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T-Mobile’s all-caps, exclamation-filled response to the FTC’s billing accusations

T-Mobile CEO John Legere (John Moore/Getty Images)

You would think a company that had just been accused of breaking the law would keep a low profile. But if we've learned anything about John Legere, the fiery chief executive of T-Mobile, it's that he doesn't do low-profile.

Days after the Federal Trade Commission charged T-Mobile with illegally charging consumers in a practice known as "cramming," Legere is turning his guns away from his usual targets — the giants of the wireless industry — and training his sights on Washington instead.

"On Tuesday of this week, we all got to see Washington politics and the big carrier lobbyists at their best," Legere wrote in a lengthy, rough-around-the-edges blog post Thursday. "While I love our democracy, I hate the way D.C. works some times [sic], and I just could not sit still and let them get away with it."

Legere's company has pushed back hard against the FTC's allegations, saying it no longer allows companies that peddle spammy horoscope information or sports scores to bill customers that never signed up for their services. Last month, T-Mobile launched a refund program for customers who received bogus text-message charges from these companies. Those charges, which the FTC said typically amounted to $9.99 a month, were often lumped into a line on customers' bills labeled, opaquely, "Premium SMS." In November, T-Mobile said, it and the nation's other major wireless carriers stopped talking to all of these companies.

"T-Mobile has in the past and will continue to keep our pledge to bill customers only for what they want and what they have purchased for as long as I am CEO of this company! NO EXCUSES!" Legere wrote.

Some third-party services are still allowed to place charges on customers' bills, according to T-Mobile. Charitable text-message donations, for instance, are broken out into a separate section of the bill labeled "Apps, downloads and purchases." These charges typically occur when a customer voluntarily texts a $5 or $10 donation to the Red Cross in the wake of a natural disaster.

The forcefulness of T-Mobile's response suggests the company has every intention of challenging the FTC in court. And it's not alone: Amazon is reportedly of the same mind when it comes to a case of its own.

Legere's confrontational style has sometimes landed him in hot water; last month, the CEO apologized after having tweeted that AT&T and Verizon were "raping" its customers.

It's unclear whether T-Mobile's feistiness with the feds will help or hurt its chances at a merger with Sprint — a deal that's long been rumored to be in the works. But what is clear is that the company that took on AT&T and Verizon now seems unafraid — eager, even — to take on the government, too.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.



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