Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crack down on anti-consumer wireless billing practices including “cramming,” which is when a third-party adds unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges to a consumer's bill. After Klobuchar and the Senate Commerce Committee of which she is a member put pressure on national phone companies to end cramming practices, Verizon and AT&T recently agreed to stop placing third-party charges on landline phone bills, but did not include cell phone bills in the agreement. In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Klobuchar urged the agency to ensure wireless consumers are protected as well as landline phone bills.
"Consumers shouldn't have to open their phone bills every month to find an endless array of ghost charges they never authorized,"Klobuchar said. "While we have made some progress in fighting cramming on landline phones, I urge the FCC to 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.
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." 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. A week later, AT&T announced it 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 wireless industry.
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Chairman Genachowski,
I write you today regarding deceptive and fraudulent consumer billing practices that are hurting consumer pocketbooks around the country. As you know, cramming is the practice where a third-party adds unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges to a consumer’s phone bill. These “mystery charges” typically end up buried in the details of a consumer’s phone bill, where they can be difficult to find. The Senate Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, conducted an exhaustive investigation of cramming and I strongly supported your subsequent efforts at the FCC to put rules in place to protect consumers in this area. I have also called on major national phone companies to put an end to cramming. AT&T and Verizon recently did just that by changing their third party billing practices for landline phone bills.
AT&T and Verizon’s actions are a win for consumers but I remain concerned about deceptive or fraudulent billing practices on wireless consumers. More and more households are cutting the cord on their landline phones and recent statistics show that almost one third of Americans rely exclusively on a wireless device. I urge the FCC to take action to ensure that the same tactics that we’ve seen for landline phone bills don’t simply migrate over to wireless bills.