Share This Page

Kane calls for FTC to address 'mobile cramming' that dupes consumers

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

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 tlarussa@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.