FCC proposes fines for telephone bill ‘cramming’

June 16, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission proposed $11.7 million in penalties against four companies that allegedly charged thousands of customers for long-distance services without authorization — known as “cramming.”

The companies — Main Street Telephone, VoiceNet Telephone LLC, Cheap2Dial Telephone LLC and Norristown Telephone — are accused of adding “dial-around” long-distance service to customers’ bills, which bypass a customer’s normal long-distance carrier. Such services often require a customer to dial an access code that often begins with “10-10.”

The agency Enforcement Bureau’s investigation of the companies found that only a one-tenth of one percent of the affected customers actually used the services for which they were charged over a period of months and sometimes years.

Addressing the trend of cramming, the commission has released an advisory warning customers about the practice and promising to aggressively enforce rules banning it.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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