Sprint and Verizon may owe you guys a refund

New Year’s Eve is almost here, and Sprint and Verizon users may have reason to celebrate: refunds! Unfortunately, due to some slightly-shady past dealings with customers, these two cell-phone giants are now required to issue refunds to customers who can prove they were subject to unauthorized charges.

According to officials, the refunds are happening due to an unethical practice known as cramming, which allowed companies like Verizon and Sprint to charge customers unauthorized fees from third-party companies.

Things like monthly subscriptions to ringtone and wallpaper download services and charges for so-called “premium” text-messaging were particularly subject to cramming, and Verizon and Sprint collected 30-40% of these fees illegally. The average charges of cramming ranged about $9.99 per month- now imagine that multiplied by millions of customers over more than a decade. Yeouch.

Sensing some shadiness in the wind, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB sued the companies in December 2014, alleging they had bilked customers out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Their claim proved correct- both companies settled, agreeing to pay $158 million dollars in refunds to customers.

Of course, there’s a catch. The deadline to file for a refund is December 31st, 2015. Depending on which company you were contracted with, the refund forms are downloadable at www.sprintrefundpsms.com or www.cfpbsettlementverizon.com . Be aware, however, that Verizon will not pay for refunds under $3.00, while Sprint is offering a one-time refund of $7.00 to prior customers with low-dollar claims. However, since the claims span from as early as 2004, and the average overcharge was $9.99- again, some math is required, but that’s not inconsiderable bucks back if you were one of the victims.

On the other hand, even if your refund value would be fairly low, it might be worth it to file a claim regardless. Being an advocate (and getting paid back for doing so) for consumer protection is beneficial to the whole economy. The only way to convince companies not to engage in underhanded dealings with customers is to make it hurt them when they’re caught doing it; Americans deserve every penny of that $158 million back, so don’t let it slide!