OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – Verizon conspires with a billing “aggregator” to charge for “premium content” that customers did not order and don’t want, irate subscribers say in a RICO class action. Verizon knows it’s a scam but won’t stop it because it’s profitable, the class adds.
The class sued Verizon and its Texas-based billing processor, or aggregator, Enhanced Service Billing, in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiffs David and Barbara Wolk say the defendants have no system to verify whether customers actually bought “premium content” for their mobile and landline phones.
“Premium content ranges from web hosting products, to diet monitoring services, to email accounts and to office supplies,” the complaint states.
The content providers do not directly bill phone subscribers, but partner with billing processers such as Enhanced Service Billing.
The complaint cites a government investigation of “content provider” Snackable Media, which found that “over 90 percent of its charges to landline telephone accounts were unauthorized by the billed party.”
“Defendants’ methods for determining authorization continue to be highly problematic as they contract on behalf of themselves and affiliated companies with marketers who frequently depend on little more than information readily available through the public domain, such as one’s name and telephone number,” the complaint states.
The class claims that content providers can bill anyone they like for any service they please: all the biller needs is their phone number.
“Premium content providers frequently are required only to provide to an aggregator such as ESBI a landline telephone number and an amount to charge,” the complaint states. “Next, the aggregator simply relays that information to the carrier, such as Verizon, to place a charge on the telephone bill associated with that number.”
When consumers complain, Verizon and its cohorts use “a ‘charge first, refund later, if at all’ approach to their business,” the class says.
The Wolks say that Verizon and its affiliated companies know about the unauthorized billing, and have the ability to stop it. But “they have purposefully maintained a system without any checks or safeguards because it is a source of significant profit to them.”
The Wolks seek restitution and treble damages for racketeering, tortious interference with contract, unjust enrichment and other charges.
They are represented by David Parisi with Parisi & Havens of Sherman Oaks.