At a Commerce Committee hearing, Klobuchar said that while the FCC has taken important steps to combat predatory cramming practices, those actions haven’t included protections for the growing number of consumers who are going wireless
WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar continued to call for action to crack down on deceptive cell phone cramming practices that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages every year. At a Commerce Committee hearing, Klobuchar said that while the FCC has taken important steps to combat predatory cramming practices, those actions haven’t included protections for the growing number of consumers who are going wireless. Klobuchar said more needs to be done to protect consumers from cramming as payment technology evolves.
“Predatory cell phone cramming practices are costing consumers hundreds of millions in phantom charges that are buried in the fine print of their bills,” Klobuchar said. “While the FCC and the FTC have taken steps to crack down on these deceptive practices, the FCC’s regulatory actions haven’t included protections for wireless consumers. With more and more households cutting the cord on their landline phones, the agencies need to step up to the plate and do more to prevent crammers from sticking consumers with costly charges they never signed off on.”
Witnesses at the hearing included: The Honorable Terrell McSweeny, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission (FTC); The Honorable William Sorrell, Attorney General, State of Vermont; Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief, Enforcement Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (FCC); and Michael Altschul, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, CTIA - The Wireless Association.
"Cramming" comes in many forms, but it typically refers to "mystery charges" buried in the details of a consumer's phone bill. Crammers trick consumers by pretending to offer something for "free" but then apply charges to consumers' phone bills. The monthly charges are listed with vague descriptions, so consumers often do not detect the unauthorized charges for months.
Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to protect consumers from unauthorized charges on their wireless bills. Klobuchar successfully pushed Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink to stop cramming charges on landline phone bills, and after Klobuchar urged officials to crack down on cell phone cramming, the FTC took enforcement action against Wise Media, LLC. Klobuchar also cosponsored legislation that was recently signed into law that would legalize cell phone unlocking, allowing consumers to keep their same devices when switching phones.
With cell phone thefts surging across the country, Klobuchar earlier this year also introduced legislation requiring carriers to provide kill switch technology that allows consumers to wipe personally identifiable information from their device and make it inoperable to thieves. After Klobuchar began advocating for kill switches, wireless companies – including Apple, Google, AT&T, and Verizon – announced a new commitment to make kill switch technology available on smartphones.