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FCC To Crammers: No More "Mystery Fees"

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Released: June 16, 2011

NEWS
Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th Street, S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D. C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

NEWS MEDIA CONTACT:

June 16, 2011
David Fiske (202) 418-0513
Email: david.fiske@fcc.gov

FCC TO CRAMMERS: NO MORE "MYSTERY FEES"

$11.7 Million in Penalties Proposed For Unauthorized Charges on

Consumers' Monthly Phone Bills


Washington, D.C. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today proposed a total of $11.7
million in penalties against four companies that appear to have unlawfully billed tens of thousands of
consumers for unauthorized charges a practice known as "cramming." The proposed penalties were
issued against Main Street Telephone ($4,200,000); VoiceNet Telephone, LLC ($3,000,000); Cheap2Dial
Telephone, LLC ($3,000,000); and Norristown Telephone, LLC ($1,500,000).
"Cramming" occurs when a company places charges on a consumer's phone bill without
authorization. These mystery fees typically range from $1.99 to as much as $19.99 per month. They are
often buried in multi-page phone bills and have misleading labels that make it difficult for a consumer to
detect them. The FCC has found that cramming is an "unjust and unreasonable" practice that violates
section 201(b) of the Communications Act.
FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison stated: "Cramming attacks consumers in the
pocketbook, where it really hurts. The Enforcement Bureau takes today's actions to protect thousands of
consumers who appear to have been hoodwinked into paying for services they never wanted, ordered, or
used."
In today's cases, the FCC issued Notices of Apparent Liability to each of the four companies for
apparently charging thousands of customers for "dial-around" long distance service that they had not
ordered. The Enforcement Bureau's investigation revealed that only a tiny fraction of the affected
consumers (about one-tenth of one percent) actually used the services for which they were charged.
Nevertheless, the apparently unlawful billing continued for months and sometimes years.
Because these enforcement actions suggest disturbing patterns of deceptive activity, the
Commission today also released an Enforcement Advisory on cramming, emphasizing that all charges
placed on phone bills must be authorized by the customer, and warning that the Commission will take
aggressive enforcement action in this area. The Advisory is available at
http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/Public_Notices/DA-11-1063A1.html.
In order to help consumers protect themselves, the FCC has published a fact sheet, available at
http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/cramming.html, which provides advice on how to avoid
cramming, and what consumers should do if they discover unauthorized charges on their phone bills.
For further information, contact Mika Savir (202-418-0384) or Erica McMahon (202-418-0346).

--FCC--

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