Crackdown on mobile cramming

Don't Waste Your Money

(WXYZ) - Ever get one of those texts with dating tips, weight loss advice or horoscope information, and brush it off as spam? Check your mobile phone bill... you may have been crammed!

Cramming is when unauthorized charges appear on your account without your permission. It was a huge problem back in the landline phone days, but we've discovered mobile phones are crammers new target.

Industry experts says these charges are costing consumers more than 600 million dollars each year. The Federal Trade Commission recently filed its very first case against a company for mobile cramming.

"We're very concerned about what we see as a growing number of complaints," says Attorney Duane Pozza from the FTC.

He says they've received thousands of complaints, and that you could be a victim and not even know it.

"Many consumers overlook the charges on their phone bill, so the complaints that we see really are just the tip of the iceburg," Pozza says.

He says consumers miss these charges because they appear on mobile phone bills as innocuous sounding fees like: standard rate plan, member fee and voicemail.

So why don't cell phone companies, that also profit when third party companies, that also profit when third party companies charge your bill, make these fees more prominent?

"If you have thousands of different kinds of services available that wouldn't be practical for a billing system to be able to specifically list those thousands. I mean that would be a pretty expensive proposition," says John Walls from the C-T-I-A, the Wireless industry trade association. 

Most major mobile phone companies and vendors follow best practices that require third parties to make consumers aware they'll be charged.

"Carriers make it very clear when they take on a relationship with a third party vendor like this, that there are certain rules of the road you have to follow here, and we're going to work awfully hard to keep you from doing anything to our customer if you will, that's not lawful," Walls says.

There's no federal law giving you the right to dispute questionable mobile phone charges like there is with your credit card, and it's a carrier by carrier decision.

The FCC is considering requiring mobile carriers make third party charges more obvious on phone bills. In the meantime, if you're concerned about being crammed, you can call your cell phone company and ask them to block any third party charges from being billed to your account.

The FCC offers more tips on avoiding mobile phone cramming. You can find those by clicking here.

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