‘Cramming’ can add unauthorized charges to phone bills

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009


How closely do you check your monthly telephone bill?

If you fail to look at it from the first line through the last, you may learn too late that you have been “crammed” by a third-party and the charges added to your telephone bill..

The Federal Communications Commission defines cramming as “the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges on your telephone bill” by third party companies.

On Friday, L’Observateur discovered the third set of such charges this year — this time from a company called “EMAIL DISCOUNT NETWORK” — in the amount of $14.95. An earlier charge gave us “an international website” for only $34.95 while the other allowed us to “remotely check our email” for $14.95. Both charges were placed by former employees.

A call to EDN’s contact number — which must appear as part of the billing information — went to an offshore call center where they were more than happy to issue a credit for the charges while also offering a cautionary, “a charge may also show up for July, but please to not worry about that.”

The company claims the charge was authorized by a person named Campbell and, after being told there was no one person at the newspaper, it was quickly explained away as, “They were probably trying to sign up for the service and accidentally entered the incorrect telephone number.”

The only problem with that is there is no person named Campbell with a number even remotely similar to that of the newspaper.

When the customer service person was advised the incident would be developed into a news story as well as resulting in a complaint to the state Public Service Commission, she did her best to be reassuring as she offered, “There is no need to do that, as it has already been handled.”

Oh, well. Why not do it just the same?

Your telephone company — such as AT&T — accepts the word of these third-party companies that the charge has been approved by someone who has the authority to do so. The phone companies receive a percentage of the charges, so it is a revenue point for them.

In Virginia, the state requires the person or business whose number is about the be charged to be called for approval and that confirmation numbers be given. Louisiana offers to such protection, but does have a web page that offers complaint information — although that page (http://www.lpsc.org/headlines_teleslam.asp) has an outdated list of PSC commissioners.