IN THE NEWS: Klobuchar To FCC: Crack Down On 'Cramming'

[SOURCE: National Journal, AUTHOR: Juliana Gruenwald]   

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., called on the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday to do more to crack down on unauthorized charges added to consumers' phone bills by a third party.

In a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Klobuchar, a member of the Commerce Committee, voiced concern about the practice known as "cramming." She said complaints about unauthorized charges have been on the rise, particularly among smart phone users who can download applications to their phones.

"Victims of cramming may have inadvertently signed up to receive a message - such as a horoscope or a joke - without realizing they would be billed each month. Or a victim may simply be an unlucky target of a scam," Klobuchar wrote. "These charges, which may go unnoticed for months, appear to be legitimate and are often hidden in a bill." She added that such charges often are difficult to remove.

Klobuchar, who has been critical of early termination fees imposed on wireless phone customers who break their contracts early, urged the FCC to consider adopting rules that would require phone companies to clearly identify third-party charges on their customers' bills, including a clear description of the services being charged. In addition, she called on the FCC to establish clear procedures companies must follow to ensure that a consumer has agreed to purchase a service that will be charged to their phone bill.

"As I have written to you before, wireless consumers are increasingly faced with confusion over wireless charges and uncertainty about their bills," she added in the letter. "Cell phone cramming and unauthorized third-party charges only add to this confusion."

Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a record $25 million fine to settle allegations from the Federal Communications Commission that the wireless provider erroneously billed millions of customers for unexplained data charges.

Last month, Verizon Wireless agreed to pay a record $25 million fine to settle the FCC's allegations that the wireless provider erroneously billed millions of customers for unexplained data charges.


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