New Legislation Asks FCC To Create Anti-Cramming Rules For Wireless Bills

While recent action by the FCC created rules intended to curb the practice of “cramming” unauthorized third-party charges on consumers’ landline phone bills, it did nothing to stop the same from happening for wireless customers. Today, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV introduced legislation that would end the practice and direct the FCC to create rules covering wireless customers.

Rockefeller, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee introduced the Fair Telephone Billing Act of 2012, which will require all landline and VoIP companies to put an end to the placement of almost all third-party charges on customers’ bills. AT&T, Verizon and CenturyLink have already begun to implement this change.

The bill would ban third-party charges on landline and VoIP bills, except for legitimate legitimate third-party charges like collect calls or “bundled” services, like satellite television, that might be jointly marketed with the telephone services

Additionally, the bill direct the FCC to create rules to curb cramming on wireless bills. The rules should ensure that consumers are reimbursed for any unauthorized third-party charges that appear on their wireless bills.

“It has become clear that cramming now extends to wireless bills,” said Rockefeller. “And while we shouldn’t prohibit third-party billing on wireless bills in the way we’re doing it on wireline bills, now is the time for the FCC to create rules that ensure cramming on wireless bills is prevented…. Let’s learn from the lessons of wireline cramming and address the vulnerabilities of wireless billing right now, before any more consumers are harmed by the shameful practice of cramming.”

Starting in the ’90s, more and more third-party charges began to appear on consumers’ phone bills, many of them for services the consumer never ordered or was not given a chance to opt out of.

The recent FCC rule changes require landline companies to let customers know if they can opt out of third-party billing and to list all third-party charges clearly and separately.

“These cramming scams take advantage of millions of customers each year. This legislation is a much needed to step to stop these predatory practices and ensure that consumers are only being charged for services they approved,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Wireless phone users deserve the same protections as wireline and VoIP customers, especially as more consumers are moving away from landlines and towards wireless technology. The same cramming abuses that happen on landlines can easily happen to wireless users. It is imperative that any directive for the FCC to develop these wireless cramming rules be carried out quickly and efficiently.”