Senate Committee Condemns Third-Party Billing Practicesby Nick LaFleur on Aug. 17, 2011, under alert, Life, scam, Tips
Third party vendors are collecting billions of dollars in erroneous charges placed on mobile and landline phone bills and consumers are getting little help from their telephone service providers with removing and preventing such charges, according to a report released July 12 by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
The report further states Federal Trade Commission and other law enforcement actions have been ineffectual in curbing the problem.
While the information isn’t new, Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona once again warns consumers to be on the watch for this billion-dollar-a-year practice and be proactive in keeping false charges off their bills.
The report, titled “Unauthorized Charges on Telephone Bills,” includes a survey of 500 customers who had third party charges on their bills. Not a single person said those charges were valid.
Because the practice is highly profitable to phone companies, the report added, customers have had a difficult time getting charges removed from their bills.
“Only after these consumers contacted the Better Business Bureau or their state attorneys general did their telephone companies provide assistance for many of them,” the report reads.
Individuals, businesses and government agencies have all been victims of the practice, some reporting tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges.
“Third-party vendors even crammed unauthorized charges for voicemail services onto AT&T‘s own telephone lines,” according to the report.
To protect yourself from unauthorized charges on your telephone bill, BBB offers the following tips:
- Understand your mobile service plan. Be sure to keep track of what services you do want to pay for. Without understanding what services you expect, it will be difficult to determine which charges are potentially inaccurate.
- Keep a close eye on monthly statements. Anyone can become a victim of bill “cramming” or “shock” and monitoring your monthly bills is the only way to determine whether or not you’ve been affected. The sooner you spot any unexpected charges, the sooner you can stop them.
- Add restrictions to your account. Contact your service provider to see if you can completely restrict third-party billing on your account. This is especially helpful if you have several family members or friends sharing one account and you want to limit their ability to add charges.
- Be cautious about free trials or sweepstakes. Be wary when asked to sign up for a free trial or enter a sweepstakes on your mobile phone. Always read the fine print on any offer so you know whether or not any future charges will apply.
- Know where to complain. The first step to eliminating these fees is to notify your cell phone service provider if you see charges you didn’t expect. If you are unable to resolve an issue regarding bill charges with them, file a complaint with the FCC for charges related to telephone service and BBB for all other charges on your phone bill. Neutral third-party groups are helpful in determining a fair resolution for unwanted charges.