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Consumer Guide: Cramming



What Is CRAMMING?

CRAMMING is a practice where a company places unauthorized charges for telephone and non-telephone related services on your local telephone bill. Some of these charges may appear on your telephone bill in terms that do not clearly state what service was provided, such as "enhanced services," "access," "activation," or "minimum usage fees."

How Does CRAMMING Occur?

Some of the ways consumers become CRAMMING victims are through:

CRAMMING charges are often disguised on local telephone bills as every day phone services and explained in general terms such as: activation, membership, and minimum usage fees; enhanced services; equipment deposits; calling plans; travel service and discount packages; and adult entertainment chat lines.

How Do I Know I've Been CRAMMED?

You usually will not realize you have been crammed until the name of a company that you do not recognize, charging for services that you did not order, appears on your local telephone bill.

How Can CRAMMING Charges Be Placed on Local Telephone Bills?

In the past, your local telephone company was required to provide billing and collection services for an approved fee to other telephone companies. Now that telephone billing and collection services are competitive, your local telephone company can offer its billing and collection services to companies on a non-discriminatory basis, including businesses that sell products or services.

Most of the businesses that use local telephone company billing and collection services are "billing warehouses." Billing warehouses offer billing and/or customer complaint handling services to numerous other individual companies. These "billing warehouses" then bundle the billing information and contract with local telephone companies to bill and collect from the local telephone companies' customers on behalf of the businesses.

The customer charges submitted by a billing warehouse on behalf of a client appear on a separate page of your local telephone company's bill. This separate page states the name of the billing warehouse and the number to call for billing inquiries. The name of the company that actively "provided" the service should also appear on the bill. A billing inquiry number will not be listed for the company that is providing the service or products, if it has also contracted with the billing warehouse to handle customer services in addition to billing services.

This "multi-layered" billing process frequently causes confusion and makes it difficult to recognize if the charges appearing on your local telephone company's bill are legitimate or not. Bell Atlantic and other local telephone companies will remove unauthorized charges from customers' bills upon request and have started to discontinue billing services for any company that has been found guilty of cramming.

What Can I Do If I Think I've Been CRAMMED?

You should...

For calls or telephone services provided within New York State,
contact:

For calls and telephone services provided outside of New York State:

For non-telephone service charges to your telephone bill,
such as psychic hotlines:

OR

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Consumer Guide: Cramming updated: 12/18/2012 09:30:58 AM

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