The Federal Trade Commission will host a roundtable on May 8, 2013, in Washington, D.C., to examine unauthorized third-party charges on mobile phone bills – a practice known as mobile cramming. The roundtable will bring together consumer advocates, industry representatives, and government regulators to explore various issues, including how mobile cramming occurs and how to protect consumers from this practice.
The FTC’s interest in mobile cramming stems from its broad mandate to protect consumers in the mobile marketplace. Mobile cramming typically involves a variety of entities that fall within the FTC’s jurisdiction. These include content providers, which create and sell ringtones and other types of content; billing aggregators, which facilitate the placement of third-party charges on mobile phone bills; and mobile carriers, which bill for these third-party services, and which fall under the FTC’s jurisdiction when they are engaged in activities outside common carrier activities.
This roundtable will expand upon previous Commission initiatives, including its 2012 mobile payments workshop, its 2011 landline cramming forum, and its more than 30 law enforcement actions against parties involved in landline cramming. Today, the Commission staff is releasing the report from its mobile payments workshop, which calls for further study of mobile cramming.
The FTC invites the public to submit original research, recommendations for topics of discussion and requests to participate as panelists. The FTC also invites those interested to submit comments on any of the following topics:
- What is the process for placing a third-party charge on a mobile phone bill? What types of companies are involved?
- Does the ability to place third-party charges on a mobile phone bill have beneficial uses? How is this process used for charitable donations? Do unbanked or underbanked populations pay for products or services through their mobile phone bills?
- How do the issues associated with mobile cramming differ from the issues associated with landline cramming?
- What current protections exist to protect consumers from mobile cramming? Are these protections effective? How can they be improved?
- What parties are best equipped to prevent mobile cramming? What additional strategies would be most effective in preventing and/or remedying mobile cramming?
- How prevalent are third-party charges on mobile phone bills, both authorized and not, in other countries? How have international counterparts addressed consumer protection issues in this area, including mobile cramming?
- What steps should government and industry members take to protect consumers from mobile cramming?
Electronic Submissions can be made online at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/mobilecramming. Paper submissions should reference the Mobile Cramming Roundtable both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC requests that any paper submissions be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. Requests to participate should include a statement detailing any relevant expertise in mobile cramming and should be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 29, 2013. Panelists selected to participate will be notified by April 5, 2013.
The roundtable is free and open to the public. It will be held at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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