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Mystery Phone Charges: 'Cramming' Costs Billions on Phone Bill

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By Admin on July 18, 2011 6:39 AM

Have you ever heard of telephone bill "cramming"? Have you seen some peculiar third party charges on your phone bill for services you've never ordered or authorized?

If so, you may have been hit by a practice called "cramming," where third parties place unauthorized fees on unsuspecting consumers' telephone bills, reports Fox News.

The fees are usually tacked onto customers' landline telephone bills. The fees sometimes go undetected for years, because they aren't too high - sometimes only around $2-20 a month, according to Fox News.

The practice is so widespread that it's estimated that Americans pay up to $2 billion in these "extra" fees, according to Fox News. And the FCC estimates that around 15-20 million landlines are hit by these charges.

The problem is compounded that most telephone providers are not exactly the most responsive when customers complain about the cramming bills. Companies get $1-2 for tacking on these bills. AT&T, Qwest and Verizon have reaped in about $650 million from these types of billing practices. While the problem seems to be mainly on landlines, cell phone cramming charges have also become a problem.

What can you do to detect "cramming" on your bill? Usually, the third-party charges may be in the last few pages of the bill, so if you aren't carefully checking up what charges you have, you may miss the extra charge purely by accident. Read over your bill carefully.

Also, be proactive with your bill, as small charges of $20 a month can easily add up. Make sure if you get strange advertisements or promotions that you read over the text and ensure that you aren't accidentally signing up for a service.

The FCC has also recently proposed new rules that would make telephone companies tell consumers that they have the option of blocking third party charges if the carrier has the option. The proposed rules would also bolster the requirement that third party charges and regular telephone charges be segregated from each other on customers' phone bills, reports Fox News.

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