Attorney General Charlie Crist today sued one of the nation’s largest wireless companies, alleging that Alltel Communications,
Inc., automatically enrolled thousands of customers for a free trial of a
roadside assistance program without disclosing terms of the program at the time of activation and billing customers without their specific consent. Crist alleges that Alltel also billed some customers for the Mr. Rescue program during Alltel’s advertised “free trial” period.
An investigation that began with consumer complaints in April 2003
revealed that the company pushed its roadside assistance program by
automatically enrolling every consumer who purchased a cell phone and
service plan. The program was added to service plans by default unless a
sales representative removed it at the customer’s request. Alltel’s sales
representatives were under pressure to sell additional features of calling plans in order to meet monthly quotas and generate commissions, so little care was taken to adequately inform customers about what they were purchasing.
Many consumers automatically enrolled in the “free trial” found $3
charges added to their monthly statements from that period. Others were not told they had to cancel the program prior to the free trial running out and were billed for months after the trial period ended. More than 520,000 Florida consumers were enrolled in Mr. Rescue over the past five years, and investigators estimate that Alltel made more than $20 million from the program during that time period. It has not yet been determined what portion of those consumers were signed up improperly.
“This case is a classic example of stealth charges intended to claim
every possible dollar from their customers,” said Crist. “This is wrong and will not be tolerated.”
The lawsuit alleges that Alltel not only failed to disclose the terms
and conditions of the Mr. Rescue program, it also failed to obtain
authorization from consumers when enrolling them in the program.
Crist encouraged Alltel customers to carefully examine their bills to
see if they have been or are now being billed for the service without their knowledge. Consumers who may have been signed up for Mr. Rescue without
knowing or authorizing it, who received the feature after rejecting it or
who were charged for Mr. Rescue during the free trial period should contact the Attorney General’s Office by calling the fraud hotline at
The Plantation-based company is being sued under the Florida
Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Penalties for violations of the
act include fines of $10,000 per violation or $15,000 if the victim is a
senior citizen or is disabled.
A copy of the lawsuit filed against Alltel is available at: