A unit of AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, has settled a group of consumer lawsuits accusing the company of billing customers for downloadable mobile-phone content they didn't want.
More than 70 million people will get notice of the May 30 accord under which they can get full refunds for bogus charges, plaintiffs' attorney Jay Edelson said Tuesday in a phone interview.
The content, which included customized ring tones and horoscopes, was being provided to customers of AT&T Mobility LLC by third parties, Edelson and a spokesman for San Antonio-based AT&T said in separate interviews.
"There have been bad actors exploiting the system, charging people for content they did not order," said Edelson, an attorney at the KamberEdelson law firm in Chicago.
The accord, which received preliminary approval from state court Judge Alice Bonner in Atlanta, resolves a lawsuit filed in that court as well as cases brought in state and federal courts in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.
AT&T has placed no cap on the amount it will pay to subscribers, outside spokesman Marty Richter said in a phone interview.
"We've already taken care, we think, of the vast majority of customers who were affected" through the company's existing dispute-resolution procedures, said Richter, who works in the St. Louis office of the public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard.
Disputed claims will be submitted to a special master, Edelson said. A final hearing on the fairness of the settlement is set for Dec. 8, according to a notice posted on the settlement Web site, www.thirdpartycontentrefund.com.