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Attorney General Hails New Telephone Anti-Cramming Law

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507

June 6, 2011

Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell today hailed the passage of a new law designed to prevent the addition of unauthorized charges on the local telephone bills of individual consumers and businesses in the state, a practice known as cramming. The legislation—which was proposed by the Attorney General’s Office and supported by the Vermont Public Service Department, local telephone companies, and passed overwhelmingly by the Vermont House and Senate—bans the addition of most third-party charges on local phone bills. Part of the larger jobs bill, the law was signed by Governor Peter Shumlin on May 27, 2011, and became effective the same day.

Attorney General Sorrell’s office has been conducting a widespread investigation into cramming by out-of-state companies. “For too long, Vermonters have been charged for things they did not ask for and did not use, through charges on their local phone bills that they were not aware of,” said Attorney General Sorrell. “Vermont’s new legislation will put an end to that,” he added.

The new law is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. It provides for a general prohibition on third-party billing, with the following limited exceptions:

  • billing for goods or services marketed or sold by a company subject to the jurisdiction of the Vermont Public Service Board (including, for example, a local telephone company that itself markets combined phone, television and internet service);
  • billing for direct dial or dial-around services initiated from the consumer’s telephone; and
  • operator-assisted telephone calls, collect calls, and telephone services that facilitate communication to or from correctional center inmates.
  • The Attorney General’s Office also continues to investigate past violations of the prior law that required that companies notify Vermonters in writing before charging them for third-party services on their local telephone bills, as well as cases of cramming on wireless telephone bills. Consumers who have been billed on their wireless phones for services they did not authorize or use are encouraged to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program, online at www.uvm.edu/consumer or by mail to Consumer Assistance Program, 146 University Place, Burlington, VT 05405.

      Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.