Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–December 22, 2014

CFPB Sues Sprint for Unauthorized Charges on Phone Bills
Sprint is being sued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for allegedly billing tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges to their customers. The CFPB is demanding that the nation’s third-largest wireless carrier refund all affected customers and pay penalties for their actions. According to the complaint, Sprint operated a billing system that allowed third-party providers to “cram” unauthorized charges onto consumers’ bills. The bureau also suggests Sprint disregarded the red flags about these third-party providers, and ignored consumer complaints about these charges. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Priest Installs Cell Phone Jammer in Church for Silent Sermons
Father Michele Madonna, became so incensed by phones going off during services at his church in Naples, Italy that he ended up installing a jamming device to shut them up. The priest first put up posters asking people to turn off their phones, but when the buzzing and jingles continued–even during some funerals–he bought a $60 jamming device and installed it after local police gave him the go ahead. Story by Trevor Mogg for Fox News.

Cell Phone Companies Give Government an Unexpected Gift: $44 Billion
Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, doesn’t normally have much to crow about, but he could scarcely contain his glee at a press conference in mid-December as he reported that the agency had unexpectedly earned billions of dollars for the federal government. The money comes from the FCC’s public auction of licenses for access to radio-frequency spectrum, the airwaves used to transmit wireless data to cell phones. Before the auction opened in November, the FCC set the reserve price at $10.6 billion. By Dec. 17 the bidding had passed $44 billion. Story by Brendan Greeley for Bloomberg Businessweek.

T-Mobile to Pay $90 Million to Settle ‘Cramming’ Charges
T-Mobile will pay $90 million in a multi-state settlement of allegations it placed unauthorized third-party charges for premium text messaging services on consumers’ bills, a practice known as “cramming.” Under a settlement announced Friday, T-Mobile must provide full refunds to consumers who paid unauthorized third-party text messaging service charges after Jan. 1, 2010. The refunds can be in the form of a payment or as forgiveness of a debt. Story by Rick Moriarty for Syracuse.com.

Mobile’s Rise Poses a Riddle for Banks
This year, for the first time, U.S. customers interacted with their banks more through mobile devices than any other means, according to a new study by consultancy Bain & Co. Mobile interactions are now 35% of the total, more than any other type, including traditional online channels, automated-teller machines and branch visits, the report showed. Chase, the nation’s largest bank by assets, has 18 million mobile users who have logged on within 90 days, up 23% from November 2013. More than 40% of customer households today use the mobile channel, up from 25% in 2012. Story by Daniel Huang for The Wall Street Journal.

3 Takeaways From Gartner’s Q3 Mobile Phone Sales Report
Technology research firm Gartner recently released its survey on third-quarter mobile phone and smartphone sales. For technology investors, these worldwide sales figures help to define the breadth of the market, aid in determining winners and losers, and see what trends are forming in the industry. Gartner focuses on mobile phones sold during a particular period, allowing investors to detect trends more quickly, but the results can vary more than installed base figures that include preexisting users. Gartner’s survey also goes beyond mere handset makers by including operating system statistics. Here are three key takeaways from Gartner’s report. Story by Jamal Carnette for Motley Fool.

T-Mobile Unveils New ‘Data Stash’, a Rollover Plan for Your Data
At T-Mobile’s Un-carrier 8.0 event, T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced ‘Data Stash’, a new initiative allowing customers to rollover unused data month-over-month. “If you buy data, it’s yours.” said Legere. Comparing this move to the stances of other wireless carriers, T-Mobile thinks that customers, who pay close to $12 per GB every month in their data plan, deserve to keep their data instead of having it taken off the table when the next month comes. 53 million subscribers strong, Legere hopes that this move of going against the grain with “simplicity and transparency” will increase numbers. Story by Cameron Faulkner for TechRadar.

How to Save Money on Your Cell Phone Plan
Somehow, in the past 20 years, cell phones have evolved from a convenience to a necessity. An expensive one. As the devices have become more integrated into our lives, monthly mobile bills have swelled. The average customer of one of the Big Four cellular providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless) spends more than $90 per month for individual service-and the figure is $111 for iPhone owners. If your monthly bills are draining your patience along with your bank account, we have solutions. And if you’re thinking of upgrading your phone, find out why it’s the right time to buy a new phone. Story in Consumer Reports.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of SaveOnPhone.com. He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.