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Senate holds hearing on cramming

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Cramming
Consumers Union: Regulation is “Vital” to Protect Consumers from Illegal Phone Charges

WASHINGTON – Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, today sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee as it holds a hearing focused on “cramming”, or unauthorized telephone billing.
Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union said, “Cramming phone bills with inconspicuous, unauthorized charges is not only fraudulent, but it also adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars unfairly charged to far too many consumers who may not be aware it’s happening. At a time when everyone is trying to make their dollar stretch farther, it’s important that we work to protect consumers from illegal, predatory practices like cramming.”
The letter recounts the story of John Arwe, a computer programmer who found a $15 charge on his Verizon bill for voice mail and, again, a pair of $8 charges for voice mail. He never authorized either and spent over twenty hours getting the charges from the third party billers and aggregators removed.
The Federal Communications Commission (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.
“It is evident that cramming is a wide-spread problem for consumers and effective regulation of cramming is vital in order to protect consumers. We commend the Committee for addressing this issue and look forward to working with Congress to address the unfair and misleading practices,” said Desai.
For a full copy of the letter, please contact David Butler or Kara Kelber.
Contact: David Butler or Kara Kelber, 202-462-6262, dbutler@consumer.org or kkelber@consumer.org