Washington, D.C. – After pressure from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and the Senate Commerce Committee, the Federal Communications Commission today adopted consumer protections to fight the occurrence of unauthorized third-party billing on landline phone bills. In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski last week, Klobuchar urged the agency to fight cramming on cell phones as well as land lines. After Klobuchar pressed for additional action for cell phone users, Chairman Genachowski today announced he would look into cramming on wireless bills. The anti-consumer wireless billing practice known as “cramming” is when a third party adds unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges to a consumer's bill.
"No consumer should have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of complicated charges they never knew they were accruing,"Klobuchar said. "While it is welcoming news that the FCC is looking at expanding protection, I urge the FCC to continue to move forward and take action to fight these tactics on cell phone bills. 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. Today’s FCC order adopts provisions to help educate consumers about blocking crammers, and increasing transparency for consumers.
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 FCC to crack down on cramming. Klobuchar successfully put pressure on Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink to stop placing third-party charges on landline phone bills. After Verizon agreed to ban cramming on landline phone bills, Klobuchar wrote a letter to AT&T and CenturyLink urging them to do the same. Later that month, AT&T and CenturyLink announced that they would prevent cramming charges on landline phones as well.
Last year Klobuchar 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 telecommunications industry.