Some of TracFone’s finest products. TracFone The Federal Communications Commission yesterday accused five wireless service providers of obtaining duplicate payments from a federal fund for low-income consumers.

The FCC wants the companies to repay the extra money and, in addition, to pay $14.4 million in fines.

The wireless providers allegedly violated rules of the Lifeline program, which has helped people afford basic telephone service since 1985. It was expanded to cover pre-paid cell phone service in 2005 under former President George W. Bush. “The violations involve thousands of consumers who had more than one Lifeline subscription from the same provider, resulting in duplicative support requests and payments,” the FCC said. “In each case, the carrier knew or should have known, based on its own internal data, that the consumers were ineligible under Lifeline program rules. … To protect the integrity of the Lifeline program, the Commission’s rules prohibit, among other things, Lifeline service providers from requesting and/or receiving support for consumers who already receive Lifeline service.”     

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