MANHATTAN (CN) – A RICO class action accuses Sony Entertainment and ringtone provider Flycell of cramming unasked-for “services” onto cell phone bills. The lead plaintiff, an Air Force pilot, says the facts show “the depth to which some of the most powerful combatants will go in order to steal billions of dollars from unwitting and relatively helpless consumers.”
In his federal complaint, named plaintiff Mark Smith claims, “This facts [sic] in this lawsuit will illuminate not only a portion of the worldwide battle for primacy in the delivery of downloadable digital media, but also the depth to which some of the most powerful combatants will go in order to steal billions of dollars from unwitting and relatively helpless consumers.”
Smith, of South Carolina, says he went to an AT&T outlet to complain about dropped calls, poor reception and high charges. (AT&T, though criticized, is not a defendant in the lawsuit.)
“In the course of attempting to resolve the issues, AT&T’s agent pointed to 2 lines on a 68-page, printed monthly bill that indicated charges in the amount of $19.99 to ‘Flycell,'” the complaint states. “Further investigation of prior billings disclosed that AT&T had billed on behalf of Flycell charges of $19.99 every month for over a year.”
Flycell describes itself as an online hub for customers to download cell phone ringtones, graphics, games, entertainment, and sports programs. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of New York-based company Acotel, also a defendant.
Up to 100 John Doe co-conspirators are also named as defendants.
“At no time did plaintiff agree to pay for media content from Flycell,” Smith says.
Smith said he had to complain about the charges for 2 months to get them reversed.
He seeks an injunction against cramming, and treble damages for fraud, RICO conspiracy and unjust enrichment.
He is represented by Erik H. Langeland.
The Federal Communications Commission defines cramming as “the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill,” according to the complaint.