FCC proposes new rules against cramming

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed new rules that would offer consumers additional protections against the practice of adding unauthorized charges and fees to residential phone bills, also known as “cramming.”

Detailed in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in July 2011, the Commission’s proposed rules would:

  1. Require landline telephone companies to notify consumers clearly and conspicuously (at the point of sale, on each bill, and on the company’s website) of the option to block third-party charges on their telephone bills;
  2. Strengthen existing Commission requirements that all third-party charges on landline telephone bills be clearly separated from the phone company’s own charges; and
  3. Require both landline and wireless carriers to notify consumers on telephone bills and on their websites of their rights to file complaints with the FCC in connection with cramming.

The FCC’s newly proposed rules are part of a larger effort by the Commission to address cramming and other so-called mystery fees on consumer telephone bills. In a settlement reached earlier this year with the Commission, Verizon Wireless agreed to refund $50 million in overcharges to subscribers, and to make a $25 million “voluntary payment” to the U.S. Treasury. Further, in June 2011, the Commission issued Notices of Apparent Liability totaling $11.7 million against four separate telecommunications companies allegedly engaged in widespread cramming.

Read the complete text of the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on cramming.