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Florida Verizon cell phone customers can seek refunds for hidden charges

TALLAHASSEE — Verizon cell phone customers in Florida can get refunds for charges for ringtones and other features that people did not order or did not know would add monthly fees from $9.99 to $49.99.

Those hidden charges were imposed on customers for several years, Attorney General Bill McCollum said Wednesday in announcing a settlement between his office and the cell phone provider.

As part of the deal, Verizon will pay $1.5 million to the state and will require larger type for the fine print of Web-based advertising for ring tones, wallpaper, music, horoscopes and other features. The state said the charges appear on bills under indiscernible names like "M-Blox," "M-Qube" and "OpenMarket."

McCollum said the agreement requires Verizon to "police the Internet" to make sure that ads for third-party content comply with Florida's unfair and deceptive trade practices law.

Current customers will receive credits for the overcharges, and former customers can obtain refunds. But they have to ask for the money, and Verizon will notify former customers if their e-mail addresses are still on file with the company.

Terms of the settlement require customers to affirm that they did not authorize the third-party charges. Credits or refunds will be offered to customers for a six-month period.

McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, praised Verizon's cooperation at a news conference and called the company a "good citizen." He said Verizon is an industry leader in blocking third-party content and requiring parental consent for adult content.

He said the state has previously reached a settlement on unauthorized third-party content by AT&T, and is still negotiating with T-Mobile and SprintNextel.

Florida Verizon cell phone customers can seek refunds for hidden charges 06/24/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2009 7:50am]

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