While it was recently reported that AT&T and other providers are building a database to help track and de-activate stolen cellphones, a group has still brought a class-action lawsuit against the company for helping thieves re-activate stolen devices, mainly the iPhone. The suit was filed in Superior Court, and alleges that AT&T has committed conspiracy, fraud, breach of contract, accessory to theft, unfair trade and other charges, by forcing customers into buying new phones and plans after claiming they “cannot” block calls and service to stolen devices, thus allowing thieves to plainly go into an AT&T store and buy a new SIM.
The California plaintiffs, with Hilary White and two others being named, are represented by the law firm R. Parker White with Poswall, White & Cutler. According to Courthouse news Service,
“for years, defendants have actively and without reservation aided, abetted, and assisted thieves, i.e., possessors of stolen cell phones, in earning illegal theft profits, by turning back on, or ‘re-activating’ said stolen phones. Plaintiffs have been told by AT&T representatives that they will not, and ‘cannot,’ block and effectively kill usage of such stolen cell phones by thieves and criminal organizations; however, such representations are false and fraudulent. Defendants actively have, for years, participated in this practice in order to make millions of dollars in improper profits, by forcing legitimate customers, such as these plaintiffs, to buy new cell phones, and buy new cell phone plans, while the criminals who stole the phone are able to simply walk into AT&T stores and ‘re-activate’ the devices, using different, cheap, readily available ‘SIM’ cards (computer chips). Defendants have, for years, profited from this implicit collaboration and conspiracy with thieves and criminal gangs of thieves. Defendants continue to engage in this practice, and knowingly and intentionally continue to refuse to block, disable, or ‘kill’ permanently, or return to their lawful owners these stolen iPhones and other cell phones, to the financial benefit and plan not only of the criminal thieves themselves, but of the defendants, [i.e.], AT&T. These unfair and illegal profits have amounted to many millions of dollars each year, for the past several years, and continuing, reaped by AT&T and other cell phone providers. Plaintiffs have repeatedly asked defendants to track, record, and simply refuse to ‘activate’ these stolen iPhones, however, to date defendants have refused to do so, even though it is readily, easily able to accomplish, because if they take said proper action, their sales of new iPhones and plans will be reduced and diminished.”
The plaintiffs point out that AT&T and its vendors are well aware of the IMEI identification number that is included with all cellphones, and should be able to tell if a device has been illegally obtained, and seek unspecified punitive and engorgement damages. It’s likely cases like this that have prompted AT&T to align with the FCC to build the aforementioned cellphone database. Once this is put into effect, it is assumed that it won;t be so easy for thieves to re-activate devices by merely visiting company stores and kiosks, which will in turn cut down on petty theft.