AT&T Sued For Defrauding The Government Millions


Let’s be honest about one thing, no one ever said that AT&T was a reputable company and no one said that they were an honest one at that. The same company that tried to screw the public by saying their merger with T-Mobile would be good for the economy is trying to screw the Federal Government this time around.

AT&T has been hit with a complaint by the US Federal Government claiming that AT&T was fraudulently being reimbursed by the government for IP Relay call systems that people with hearing or speech-impairments use, according to Arstechnica.

“The United States brings this action to recover millions of dollars that have been paid to Defendant AT&T for its improper handling and billing of thousands of Internet Protocol Relay calls made by Nigerian and other international users seeking to defraud merchants in the United States,” the US said in a complaint filed yesterday in US District Court in Western Pennsylvania.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, the US government reimburses IP Relay providers $1.30 per minute, but that only applies to calls originating within the United States. Calls made from outside of the country, like the complaint suggests, would not be eligible for the reimbursement. Even though the FCC started requiring providers to verify the accuracy of the user’s name and address, AT&T has managed to cut the corner on this.

“The complaint alleges that, out of fears that fraudulent call volume would drop after the registration deadline, AT&T knowingly adopted a non-compliant registration system that did not verify whether the user was located within the United States,” Justice officials said in a press release. “The complaint further contends that AT&T continued to employ this system even with the knowledge that it facilitated use of IP Relay by fraudulent foreign callers, which accounted for up to 95 percent of AT&T’s call volume. The government’s complaint alleges that AT&T improperly billed the TRS (Telecommunications Relay Services) Fund for reimbursement of these calls and received millions of dollars in federal payments as a result.”

Of course, AT&T denies any wrongdoing. “AT&T has followed the FCC’s rules for providing IP Relay services for disabled customers and for seeking reimbursement for those services,” AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said. “As the FCC is aware, it is always possible for an individual to misuse IP Relay services, just as someone can misuse the postal system or an email account, but FCC rules require that we complete all calls by customers who identify themselves as disabled.” However, AT&T’s statement didn’t mention whether it actually verified the location of users as required by the government. Did we really expect AT&T to truly address the problem?

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