Democrats' bill targets unwanted phone charges

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An investigation by the Commerce Committee in 2011 found that phone companies had placed $10 billion in third-party charges on customers' landline phone bills over the previous five years, and a large percentage of those charges were unauthorized.

Some people unwittingly enrolled in services by submitting their phone number to companies online or by agreeing to services over the phone. Others never did anything to participate in the programs but were charged anyway.

The charges are often described in confusing or vague terms on monthly bills so that many consumers do not even notice them, the committee found. 

The legislation does not address cramming on cellphone bills, but Rockefeller sent letters to the four major cellular carriers, requesting more information about their polices to prevent unwanted charges.

In the letters, Rockefeller expressed concern that cramming is becoming a bigger problem on cellphone bills. 

“We’re shining a spotlight on devious efforts to trick consumers through a web of misleading and confusing phone bill charges,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “I wasn’t tolerant of this in the past, and it’s not going to happen in the future, period. Consumer predators are now on notice — phone bills are no longer an easy way to stick consumers with bogus charges.”