Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called on other national phone companies to join Verizon and put a stop to phone bill "cramming," which is when a third-party adds unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges to a consumer's bill. Klobuchar wrote a letter to AT&T and CenturyLink urging them to join Verizon and put an end to deceptive billing practices. Verizon's announcement comes after Klobuchar and other senators have pushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on carriers that engage in deceptive billing practices like "cramming."
"Consumers shouldn't have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of ghost charges they never authorized,"Klobuchar said. "I am pleased that Verizon has agreed to ban these cramming practices, and now the rest of America's phone companies need to step up to the plate and do the same. I will continue to fight to make sure that consumers are protected from deceptive billing practices."
"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 pushing to make sure consumers have access to clear and accurate phone bills free from hidden charges and has consistently pressed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on "cramming." Last year she introduced legislation with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to require wireless providers to disclose complete and accurate information about their 4G wireless data service, and she has also introduced legislation to pro-rate early termination fees and to require carriers to provide better coverage maps and clearer bills. She has also teamed up with Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson on this issue.
Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, which has oversight over the FCC and the wireless industry.
The full text of the letter to AT&T and CenturyLink is below.
March 21, 2012
I write to you today about the practice known as “cramming,” where phone companies permit unwanted and often mysterious third-party charges on telephone bills.
I have long pressed for pro-consumer measures in the communications industry, including pushing wireless and wireline phone companies to make sure that consumers have access to clear and accurate phone bills free from hidden charges. As I have said consistently, consumers shouldn’t have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of ghost charges they never authorized. That is why I support Verizon’s recent announcement to put a stop third party billing for services outside their network - a significant step to cracking down on cramming for their wireline customers and make their phone bills more transparent, understandable and consumer-friendly.
In light of Verizon’s announcement today and the consumer interests at stake, I strongly urge your company to step up to the plate and do the same. Your customers deserve nothing less.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your prompt reply.