“Cramming” is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.
In addition to providing local telephone service, local telephone companies often bill their customers for long distance and other services that other companies provide. If a local telephone company, long distance telephone company, or another type of service provider either accidentally or intentionally places unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your bill, you may have been “crammed.”
Cramming can also occur if a local or long distance company or another type of service provider does not clearly or accurately describe all of the relevant charges to you when marketing a service. Although you may have authorized the service, you did not understand or were misled about how much it would really cost.
Cramming comes in many forms and is often hard to detect unless you closely review your telephone bill. Charges described as follows can be legitimate if you authorize them but, if unauthorized, could constitute cramming:
While cramming charges typically appear on consumers’ local telephone bills, they may also be included with bills issued by long distance telephone companies and companies providing other types of services, including wireless telephone, beeper, and pager services.
The FCC’s Truth-in-Billing Rules
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Truth-in-Billing rules require telephone companies to provide clear, non-misleading, plain language in describing services for which you are being billed. Because one telephone company, usually your local telephone company, may include charges you incurred for another company’s service on your bill, the company sending you the bill must identify the service provider associated with each charge. If a bill contains charges in addition to basic local service, it must distinguish between charges for which non-payment will result in disconnection of basic, local service, and charges for which non-payment will not result in disconnection. Telephone companies must also display, on each bill, one or more toll-free numbers that you can call to ask about or dispute any charge on the bill.
This information empowers you to protect yourself from cramming and other types of telecommunications fraud. It also helps you make informed choices when you shop around to find the best telephone service to meet your needs.
Take the following actions if unknown or suspicious charges are listed on your telephone bill:
If neither the company sending you the bill nor the company that provided the service in question will remove charges from your telephone bill that you consider to be incorrect, you can file a complaint as follows:
For charges related to telephone service between states or internationally, you can file your complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint. You can file a complaint using an FCC on-line complaint form found at esupport.fcc.gov…
The best way to provide all the information needed for the FCC to process your complaint is to complete fully the on-line complaint form. When you open the on-line complaint form, you will be asked a series of questions that will take you to the particular section of the form you need to complete. If you do not use the on-line complaint form, your complaint, at a minimum, should indicate:
For charges for telephone services provided within your state, contact your state public service commission. For contact information for your state public service commission, visit www.naruc.org… or check the blue pages or government section of your local telephone directory.
For charges on your telephone bill for non-telephone services, file your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file a complaint with the FTC online at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov….