Telecoms Cram Customers

Consumer Affairs has an article up called “Florida Opens Cramming Probe.” They’ve got that the order jumbled up. Let me give you the advice my father gave me: “Son, first you probe, then you cram.”

Now that that’s out of the way, the article itself alleges that five telephone companies — BellSouth, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and SBC Communications — have been billing customers $12.95 a month for a service called the Email Discount Network, which supposedly gives a discount on products bought through their website. Charging people money for supposed discounts is pretty shady no matter how you look at it — nevertheless, it’s all made worse by the fact that none of the customers actually asked to be signed up for this service. In industry speak, this is called cramming and it’s illegal.

But check this out, an anecdote about a similar cramming from a different service called Axcess through Bell South. Trust us: take the jump. It’s a hell of a quote.

When he asked the Axcess customer service rep to play back the recording of the authorization, he listened in amazement as he heard his boss answer affirmatively, authorizing the service. Hertz told his boss, who had no idea what he was talking about, until he put two and two together.

“A couple of months ago a guy came to our office, saying he was our new Bell South rep, and that as part of a promotion, we qualified for one additional phone line for free. Then, on a Friday after hours a guy called our office and was automatically transferred to my boss,” Hertz said.

“He said he was with the phone company, and was ready to install the free line. My boss said he’d have to do it when the office was open, so the caller transferred him to the scheduling department.”

Hertz says his boss was asked a number of questions that required him to say “yes” a lot. He said the questions were about the installation and not about any services. Yet when Hertz listened to the authorization recording, all the questions were about the service and none concerned any phone line installation.

So someone’s lying here. And we’re betting it’s Bell South.

One last note: notice one company that’s not on that list of telecoms? Qwest. Where we also got the graphic for this post. Jeez, those guys are looking like saints of the industry these days, aren’t they?

Florida Opens “Cramming” Probe [Consumer Affairs]