July 20, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action to protect all consumers from unauthorized third party charges – a practice known as “cramming” – regardless of how they get their telephone service.
In reply comments filed with the Commission today, Consumers Union continued to call on the FCC to block third-party billing on all phones, or alternatively block third-party billing on all landline phones and adopt an opt-in mechanism for third-party cell phone billing.
“Despite talk about putting an end to cramming for nearly fourteen years, consumers are still being taken advantage of by cramming to the tune of nearly $2 billion each year,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “There is no reason to protect one type of consumer over another. The same cramming abuses that happen on landlines can easily happen to wireless and VoIP customers and we urge the FCC to protect these consumers equally.”
Consumer Union’s most recent filing, also signed by Center for Media Justice, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low income clients, and National Consumers League, notes that the voluntary standards proposed by the industry simply aren’t enough, pointing to similar previous promises to address cramming.
Desai said, “There’s a good reason for remaining skeptical of these promises to self-regulate – because we’ve heard them before. But millions of consumers are still falling victim to cramming charges every year, so we need to look to a new solution to fix the problem.”
The public interest groups also made clear that these protections strengthen the disclosure rules mandated by the FCC earlier this year that require telephone companies to notify consumers of the option to block third-party charges and to separate those charges on subscribers’ phone bills.
The FCC has indicated that roughly 20 million Americans are victims of these unauthorized and cryptic charges each year. However, because third party billers and aggregators illegally add small charges that are easy to overlook and hard to understand, only around five percent of those consumers are even aware they are being defrauded.
Media Contact: Kara Kelber, 202-462-6262