AT&T notifies iPhone users of class-action settlement via text message

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iPhone users on AT&T were sent a text message by the wireless carrier Friday, notifying them of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit regarding the charging of taxes for Internet access.

The proposed settlement and hearing are detailed on a new website set up by AT&T, entitled AT&T Mobility Settlement. It states that U.S. customers who had an iPhone data plan, or a number of other plans, between Nov. 1, 2005 and Sept. 7, 2010, might be eligible to receive benefits from the class-action settlement.

"The settlement resolves lawsuits concerning AT&T Mobility charging Internet Taxes for Internet access through certain services," the site reads. It notes that the two parties disagree about whether the charging of taxes was improper, but they have agreed to resolve the cases with a settlement.

In addition to iPhone data plans, the settlement relates to data connect plans, smartphone data features and standalone data plans, personal BlackBerry plans, and enterprise smartphone plans.

Customers have four options: they can exclude themselves and receive no settlement, write to the court about why they don't like the settlement, ask to speak in court about the fairness of the settlement, or do nothing and receive the settlement benefits.

There are also three benefits in the settlement. First, AT&T will stop collecting the taxes it has been collecting and paying to states, counties and cities. Those taxes will not be collected again unless the laws are changed to permit AT&T to charge customers.

AT&T will also prepare and process tax refund claims with state, county or municipal taxing agencies, seeking a refund of the Internet taxes it collected over the span covered by the settlement. Refund claims will be issued to customers based on the amount of taxes an account holder paid to AT&T. The settlement must be approved at a court hearing on March 10, 2011.

Finally, AT&T's settlement will also pay "vendor's compensation," which is described as the amount of money AT&T Mobility was allowed to retain from the sales tax it collected as compensation for collecting the taxes.

Details on the mobility settlement website indicate that the settlement payout "may take some time," and asks customers to "please be patient." The benefit will be sent in the form of a check in the mail.

For more information, customers can contact the AT&T Mobility Internet Tax Class Action Settlement hotline, at 1-877-905-8928.