FCC fines four wireless carriers millions

The fines for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint collectively amounted to nearly $200 million

Four wireless carriers were each hit with multi-million-dollar fines by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

The FCC on Monday accused AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon of sharing access to location information of customers "without consent and without taking reasonable measures to protect that information against unauthorized disclosure" as it levied the fines against the carriers. The regulator contended that constituted breaches of the law.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
T AT&T INC. 17.67 +0.03 +0.17%
TMUS T-MOBILE US INC. 177.38 +1.39 +0.79%
VZ VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC. 39.46 -0.21 -0.53%

In connection to that, the regulator doled out an over $80 million fine to T-Mobile, with its brand Sprint also getting one to the tune of over $12 million, per the agency’s press release.

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Meanwhile, AT&T and Verizon’s fines amounted to roughly $57 million and $47 million, respectively.

The AT&T logo

American telecommunications company, AT&T logo seen in San Francisco.  (Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The FCC claimed "aggregators" that received customer location data from the carriers turned around and charged third-party location-based service providers for access at a price.

The carriers kept up their practice of selling access to such data even "after becoming aware that their safeguards were ineffective," the regulator also alleged.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
VZ VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC. 39.46 -0.21 -0.53%
TMUS T-MOBILE US INC. 177.38 +1.39 +0.79%
T AT&T INC. 17.67 +0.03 +0.17%

"This industry-wide third-party aggregator location-based services program was discontinued more than five years ago after we took steps to ensure that critical services like roadside assistance, fraud protection and emergency response would not be disrupted," T-Mobile told FOX Business. "We take our responsibility to keep customer data secure very seriously and have always supported the FCC’s commitment to protecting consumers, but this decision is wrong, and the fine is excessive. We intend to challenge it."

T-Mobile logo

T-Mobile logo is seen on the building in Chicago, United States on October 19, 2022. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto / Getty Images)

AT&T also took issue with the FCC’s move and indicated to FOX Business it plans to challenge the order "after conducting a legal review."

The Texas-based carrier argued it "unfairly holds us responsible for another company’s violation of our contractual requirements to obtain consent, ignores the immediate steps we took to address that company’s failures, and perversely punishes us for supporting life-saving location services like emergency medical alerts and roadside assistance that the FCC itself previously encouraged."

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"Verizon is deeply committed to protecting customer privacy," company spokesperson Rich Young told FOX Business. "In this case, when one bad actor gained unauthorized access to information relating to a very small number of customers, we quickly and proactively cut off the fraudster, shut down the program, and worked to ensure this couldn’t happen again. Unfortunately, the FCC’s order gets it wrong on both the facts and the law, and we plan to appeal this decision."

The old program, which Verizon ended over five years ago, "required affirmative, opt-in customer consent and was intended to support services like roadside assistance and medical alerts," according to Young.

verizon

In this photo illustration Verizon Wireless logo seen displayed on a smartphone and in the background. (Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The fines came over four years after the FCC first sought to monetarily penalize the four wireless carriers in 2020. All together, the fines announced Monday were worth just shy of $200 million.

The regulator had pointed to a reported case of a now-former law enforcement officer getting location information through a "location-finding service" as a catalyst for scrutinizing the carriers.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement the FCC "once again ma[d]e clear that wireless carriers have a duty to keep our geolocation information private" by carrying out the order and fines. 

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon each have market capitalizations in the 12 figures, with them hovering at $121.1 billion, $192.38 billion and $166.22 billion, respectively.