Strange fees are appearing on consumers’ bills with much greater frequency these days.
It was recently discovered that AT&T has been charging its Oregon customers a corporate tax, labeled Portland Clean Energy Srchg, that it doesn’t actually have to pay in the state of Oregon. A class action lawsuit has been filed and alleges that “in an effort to profit and to obtain an unfair advantage over its competitors, AT&T misled thousands of Oregon customers into paying unlawful five cent surcharges that AT&T was not permitted to collect.”
AT&T admits to having made a mistake by charging this fee. Portland’s new Clean Energy Surcharge is a 1% tax on retail sales in the city. AT&T has been passing on the burden of this tax to its customers and claims that it only recently discovered that the company is not actually subject to this tax. According to Ars Technica, AT&T stated that Portland did not officially exempt mobile providers until September of this year. It turns out, however, that Portland made this exemption public back in April, 2019 and since mobile carriers wouldn’t actually have to pay the tax until April 2020, it’s unclear why AT&T chose to charge its customers at all.
Although AT&T has agreed to refund its customers in the next few months, the lawsuit has already been filed seeking additional payments of $200 for each of the affected individuals.
This follows another recent hidden fee controversy. It was recently discovered that AT&T makes its business internet customers pay the mobile carrier’s property taxes, effectively raising rates by about 7% in some areas. It locks customers into a contract, then springs the fee on them—a fee that the government does not require to be collected from customers. In California, that fee was recently raised from 3% to 7%, more than double. In other words, AT&T is charging consumers for its property taxes.
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