FCC plans to hit U.S. cellphone carriers with massive fines

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Verizon
All the major carriers are about to get fined.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

America’s largest cellphone carriers are about to get hit with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from the Federal Communications Commission according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Officials at the FCC found the companies broke the law by selling customers’ location data to third parties and are prepared to make AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint pay big time. The companies have reportedly been notified that fines could be on the way.

Carriers pledged to stop selling customers’ location data early last year after Motherboard found the companies were letting bail bond companies and others buy it. The FCC launched an investigation into the companies’ practices shortly after the report came out.

FCC plans to slam carriers

According to Reuters, the fines will be worth at least $200 million in total. It’s unclear if that’s how much each company will have to pay or if they’ll each pay a quarter of that. WSJ reports that the FCC didn’t offer carriers any settlements. any settlements, one of the people said. That might prompt some carriers to fight the charges against them through the commission’s administrative process.

Carriers will be able to challenge the fines before they’re finalized. The amount might even increase. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai confirmed last month that one or more of the carriers broke the law. No dates have been given though on when the official charges will be made public.

T-Mobile might get hurt the most by the charges. The company’s merger with Sprint was just approved by the FTC and cost the company $26 billion. Sprint and T-Mobile’s parent companies will split the cost of liabilities up to $200 million. Any fines over that amount will be paid by Sprint’s parent company, Softbank.