The solicitation of “mystery fees” – or “cramming” – is a dubious practice utilized by phone carriers to milk coin out of their customers, charging anywhere from $1.99 to $19.99 per month for services they don’t actually need.
It’s a sketchy practice, to say the least, as thousands of people are charged unknowingly for “dial-around” long distance add-ons. For example, the Wall Street Journal points to the case of a woman in St. Louis, who “was charged for long-distance service for more than two years even though she hadn’t signed up for it.”
(PHOTOS: A Photographic History of the Cell Phone)
So polite applause is in order for the Federal Communications Commission and their Chairman, Julius Genachowski (pictured above), who on Monday proposed over $11 million in penalties against cram-happy carriers.
“Cramming attacks consumers in the pocketbook, where it really hurts,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison, according to The Hill. “The Enforcement Bureau takes today’s actions to protect thousands of consumers who appear to have been hoodwinked into paying for services they never wanted, ordered, or used.”
The companies in question are Main Street Telephone; VoiceNet Telephone, LLC; Cheap2Dial Telephone, LLC; and Norristown Telephone, LCC.
Combined, their proposed penalties accumulate for $11.7 million, which the FCC hopes will aid in avoiding future “bill shock,” when a customer’s phone bill is higher than expected.
Of course, the FCC also encourages customers to carefully examine their phone bills on their own to make sure they aren’t being duped, as it was discovered that only 0.10% of customers (you read that right) actually used “dial-around” service, the billing of which sometimes persisted for years right under their noses.