AT&T brings a 12-year long lawsuit to an end with a $45 million payment to the families of Washington state prisoners. The lawsuit filed in 2000 accused AT&T, along with other phone companies, of failing to disclose what many called exorbitant rates for collect calls made from prison. At least 70,000 families are eligible to receive full reimbursement for the call charges, as well as an additional $200.
The lawsuit covers calls made between 1996 and 2000. Chris Youtz, the attorney that pressed the class action case, said that the calls were charged at $3.95 for the first minute and $.90 for each additional minute. The calls terminated after 20 minutes, meaning callers had to make another call with a new charge. Several people received bills over $10,000 and at least three had charges over $20,000.
The Washington Department of Corrections has since reduced its calling charges and has said that legal notices will be sent to inform people of the potential refund. AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter sent a statement to the Seattle Times addressing the issue, stating that “While AT&T continues to believe that it followed all rules at issue in the lawsuit, we are pleased to see the litigation resolved in a way that, among other things, supports legal assistance for low income residents of Washington state and educational assistance for families of prison inmates in the state.”