The US Federal Trade Commission ruled yesterday that Internet users who racked up large long-distance telephone charges because their online calls were routed through the nation of Moldova will receive US$2.74 million in refunds.
More than 38,000 Internet users will receive refunds for calls made as they accessed four adult sites on the World Wide Web and tried to use purportedly free software enabling them to download erotic photos, according to published reports.
The refunds are part of two settlements the FTC said yesterday it has reached with several companies and individuals who used the software to connect Internet users to international telephone numbers.
The program rerouted users from their local Internet service providers to a number in Moldova, which is in Europe. Then, the calls went to a site in Canada that charged even higher rates - up to $2 a minute. Some Internet users had thousands of dollars in long-distance calls.
Audiotex Connection Inc., Promo Line Inc. and Internet Girls Inc., and three individuals associated with those companies, were named in the settlement filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, according to published reports.
A second settlement was released yesterday for public comment and includes Beylen Telecom Ltd. in the Cayman Islands and NiteLine Media Inc. of New York, as well as a NiteLine officials, reports said.
AT&T and MCI Communications will be paid by the defendants and then will issue credits to customers and the FTC, which will give refunds to those who have other long-distance carriers.