Assemblyman Frank Skartados (D-Milton) announced that legislation he authored to prohibit the practice of telephone bill “cramming” passed the Assembly today (A. 10256). “Cramming” is the addition of charges on a telephone bill that come from a third party without the informed consent of the consumer. This bill comes in response to a resurgence of “cramming” complaints in New York and several other states.
“Our hardworking families and small businesses shouldn’t be paying higher telephone bills for charges they didn’t agree to,” said Assemblyman Skartados. “This legislation takes steps to stop third parties from wrongly charging innocent consumers and stealing their hard-earned money.”
These charges are often added indirectly through a billing warehouse. Both residents and small businesses are targets. Small businesses are frequent targets of “crammers” because their telephone bills are often longer than residential customers, meaning that they are not as likely to catch the extra charges.
Consumers can become cramming victims unknowingly by:
- entering sweepstakes;
- calling 900 numbers;
- answering advertisements for information or entertainment services; and
- accepting free offers that trigger an automatic sign-up for a service such as voicemail that comes along with a monthly service fee.
“It’s obvious we need legislation to prevent these third-party companies from tricking New Yorkers into paying for extra services and fees on their telephone bills,” said Assemblyman Skartados.
Under the legislation, charges for goods or services other than those provided by the telephone company may be billed only if the customer explicitly consents to the nature and amount of said charges after having received clear disclosure of all terms and conditions. Furthermore, the third party must provide the customer with a toll-free number and address for the resolution of any billing dispute.