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]


Edit Your Comment

  1. mariser says:

    whoa. “a hell of a quote” is right.
    this is mofo scary. note to self: not only don’t give your personal information on phone calls not initiated by me, also, don’t even talk at all.

  2. Bubba Barney says:

    Darn, I was going to point out the Qwest thing too.

    Only problem I ever had with an errant charge on my Qwest bill was from an offshores dialer scam company. I was charged for making a collect call [on a line which I only use for dial-up], so I knew it was impossible.

    I researched the company online, and found out they used dialers to somehow make collect calls on people’s lines.

    I then useed Qwest’s online customer service chat service, to IM the rep a link to the various pages showing that the company that billed me was shady.

    The charge was immediately removed and the account credited.

    Thanks Qwest!

  3. tby says:

    I’m guessing Qwest didn’t make the list because they don’t offer local telephone service in Florida. Third-party pass-thru billing is ripe for abuse no matter who provides your land line.