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January 27, 2010

Bullock: State Secures AirTEL Refunds; Checks Hitting Mailboxes this Week

HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock announced today that customers who were left without cell phone service when the now-defunct AirTEL Wireless abruptly shut its doors last year will be reimbursed for their losses.

Last February, AirTEL Wireless — which was based out of Minnesota and operated only in Montana — unexpectedly shut off service. Even when the company knew it was going out of business, up until the minute it closed, it continued to take money for services it knew it would never deliver.

Attorneys in Bullock’s office who specialize in consumer protection filed a lawsuit against the company and secured a settlement. Nearly 2,000 Montanans are receiving refunds totaling $76,956.47. Those entitled to relief will receive checks this week, some arriving in mailboxes as early as today.

Bullock, who oversees the Office of Consumer Protection, said that the refunds being sent this week are significant, even though individual checks may not be for a large amount of money.

“I’m glad that we’ve been able to secure refunds for the many Montanans who were left high and dry when AirTEL shut its doors and turned its towers off without warning,” said Bullock. “And the news of this settlement should also serve as a reminder to companies that think they can break our laws and scam Montanans – we’re paying attention and we will take action.”

Denise Cummins, a former customer of AirTEL, said that companies like AirTEL take advantage of people because they think they can get away with it.

“Attorney General Bullock’s office went to bat for us and got us the money we were owed,” Cummins said. “What AirTEL did was wrong. It may not seem like a huge amount of money to some people, but in these tough times, every little bit helps.”

Last year, Bullock took AirTEL Wireless to court for violating Montana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.

After filing suit, the State of Montana and the company reached a settlement in which AirTEL would repay customers based on when in the four weeks prior to the company closing they purchased service.

Previous news releases about the situation with AirTEL Wireless are online:

  • Office of Consumer Protection Fielding Complaints Against Defunct AirTEL Wireless, February 23, 2009
  • Office of Consumer Protection Releases Update on AirTEL Wireless, February 24, 2009
  • Bullock: State Files Complaint Against AirTEL Wireless, June 15, 2009
  • Bullock Working to Secure Refunds for AirTEL Customers, August 12, 2009