The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to fine Sprint $105 million for overcharging its customers, according to agency officials.
The fine would be tied for the largest the FCC has ever imposed on a company. In October, AT&T agreed to pay $105 million over similar allegations.
According to the enforcement action, which hasn’t been finalized, Sprint billed customers for third-party services it knew they hadn’t asked for and didn’t want. All five FCC commissioners are reviewing the proposed fine, but they haven’t voted to take action yet, the agency officials said. It’s unclear whether Sprint and the FCC are still engaged in settlement talks.
Neil Grace, a spokesman for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, declined to comment. A Sprint spokesman said the company doesn’t “comment on rumors and speculation.”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also mulling action against Sprint over the issue, according to the FCC officials. A CFPB spokesman declined to comment.
In recent years, members of Congress and federal regulators have been trying to combat “cramming” — the practice of placing unwanted charges on phone bills. The Federal Trade Commission has brought numerous cases against third-party scammers, but regulators are only just beginning to go after the phone companies themselves.
Earlier this year, the Senate Commerce Committee released a report finding that third-party charges on cell-phone bills have become a billion-dollar industry, much of it fraudulent. The major carriers all keep a portion of the revenue for themselves, according to the Senate report.
Those third-party services are often “premium” text messages like horoscopes or celebrity gossip. Consumers often don’t realize they’re being billed for the spam because the charges are buried on their monthly bills under misleading titles, according to the Senate investigation.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."