The Federal Trade Commission filed comments on November 13 with the Federal Communications Commission in support of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to make telephone bills more readable and accurate.
In the comment, the FTC agrees with the FCC’s statement that "even the most sophisticated consumer would often be unable, based on information provided in the bills, to identify the services for which the consumer is being charged, or the providers of those services." The FTC also states that "unclear telephone bills have contributed to the proliferation of cramming."
The comment outlines the FTC’s efforts to combat cramming -- the placing of unauthorized charges on consumer telephone bills -- and notes that during the past year, the FTC has received more than 9,000 complaints about cramming and has brought three law enforcement actions against "crammers."
In addition, the comment discusses the overlapping jurisdiction of the FTC and FCC, including the shared obligations under the Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act of 1992 (TDDRA), which required both agencies to adopt rules to promote legitimate pay-per-call services and shield telephone subscribers from fraudulent and abusive practices. The comment notes that the FTC’s recent proposal to revise the 900-Number Rule complements the FCC’s proposals to ensure consumers have information sufficient to determine the validity of charges appearing on their bills and to contact the appropriate entity to resolve disputes.
The FTC supports several of the specific FCC proposals to improve and clarify the telephone bill format, including:
- A "current status" page containing a summary of a consumer’s telephone services and identifying the provider of each of the various services being billed;
- A separate section for each different type of charge, such as local service, long distance service, and other types of non-carriage services that can now be charged to a phone bill;
- A brief, plain language description of the charge for each service; and
- The name of the service provider and clear and conspicuous disclosure of any information consumers need to make inquiries about charges.
The Commission vote to file this comment was 4-0.
Copies of the full text of the comment and information about the FTC’s law enforcement actions against crammers and the consumer education brochure, "Cramming: Mystery Phone Charges," are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No. V980033)
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