FCC weighs in on phone bill mystery charges

Have you ever opened your phone bill to find a mystery charge? The Federal Communications Commission said 15 to 20 million Americans get these unauthorized charges on their landline phone bill every year.

It's called cramming, and it happened to me several years ago. The FCC said the charges can be for long distance service, voicemail, diet plans or yoga classes that you didn't order.

When I called the company listed on my phone bill, it had a different name on record. A name of someone who clearly didn't live at my home, and didn't share the same email address. I spent a long time on the phone fighting the charge as the phone company did little to help me, and told me cramming happened rarely.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he wants to propose new rules to increase transparency and disclosure on phone bills. He said he'll circulate a proposal Tuesday to his colleagues to "explore new ways to empower consumers and protect Americans against cramming and mystery fees."

The FCC said a recent survey showed only 5 percent of cramming victims were aware of the charges. That's a startling statistic, and shows how many people don't read their bills. On my bill, it was clear there were miscellaneous charges because they came on a separate page. It was the last straw and forced me to get rid of my landline.

The FCC said it's also beefing up enforcement.

"Cramming is not only illegal, it erodes consumer trust in communications services. The FCC will not tolerate cramming, and we are turning up the heat on companies that rip off consumers with unauthorized fees. We want to send a clear message: if you charge consumers unauthorized fees, you will be discovered and you will be punished," Genachowski said.

Content courtesy: jennstrathman.com . Jenn works as a consumer investigator for WEWS-TV in Cleveland and keeps a blog to update people on the latest money-saving tips.

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