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Phone Bill Cramming

The Fraud of Illegal Additional Amounts on Bills


Cramming is an illegal practice, and therefore a fraud, that operators like phone service providers do to charge customers fees on their bills that they don’t know about. These additional ‘mysterious’ fees may be added to the bill as some additional cents that the customer will not care to check before paying, or as an additional service that was not included in the contract or disclosure. Either way, the cramming party is banking on the user to overlook that element on the bill. Something which many customers do, but many happen to notice the trick, and this brings the tons of complaints that the FCC records each year. As a matter of fact, only to refund cramming charges in October 2010, Verizon paid no less than $50 million.

Cramming practices are common with phone and VoIP bills. The latter is more likely to have cramming charges since the payment is done directly through credit card, and users very rarely get to verify their minutes and cents used. Moreover, there is place for so many additional fees that users are easy to accept as part of the technology, like connection fees, fees for intermediate call termination networks etc.

Detecting Cramming

There are several things you can look at to determine whether you have been victim of cramming:
  • Your bill goes abruptly high. Unless you have been abusing of your utility this month in a way that explains the peak, pay attention to the numbers on the bill.
  • Some additional lines and figures have been added to the bill, and you can’t find a good reason for them to be there.
  • From time to time, take a calculator and check the totals.

Protecting Yourself from Cramming

Keep these habits:
  • Develop that flair for smelling the rat on the bill. See above. Don’t be a too-easy customer.
  • Beware of sentences like ‘Enter to win’, ‘Join the club’ or ‘Free...’ stuff. Pay attention to what they lead to.
  • Know and keep track of what you pay for, including the side fees.
  • From time to time, even if there is no cramming, call at the operators office and ask some clarifications on the amounts and items on the bill. Just for information. Here is a sample wireline phone bill and its explanation.
  • Try eliminating from your service elements that you don’t need. The leaner a bill is, the cleaner it will be and the less chance there will be for cramming.

What to do if you are a Cramming Victim

If you find you are paying more than what you should have, the first thing to do is to call the operator (going to their office in person is better) and talk to them about your suspicions. If the cramming is detected, you might get a refund.

Else, or even if you do get a refund, file a complaint. There are two instances that have a mechanism for these complaints: the FTC and the FCC. Follow the links.

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