Outrageously inflated bills are always somewhat laughable, but those giggles are usually hard to come by for the person involved until after/if the situation gets cleared up. After all, when you receive a bill your first reaction is that you’re going to be responsible for paying it. One woman in the South of France had a bit of a shock when she thought she’d be on the hook for close to €12 quadrillion for her phone bill.
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.
It’s been almost a year since the FCC finally got around to considering rule changes to keep landline phone service providers from padding customers’ bills with charges for third-party services that range from long-distance service to yoga classes. Today, the commission announced some new regulations — but they only goes so far in protecting consumers.
Crammers are ripping off taxpayers across the country by getting fake charges put on the phone bills of government agencies.
While the folks in Washington, D.C., are proposing regulations to prevent bizarre, and often illegal, third-party charges from being buried on your phone bill, officials in a nearby Maryland county are actually investigating Verizon’s billing practices following complaints that the phone company has been charging customers for services they didn’t request.
Earlier this year, a woman in Pennsylvania contacted Verizon to find out more information about the $4.19 she was being charged on her home phone bill for six, unspecified local calls. Big V told her it would provide the itemized information, if she got a lawyer with a subpoena. Several months later, and without an attorney, she finally got a judge to agree with her.
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.
Eight months after the FCC settled with Verizon Wireless for $25 million over mystery charges on cell phone bills, the Commission’s Chairman Julius Genachowski says he’s ready to take on the bigger problem of so-called “cramming” on landline bills.
Last week, we asked you what annoyed you most about your mobile phone plan, and most of you picked “cost.” Now comes news that the Federal Communications Commission is going to review new proposals intended to keep you from spending more on your phone bill than you’d planned.
Inc21 supposedly sells web hosting and other Internet-related services, but the FTC says that in reality it contracted with offshore telemarketers who helped it cram charges onto unsuspecting customers’ phone bills, earning $19 million over the past five years. Customers who complained about the charges said they were either never contacted in the first place, were promised a free trial, were told that the telemarketer was just verifying business information, or explicitly refused Inc21’s offer and were charged anyway.
Update: Verizon won’t charge the soldiers for the calls in question.
In the weeks immediately following the Haiti earthquake, Verizon and AT&T offered free calls to Haiti as a goodwill gesture to people in the U.S. with family and friends over there. The offers weren’t identical, though, and Verizon was only offering free calls made to Haiti, not the reverse. Spc. James Crawford kept calling his pregnant wife each day from his station in Port-au-Prince, and now they have a phone bill for $1,919.44.
Richard says AT&T tracked him down to tell him he had an unpaid bill of $1,671.98, but it doesn’t owe the phone company the money because it sold the debt to an outside agency. He fears getting dinged on his credit history for a bill he believes he doesn’t owe.
Ralph discovered a mysterious $18 charge on his most recent AT&T bill. A little research turned up OSP Communications, which is apparently a front for a fraudulent biller that has repeatedly hit AT&T customers with a cramming fraud. Read Ralph’s email below, and be sure to check your own phone bill for charges like this each month.
We hate to say this, but in the interest of fairness we must: sometimes it really is the customer’s fault. A man took his three iPhones out of the country, and now he’s got a $4800 roaming bill because he didn’t turn them off and they kept checking for email. Well, he didn’t turn them off off. You know, there’s standby off and off off. Or maybe you didn’t know? It’s all in the Apple iPhone User Guide—we just looked at it online and it’s right there on page 14: how to put your phone in standby (which just turns off the screen) and how to shut it off completely.