Senate panel looks into phone bill mystery fees

Dec 17, 2010 By JOELLE TESSLER , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- The Senate Commerce Committee is investigating several little-known companies for charging consumers mystery fees through their phone bills in a practice known as cramming.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller, D-W. Va., sent letters to three companies Friday asking them to explain unauthorized charges that they or affiliates have placed on landline phone bills. Those charges, Rockefeller said, were often for services that are available for free online, such as e-mail, or are already bundled with regular , such as .

The letters went to daData Inc. of Palm Harbor, Fla.; My Service and Support of New Hope, Minn.; and More International of Carson City, Nev. None of the companies could be reached for comment.

The Senate inquiry was made public on Friday. In June, the committee sent letters to AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Qwest Communications International seeking information about the scope of the cramming problem, their efforts to address it and a list of companies that place third-party charges on their customers' phone bills.

Although the inquiry in still ongoing, the Commerce Committee has already found that many of the companies responsible for these third-party charges face cramming complaints filed by with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. The probe has also found that many of these companies appear to be controlled by just a few entities.

Senate investigators are still looking into how these companies obtain consumers' phone numbers and how they get people to consent to purchase the services in question. The committee is also looking into the relationships among different companies engaged in cramming.

For its part, AT&T said it is working with Rockefeller to address cramming. Qwest said it has measures in place to combat the problem, including a dispute resolution procedure to issue adjustments if customers dispute third-party charges on their bills. Verizon did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Explore further: Making smartphone browsing 20% faster while reducing power consumption by 40%

5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Regulators seek to avoid surprises on cell bills

May 11, 2010

(AP) -- Federal regulators are considering rules that would require wireless phone companies to alert consumers before they reach roaming or data usage limits on their wireless plans.

FCC rules seek to avoid surprise wireless bills

Oct 13, 2010

(AP) -- Federal regulators want to stop cell phone "bill shock" by requiring wireless companies to alert subscribers before they run out of minutes, hit data usage or text messaging caps or start racking up international ...

Verizon Wireless plans $30M-$90M customer refunds

Oct 04, 2010

(AP) -- Verizon Wireless could pay out up to $90 million in refunds to cell phone customers who were improperly charged for inadvertent Web access or data usage over the past several years.

FCC seeking information about wireless fees

Jan 26, 2010

(AP) -- Federal regulators are asking the nation's big wireless companies whether they give customers adequate notice about early termination fees for breaking a service contract before it expires.

Verizon Wireless to pay $25M for spurious fees

Oct 28, 2010

(AP) -- Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay $25 million to the U.S. government and at least $52.8 million in refunds to customers who inadvertently racked up data charges on their phones over the last three years, federal ...

Recommended for you

Microsoft beefs up security protection in Windows 10

20 hours ago

What Microsoft users in business care deeply about—-a system architecture that supports efforts to get their work done efficiently; a work-centric menu to quickly access projects rather than weather readings ...

US official: Auto safety agency under review

Oct 24, 2014

Transportation officials are reviewing the "safety culture" of the U.S. agency that oversees auto recalls, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been criticized ...

Out-of-patience investors sell off Amazon

Oct 24, 2014

Amazon has long acted like an ideal customer on its own website: a freewheeling big spender with no worries about balancing a checkbook. Investors confident in founder and CEO Jeff Bezos' invest-and-expand ...

Ebola.com domain sold for big payout

Oct 24, 2014

The owners of the website Ebola.com have scored a big payday with the outbreak of the epidemic, selling the domain for more than $200,000 in cash and stock.

Hacker gets prison for cyberattack stealing $9.4M

Oct 24, 2014

An Estonian man who pleaded guilty to orchestrating a 2008 cyberattack on a credit card processing company that enabled hackers to steal $9.4 million has been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a federal judge in Atlanta.

Magic Leap moves beyond older lines of VR

Oct 24, 2014

Two messages from Magic Leap: Most of us know that a world with dragons and unicorns, elves and fairies is just a better world. The other message: Technology can be mindboggingly awesome. When the two ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

IcePowder
not rated yet Dec 18, 2010
Criminal RICO Charges?...,
tarheelchief
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
The largest perpetrators are the local and state governments who fabricate odd charges to be placed upon cable and telephone services for mysterious capital expenditures or connection fees.These alone make up more than 60% of all charges.
Modernmystic
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
The largest perpetrators are the local and state governments who fabricate odd charges to be placed upon cable and telephone services for mysterious capital expenditures or connection fees.These alone make up more than 60% of all charges.


While this may be true, somehow I don't think that's what they're talking about here...
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
The largest perpetrators are the local and state governments who fabricate odd charges to be placed upon cable and telephone services for mysterious capital expenditures or connection fees.These alone make up more than 60% of all charges.

They're all tax deductable though. They're referring to the mystery charges that start at the carrier and aren't outlined in the terms of service.