Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp. have agreed to pay a combined $158 million, including at least $120 million in consumer refunds, to settle federal and state investigations into allegations that mobile customers were improperly billed for premium text messages. Customers complained that they never authorized the so-called cramming of charges, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Previously, AT&T Inc. agreed to pay $105 million and T-Mobile US Inc. $90 million in similar settlements.
Wellmark again passes on federal online marketplace
Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield has opted for the third straight year to not sell health insurance to Iowa residents on the federal online marketplace. But another large insurer, UnitedHealthcare, has announced that it will begin offering plans to residents on the HealthCare.gov website. Coventry Health Care said residents can continue to shop for its policies on the exchange. Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said he expects a third, unidentified company to file an application this week to sell health coverage to Iowa residents.
Verizon gets an ‘in’ to online, mobile video with AOL purchase
Verizon is buying AOL for about $4.4 billion, advancing the telecom’s push in both mobile and advertising fields. The acquisition gives Verizon — the country’s largest wireless carrier — an entry into increasingly competitive online and mobile video. AOL is the nation’s fourth-largest online property. Verizon Communications Inc. will pay $50 in cash for each share of AOL Inc., a 15 percent premium to its closing price Monday. The deal is expected to close this summer. Tim Armstrong, AOL chairman and CEO, will continue to lead that company.
U.S. corn and soybean forecasts down from ’14
U.S. farmers are expected to grow 13.6 billion bushels of corn this year, down about 4 percent from last year’s record crop. Tuesday’s government estimate assumes an average yield of 167 bushels an acre, down from 171 bushels last year. Soybean farmers are expected to grow nearly 3.85 billion bushels, down 3 percent from last year’s record crop. The projected yield is 46 bushels per acre, down 1.8 bushels from last year.