AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all vowed to stop billing their customers for spam text messages that come from third parties, according to Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, who worked on the initiative with attorneys general from 44 other states.
The carriers will no longer charge for what's known as commercial "premium short messaging service," or PSMS, which is the main culprit for the unauthorized charges that appear on mobile phone bills in a practice that's often referred to as "mobile cramming." It's estimated to cost Americans $2 billion a year.
"This is a victory for cell phone users in Vermont and across the nation," Sorrell said in a statement Thursday. "We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists. We're hopeful the other carriers will soon follow their lead."
Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, said it has declined to join its competitors because it's in the process of "winding down" its PSMS service anyway. Here's a statement from its general counsel, William Peterson:
While we don't agree with all of the Attorney General's allegations, we respect his efforts in this area. For years, Verizon has been vigilant in protecting our customers from bad actors. There have been numerous times we have terminated programs and in some cases have taken aggressive legal action in order to ensure our customers were protected. Since premium messaging was first introduced, technology advances and smartphone adoption have dramatically changed the way customers access information. Verizon had previously decided to exit the premium messaging business because of these changes as well as recent allegations that third parties have engaged in improper conduct in providing premium messaging services to our customers. We are in the process of winding down our premium messaging business. Verizon will, however, continue to support text-to-donate for charitable programs and text-to-contribute for political campaigns that use this technology."