Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined with 39 other state and territorial attorneys general in sending comments to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the Commission take action to stop "mobile cramming," the placement of unauthorized third-party charges on mobile phone bills. Mobile cramming is a problem across the nation, and is expected to only get worse.
Attorneys general have received numerous complaints from consumers about charges, usually around $9.95, that appear on their phone bills without authorization. The charges are usually for goods and services that the consumers neither requested nor used. Most consumers fail to detect that they have been crammed. When they do discover the charges on their bills, sometimes after several months, consumers are rarely able to obtain a full refund.
"Mobile cramming is on its way to being as common as spam was to email just a few years back, although with mobile cramming, consumers are unwittingly being charged for services they never signed up for," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "With the increasing use of mobile phones as a platform for monetary transactions and the delivery of third-party services, I anticipate this problem will continue to grow. States and the federal government must act together, and quickly, to address this consumer problem."
The comments, submitted by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), address four areas of particular concern: 1. Unauthorized charges being placed on consumers' bills for unwanted and unused services; 2. Inadequate disclosure of third-party charges on mobile phone bills; 3. Inadequate mechanisms for consumers to effectively block third-party charges and obtain refunds; and 4. The lack of state and federal statutory protections governing consumer disputes about fraudulent or unauthorized charges placed on mobile phone bills.
Typically, an alleged unauthorized third-party charge could result from a consumer simply not recalling making a purchase; the mobile content product or service delivered to the consumer could be different than the product or service that was advertised; a family member or friend used the consumer's device to make a mobile content purchase, but did not inform the consumer; or there was no order for a product or service and the 3rd party charge cannot be substantiated.
To avoid being crammed, carefully review your phone bill every month and make sure that the rates and fees are consistent with what the third-party service provider told you.
If you are billed for an item that is unclear, ask the company for an explanation. If you did not agree to the product or service, ask that the charge be deleted and an adjustment made on your bill. Finally, carefully read all promotional materials and all forms - including the fine print - before signing up for a service via your mobile phone.
Attorneys general from the following states and territories signed onto the letter: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming.