FCC Adopts New Rules|to Fight Bill Cramming

      WASHINGTON (CN) – The Federal Communications Commission announced new rules requiring telephone carriers to notify customers of options to block third-party billing. The FCC hopes the measure will empower consumers to fight back against landline phone bill cramming.
     The FCC said that the continued high rate of consumer complaints about unauthorized billing was evidence that “current voluntary industry practices have been ineffective to prevent cramming and make clear the need for additional protection for consumers.”
     The new rules require landline telephone carriers to notify customers of carrier options to block third-party billing and to separate such billing from the fees charged by the carrier for phone service. Consumers will see two totals on their bills, one for the carrier charges and one for third-party services.
     Cramming is the practice adding extra-charges to phone bills for services provided by third-parties that consumers frequently did not know they had signed up for or didn’t know they had access to.
     Frequently charging small amounts, like a $1.99, crammed items often go unnoticed in the long list of fees, taxes and service charges on phone bills.
     The FCC is also asking for public comment on whether it should adopt additional protections, such as requiring landline telephone companies to get consumer consent before placing third-party charges on their telephone bills if the company already offers to block those charges.

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