FCC proposes major penalties for unauthorized phone charges

Signaling its commitment to enforce its rules against the practice of “cramming” (the placing of unauthorized charges on a consumer’s phone bill), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed significant financial penalties against four separate telecommunications companies based in Pennsylvania.

In four separate Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture issued in June 2011, the Commission has proposed a $4.2 million penalty against Main Street Telephone of Blue Bell, PA, a $3.0 million penalty against both VoiceNet Telephone and Cheap2Dial of Harrisburg, PA, and a $1.5 million penalty against Norristown Telephone of Blue Bell, PA, for a total of $11.7 million.

According to the FCC, the companies charged thousands of customers for “dial-around” long distance service that they had not ordered.  The Commission’s investigation revealed that only a small percentage of the affected consumers actually used the services, while the unlawful billing continued for months and, in some cases, years.

The FCC has found that cramming is an “unjust and unreasonable” practice that violates section 201(b) of the Communications Act, and has pledged to take aggressive enforcement action against companies that engage in cramming activities.

Read the complete texts of the Notices of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture: