless coverage, particularly in rural areas." A coalition of rural telecommunications companies and lobbying groups opposes the merger, and the Communications Workers of America has said that T-Mobile hurt rural customers in Iowa after acquiring a major carrier in the state.

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