By Martin H. Bosworth ConsumerAffairs.Com
The next time you feel like downloading the latest hot single as a
cell phone ring tone, listen carefully. That sound you hear may be
your wallet deflating, thanks to charges on your bill from services
you didn't even know you were buying.
Jamster, a subsidiary of Internet infrastructure provider VeriSign
that specializes in custom content for mobile devices, has been
accused of defrauding customers into paying for ring tones they didn't
authorize, and using deceptive marketing to lure consumers into
purchasing its products.
One irate customer filed a lawsuit in San Diego alleging that applying
for Jamster's "free ring tones" actually result in receiving "junk
text" messages that subscribers get charged for.
The lawsuit alleges that Jamster would promote free downloadable ring
tones to any subscriber who registered with its site or responded to
the advertisement by sending a text message with a special code.
The subscriber would then receive multiple messages from Jamster
stating that its content was available for download. However, the
subscriber would be charged for every text message sent from Jamster,
at a rate of $1.99 per message plus fees from their wireless carrier.
The lawsuit also names wireless providers AT&T Wireless, Cingular and
T-Mobile as defendants. SBC Communications, which owns Cingular
jointly with BellSouth, is a Verisign client, as was AT&T Wireless
prior to its buyout by Cingular.
"What we're seeing is a lot of people seeing these ads and thinking
they can download a ring tone or wall paper for their phone, and
suddenly they're signed up for a subscription," said Kate Hartman, one
of the attorneys on the case.
Hartman sees Jamster and wireless providers as "using your phone bill
like a credit card," automatically charging customers for service
without explaining or even identifying what the charges are.
Another problem Hartman identified is that many frustrated customers
cancel their plans in order to be rid of Jamster, thus incurring heavy
"early termination" fees. Not only that, but phone numbers from
canceled contracts are recycled and given to new customers, who
suddenly have to contend with charges from Jamster without ever having
used or encountered the service.
Consumer Affairs.Com has received several complaints from cell
phone subscribers wondering how they ended up with charges from Jamster
on their bills.
Leslie C., from Oakland, CA, signed herself and her husband for
T-Mobile's Family Share plan, only to find that she received
unauthorized charges from Jamster for the first two months.
"It outrages me that a ring tone company can send him ring tones and
charge [us] without some action required on his part to accept these
charges. These charges were never permitted by myself or my husband
and seem completely illegal."
Steve from Cleveland, OH receives multiple text messages from Jamster
on his phone each week. "I have tried e-mailing them through their web
site but the spamming does not stop. [There is] no tangible damage,
just severe annoyance and frustration over the fact that I have no way
to stop getting spammed over and over by the same company."
Jamster's terms of service specify that if a user downloads content
from the company onto their phone, "you represent that you are at
least 13 years of age and have the consent of the subscriber of a
participating mobile communications carrier to sign-up for and use the
Jamster service on behalf of the subscriber," and that the download
constitutes an agreement to use its services.
Critics of Jamster contend that the service advertises on
teen-oriented television shows and channels such as Nickelodeon and
MTV in order to convince young cell phone users to get the "free ring
An online petition entitled Stop Jamster.com is filled with tales of
woe from defrauded customers, as well as vitriolic sentiment for the
company's ubiquitous "Crazy Frog" ad and ring tone.
"I'm tired of seeing commercials for stupid, useless add-ons for
my phone that no one could possibly ever need.and I want to kil
l that stupid frog," fumes one signer.
Not only are Jamster clients irate. Cell phone content provider Jamdat
Mobile has filed suit against VeriSign alleging infringement on its
Copyright 2003-2005 ConsumerAffairs.Com Inc.
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