Kane calls for FTC to address 'mobile cramming' that dupes consumers
Attorneys general in 40 states, including Pennsylvania, are calling on federal regulators to crack down on mobile carriers that place unauthorized charges on cellphone bills.
Called “mobile cramming,” the practice has cost consumers nationwide an estimated $21 billion, according to the 70-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission that state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane signed.
The charges — typically $10 to $25 a month — “appeared out of the blue on their phone bills without their authorization and for goods and services that the consumers neither requested nor used,” according to the letter.
“Many people don't notice the unauthorized charges on their bill and will pay it for several months,” said Dennis Fisher, Kane's spokesman.
In early May, Kane and the other letter signers attended an FTC conference to discuss the problem with consumer advocates, wireless carrier representatives and state and federal officials.
The meeting was several weeks after the FTC filed its first mobile cramming case against Georgia-based Wise Media, which is accused of bilking consumers out of millions of dollars for text messages with horoscopes, flirting tips and other data.
According to the agency, Wise Media randomly signed up customers for text services and charged them $9.99 a month on their mobile bills without their knowledge or permission.
The letter describes mobile cramming as “a growing problem” that is “poised to become a major consumer fraud issue” as consumers increasingly use their mobile telephones to pay for goods and services.
Kane said the letter aims to highlight concerns the attorneys general raised, including:
• Unauthorized charges being placed on consumers' bills for unwanted and unused services.
• Inadequate disclosure of third-party charges on mobile phone bills.
• Poor mechanisms for consumers to block third-party charges and get refunds.
• A lack of state and federal laws governing consumers' disputes about fraudulent or unauthorized charges placed on mobile phone bills.
Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.