According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) website cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. These unauthorized charges can be intentional or unintentional and often are missed by consumers. Phone bills are often confusing and have a lot of different small charges included, and crammers rely on this to hide unwarranted charges in consumer’s bills. According to the FCC, these charges may be any of the following: “service fee,” “service charge,” “other fees,” “voicemail,” “mail server,” “calling plan,” “membership,” “monthly fee” or “minimum monthly usage fee” or even something more obvious like “mobile love alerts”.
“Mobile love alerts” is what CUB’s Executive Director Bob Jenks found on his mobile phone bill right before he was about to make his payment. Knowing that neither he nor his family members had signed up for any love alerts or additional services on their mobile plan, Bob called his service provider and they immediately removed the additional charge. Here is a copy of Bob’s phone bill with the cramming charge highlighted. According to his mobile phone service provider, they have received a number of complaints regarding the “mobile love alerts” charge and an online search of the term showed consumers from a variety of service providers complaining about the same charge.
According to an infographic about cramming released today in a press release from the FCC, only 1 in every 20 consumers is aware of the cramming charges on their phone bill. The FCC estimates that 20 million Americans are victims of cramming charges and today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced new actions to help consumers prevent and identify cramming.
The lesson learned here is to ALWAYS review your phone and internet bills and make sure that there are no unwarranted charges. To compare your phone bill with approved charges check out Understanding Your Phone Bill, a complete guide to the acceptable charges on your phone bill. If you see a charge for a service that you did not sign up for make sure to call your service provider.
A phone call to his service provider saved Bob $9.99!
Here is a consumer guide to identifying mystery charges on your bill, issued today by the FCC. The guide also explains what to do when you think there are unwarranted charges on your phone bill.