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Cramming

USTelecom is committed to eliminating the practice of cramming and believes that consumers should not be charged on their phone bills for services they did not purchase.

Status

Cramming is the practice of putting unauthorized charges on telephone bills, resulting in charges for services that consumers didn’t request or use.

Background

The practice of third-party billing actually began as a pro-consumer requirement imposed by the federal government on service providers. While intended to advance competition for long-distance services in the 1980s, bad actors have taken advantage of this arrangement and have engaged in inappropriate billing practices more commonly known as "cramming."

Current industry measures to prevent cramming include both voluntary efforts and good faith agreements to comply with federal regulation. Some lawmakers and regulators are concerned that voluntary guidelines aren’t sufficiently addressing the problem and are considering introducing new rules to provide stricter enforcement against cramming practices.

USTelecom Position

USTelecom agrees that consumers should not be charged on their local exchange carrier’s telephone bill for goods or services they did not purchase. 

As our Senate testimony to this effect indicates, with the technology and sophistication of con artists and scammers on the increase, “best practices” must evolve, and all parties in the billing chain need to elevate efforts to prevent consumer fraud.

Carrier Impact

When delivered in keeping with its original intent, third-party billing is a valuable convenience to both carriers and consumers. Unfortunately, as a result of sketchy businesses and con artists taking advantage of innocent consumers, a previously useful practice has come under fire. Legislation to prevent, ban or limit third-party billing would no doubt affect carriers and USTelecom will keep members informed of any legislative or regulatory activity in this area.