Thursday, April 19, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC – As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to consider new rules on cramming at its upcoming Open Meeting, consumer and public interest groups sent a letter to the Commission urging them to extend unauthorized third party billing protections beyond landline customers to wireless and VoIP users.
The letter, signed by Consumers Union, AARP, Center for Media Justice, IDEPSCA, NASUCA, National Consumer Law Center on behalf of their low-income clients, National Consumers League, The Utility Reform Network, and Consumer Federation of America, points out the recent consumer shift away from landline technology to wireless and broadband communications. In order to adequately protect consumers, especially with the rapid development of mobile and mobile payment technology, cramming protections need to be broadened to cover wireless and VoIP technologies.
“Technology should continue to flourish and grow, but not at the hefty expense of consumers,” the groups write in the letter. “Thus, not only should the FCC provide stronger consumer protections against cramming, it is especially critical the FCC extend cramming rules to wireless and VoIP providers, especially considering the high rate of adoption among consumers.”
Cramming — the practice of putting unauthorized charges on your telephone bills – has been recognized as a serious problem in reports and investigations by the FCC, FTC, Congress and various states. In fact, a recent Senate Commerce Committee Staff Report on Unauthorized Charges on Telephone Bills found that “many third-party vendors are illegitimate and created solely to exploit third-party billing while, most third party charges appear to be unauthorized.”
Consumers are increasingly using VoIP services. The FCC has found that as of 2010, there were 32 million interconnected VoIP subscriptions out of the 149 million total wireline retail local telephone service connections, a 22% increase from the preceding year.
The groups write, “The same abuses that occur on traditional landline serves can easily occur on VoIP services. Moreover, there is evidence that cramming on mobile devices will be a larger problem for wireless users. To ensure consumers are not harmed by these practices, we urge the FCC to take steps against this predatory practice by adopting stronger rules than currently proposed.”
The FCC’s Open Meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 27 at 11 AM. For more information on the meeting visit www.fcc.gov.
For a full copy of the letter please contact David Butler or Kara Kelber at Consumers Union.