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Attorney General Releases Survey Results at FTC; Urges Consumers To Check Mobile Phone Bills For "Crammed" Charges

CONTACT: Wendy Morgan, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507

May 8, 2013

Earlier this morning, at the Federal Trade Commission’s Roundtable on “Mobile Cramming,” Attorney General Bill Sorrell released the results of a survey showing just how large a problem cramming is in Vermont. “Cramming” occurs when a business – not the telephone company – places charges on a phone bill without the consumer’s authorization.
According to the 802 consumers who returned surveys, 60 percent reported that the third-party charges on their mobile telephone bills were unauthorized, or crammed. More than 55 percent of the respondents also reported that they were not aware of any of the third-party charges until the Office asked them to refer to their bills. And nearly 80 percent stated that prior to being surveyed, they were not aware that companies other than their telephone company could bill them for products and services on their mobile phone bills.

“These statistics would be absolutely shocking,” said Attorney General Sorrell, “if law enforcement weren’t already all too familiar with the problem of landline cramming” – the unauthorized placement of third-party charges on landline telephone bills. Most third-party charges to landline bills were outlawed in Vermont in 2011, but landline cramming remains a problem in other states.

“I strongly urge Vermonters to take a close look at their mobile phone bills for charges they don’t recognize,” said Attorney General Sorrell. These charges might be called “Usage Charges,” “Monthly Subscriptions,” “Premium Messaging,” “Premium Services,” or simply “Charges.” Consumers who see suspicious charges, which can range from one-time-only charges to $24.99-per-month “subscriptions,” should call their cell phone company, ask how long the unauthorized charges have been placed on their bills, and demand a full refund.

Consumers can prevent cramming by never putting their mobile phone numbers on the internet or responding to spam texts. Consumers can also help the Attorney General’s efforts to fight cramming by filing their mobile cramming stories with the Consumer Assistance Program at cadmin@atg.state.vt.us or by calling 800-649-2424 (in state only); within Chittenden County call 656-3183.

The survey commissioned by the Attorney General was conducted by Dr. Jane Kolodinsky, Professor and Chair of the Community Development and Applied Economics Department at the University of Vermont.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.