T-Mobile fined $40 million for using false ring tones on calls to rural areas

T-Mobile fined $40 million for using false ring tones on calls to rural areas
The FCC announced today that T-Mobile has been fined $40 million for not improving the delivery of calls made to those living in rural areas. In the FCC Consent Decree order announcing the fine, the agency accused the nation's third largest carrier with inserting phony ring tones, giving a caller the impression that his/her call was going through. In reality, the connection was never made, and the phone owned by the recipient of the call never rang at all.

Besides making the caller hang up thinking that no one was available to answer the phone, using the false ring tones also shielded T-Mobile from being blamed for not being able to connect the call. The FCC also noted that T-Mobile's problems with connecting calls made to rural areas could also prevent doctors from getting to their patients who live in these areas, and can hurt businesses that operate in rural surroundings. It can also prevent families from communicating and lead to delays in public safety communications.

T-Mobile admitted that it inserted the false ring tones, and failed to improve the delivery of calls to certain rural areas. As a result, it will cut a check made payable to the U.S. Treasury Department in the amount of $40 million, and will also begin a compliance plan.

The FCC has a website that is dedicated to issues arising from calls to rural areas. According to the site, these are the issues that cellphone users will experience when a call to a rural number is not going through:

  • After you dial, you hear nothing or "dead air" for 10 seconds or more. If you stay on the line, the call may seem to be dropped or you may eventually hear a busy signal.
  • After you dial, you hear as many as 10-20 rings even though you are reasonably sure someone should be there to answer or an answering machine should pick up.
  • After you dial, you hear a recording such as "The number you have dialed is not in service" or "Your call cannot be completed as dialed" when you are sure that you've correctly dialed the number and the called phone is working.

If you experience any of the above when calling a rural number on your mobile handset, you should report the problem to the FCC.


source: FCC (pdf)

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6 Comments

1. XDAdam

Posts: 276; Member since: Feb 03, 2016

So that $40 million that could be used to expand their network now goes into the Government's pocket. Makes total sense...granted, T-Mo should not have done that to begin with.

3. rouyal

Posts: 1567; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

I guess T-Mobile should have used it, when they had the chance. But they didn’t, decided to add it to the bottom line, deceptively covered it up, and now they are paying the price. I bet they’ll take it seriously now.

4. tedkord

Posts: 17136; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

There's got to be a punishment to deter the behavior in the future, from T-Mobile or others.

2. fatTony

Posts: 114; Member since: Dec 20, 2012

I wonder if they would taken it upon themselves to implement a plan to resolve the issue if there was not a regulatory body that could impose punitive fines.

5. lsutigers

Posts: 832; Member since: Mar 08, 2009

Wow, this is pretty bad!!

6. goodmorrow

Posts: 26; Member since: Feb 12, 2014

Can you hear me now?

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