Montana AG demands FTC action to stop mobile phone cramming

Montana’s attorney general has joined with his counterparts in 39 other states and territories to demand the Federal Trade Commission do something about mobile cramming.

Cramming, you might recall, is the practice of adding third-party charges — often unauthorized — onto a person’s phone bill. People who discover the charges on their bills rarely get a full refund, Attorney General [Tim Fox](https://twitter.com/AGTimFox) said in a written statement.

“Consumers who see suspicious charges, which can range from one-time-only charges to monthly ‘subscriptions,’ should call their cellphone carrier, ask how long the unauthorized charges have been placed on their bills, and demand a refund,” Fox said.

[The letter from the states’ attorneys general](http://www.naag.org/assets/files/pdf/signons/Final%20FTC%20Comment%20Mobile%20Cramming.pdf) asks the FTC to look into four main areas of concern:

1. Cramming itself
2. Inadequate disclosure of third-party charges on mobile phone bills
3. Inadequate methods to block cramming and obtain refunds
4. A lack of federal protections for consumers in disputes over cramming charges

The FTC held a roundtable discussion on cramming on May 8. [The transcript of that meeting is online here](http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/workshops/mobilecramming/30508mob.pdf).

In the transcript, Stephanie Rosenthal, chief of staff of the Division of Financial Practices at the FTC, said the agency has been looking into landline cramming for years but only recently brought its first case against mobile crammers.

[In that case](http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2013/04/wisemedia.shtm), announced in April, the FTC [alleged](http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/1223182/130417wisemediacmpt.pdf) that [Wise Media was charging customers $9.99 a month](http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/04/feds-sue-sketchy-georgia-company-for-mobile-phone-cramming/) for horoscope alerts, flirting tips and love advice sent via text message.

In 2012, the FCC announced [new rules to help prevent cramming](http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-rules-help-consumers-identify-and-prevent-cramming), partially in light of a study by the commission that found that [only 1 in 20 cramming victims realized they’ve been had](http://www.nbcnews.com/id/43728825/ns/business-consumer_news/t/fcc-proposes-crackdown-phone-bill-cramming/#.Ucssk1P1vSM).

Here’s [a guide from the FCC on understanding your phone bill](http://www.fcc.gov/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill) and [another on cramming from the FTC](http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0183-mystery-charges-your-phone-bill).