FCC Proposes Anti-Cramming Regulations For Landline Bills

Last month, FCC chair Julius Genachowski said the commission was preparing to take on the problem of landline bill cramming, the practice of placing mysterious third-party charges for everything from long-distance to yoga classes on your landline bill. Earlier today, the FCC announced more details of its proposed plan.

First, while the FCC realizes that most landline service providers have an option that allows customers to block third-party charges, not all phone companies tell their customer about said option or make it clear about how to turn blocking on.

The new FCC rules would require those companies that provide a blocking service to tell customers about it, not just on their bills and on the website, but also when new customers sign up for service.

Second, the new rules would also require all third-party charges to be separated out from the phone company’s charges your bill. Current regulations only require certain third-party charges be broken out.

Third, the proposed rules would require both landline and wireless providers give customers the FCC’s complaint contact information on their bills and websites.

In June, the FCC estimated that cramming impacts 15-20 million Americans, and only one out of every 20 may be aware they are getting screwed.

The reason most of these rules deal solely with landline billing practices is that an estimated 82% of phone bill cramming occurs on landline invoices, while wireless makes up 16% and VOIP accounts for less than 2% of cramming cases.

Unauthorized Fees: What’s Hiding in Your Phone Bill? [FCC blog]