Cingular hit with class action suit

By John O'Brien | Sep 21, 2006

CHARLESTON - Two unsatisfied customers recently filed lawsuits against Cingular Wireless on behalf of themselves and others with the same problem.

James Strawn and James Staton are each suing Cingular in Kanawha Circuit Court over a $2.99-per-month fee that they say they never agreed to.

The fee, they say, provided roadside assistance. They hope their lawsuits, filed Sept. 12, will "enjoin and redress the unlawful, unfair and/or deceptive acts or practices employed by Cingular, which involve the fraudulent imposition of a $2.99 monthly charge for a purportedly 'optional' roadside assistance service that plaintiffs never requested or enrolled for."

Tim Yianne of Bell and Bands in Charleston is representing the men. He's put a stipulation of limited damages on the case, saying no plaintiff requests more than $75,000, attorneys fees included.

The benefits of the disputed fee, the suit says, include a towing service, battery service, flat tire assistance, fuel delivery service, lockout assistance and key replacement.

"However, Plaintiffs and Class members were not given an option," the complaint continues. "Instead, the roadside assistance was part of a bundled transaction, whereby the plaintiff and class members had to catch the roadside assistance charge and opt out of it.

"Otherwise, if Plaintiff and Class members failed to catch the charge, Cingular automatically enrolled them for the roadside assistance service and imposed a $2.99 monthly charge."

The complaint says Cingular, of Atlanta, is the largest wireless company in the United States, with 54 million subscribers.

It charges the company with violating the West Virginia Credit and Consumer Protection Act. Yianne also put a limit on the total amount of damages that can be received of $5 million.

"Bell and Bands will not accept an aggregate award for attorneys fees and costs exceeding $5 million, inclusive of any other damages awarded to each named plaintiff and class member," the suit says.

He also passed on making any claims for punitive damages.

Judge James Stucky has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers 06-C-1893-1894

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