TRENTON, N.J. – Customers would not have to pay for unauthorized charges placed on their phone bills due to “cramming” by third party vendors under legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Ron Dancer and advanced by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee today.
“Mysterious charges on phone bills that are disguised as fees for things like monthly services, ringtones or voicemail are designed to dupe customers out of money,” explained Dancer (R-Ocean). “Unwitting customers should not have to pay for supposed ‘services’ they never explicitly authorized.”
Cramming is illegal and most often occurs when cell phone companies allow third party entities to place charges on their customers’ bills. The charges often look legitimate and may be reoccurring and vague to avoid detection. For example, one company allegedly sent unrequested spam texts with horoscopes and “fun facts” and charged customers for them, while the cell phone company kept a cut of the fees, according to the FCC. That agency has estimated that cramming has harmed tens of millions of American households.
“It can be confusing to decipher all the charges on cell phone bills, so customers need to be vigilant and protected from these predatory practices,” said Dancer.
Third parties or billing aggregators that obtain authorization for charges through misleading or deceptive means, or outright bill customers for services they did not order, would not be entitled to payment under Dancer’s bill (A5055). The companies would only receive payment if they give proof to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities that the customer was provided with clear and conspicuous disclosure of all initial and recurring charges and that the customer consented to those charges. Additionally, third parties would have to provide customers with a toll-free telephone number and an address to resolve billing disputes.