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Panel to consider consolidating class-action texting lawsuits

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is scheduled to hold a hearing Nov. 20 on requests to consolidate some two dozen antitrust class-action lawsuits alleging that AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp. and T-Mobile USA Inc. conspired to raise text message prices in recent years.
The JPML is entertaining competing requests from various plaintiffs to transfer the lawsuits to a federal court in Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio or the District of Columbia.
The suits spread like wildfire after Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) raised concerns in a Sept. 9 letter to wireless executives about the price for individual text messages rising from 10 cents to 20 cents over the past three years among the major cellular operators.
In written responses to Kohl last month, CEOs of AT&T Mobility, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA said that although the price of individual text messages has risen, the cost for many users has actually decreased due to their subscription to high-volume and unlimited texting packages. Kohl honored Verizon Wireless’ request to keep the content of its letter confidential.
The price-fixing lawsuits against the $144 billion cellular industry target a growing wireless data/content market, which accounts for $27.5 billion in annual revenue for wireless operators.

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