AG Gansler: Stop Cramming Our Phone Bills
Federal Trade Commission urged to take action against unauthorized third-party charges; anti-cramming efforts are a consumer protection priority
Baltimore, MD ( June 25, 2013) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, joined by 39 attorneys general and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, today urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop the growing consumer rip-off known as cramming, the placement of unauthorized third-party charges on mobile phone bills. The comments, submitted by the National Association of Attorneys General on behalf of the signatories, came in response to the FTC's Mobile Cramming Roundtable held in May.
"Cramming boils down to stealing from consumers who must then spend time trying to get their money back and stop these unauthorized charges," says Attorney General Gansler. "Unfortunately, until the FTC bolsters billing security, consumers should scrutinize every phone bill they get, looking for charges they didn't authorize and taking immediate steps to reverse it. Consumers should also do the same for every credit card bill."
Attorney General Gansler's Consumer Protection Division continues to receive complaints from consumers that charges, usually ranging from $9.95 to $24.95 per month, appeared out of the blue on their phone bills without their authorization and for goods and services that the consumers neither requested nor used. Most consumers fail to notice that they have been crammed, and when they do, they have already been paying the charges for several months, are rarely able to get a full refund and often unable to discontinue or block future charges.
The NAAG comments address four areas of particular concern:
- Unauthorized charges being placed on consumers' bills for unwanted and unused services;
- Inadequate disclosure of third-party charges on mobile phone bills;
- Inadequate mechanisms for consumers to effectively block third-party charges and obtain refunds; and
- The lack of state and federal statutory protections governing consumer disputes about fraudulent or unauthorized charges placed on mobile phone bills.
"The attorneys general agree that addressing these issues should be a priority among consumer regulators and the mobile telephone industry," declares the letter signed by Attorney General Gansler and his counterparts in 39 other states and territories. In the meantime, the attorneys general will continue to investigate and take enforcement actions against persons who charge unauthorized amounts on consumers' mobile phone bills.
A copy of the letter to the FTC can be found at: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Press/FTC_Comment_Mobile_Cramming.pdf