• Vt AG pushes to end extra charges on cell bills
     | November 22,2013

    MONTPELIER — Vermont said Thursday it’s leading 45 states in an effort to end the unauthorized third-party charges that appear on cellphone customers’ bills.

    Attorney General William Sorrell said telecommunications companies AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile will no longer charge customers for premium text messages, which account for the majority of third-party charges on cellphones and for the overwhelming majority of complaints about the practice, known as cramming.

    The Federal Trade Commission defines cramming as when a company adds to a phone bill a charge for a service the customer didn’t order.

    Sorrell said he was hopeful other carriers would soon follow the lead of the three companies he mentioned.

    “We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists,” he said.

    Premium texts are part of messaging services offered by third-party providers for extra charges, such as weather alerts or voting during television reality shows. They have some benefits, such as for charitable giving, but they’re a major contributor to the cramming problem, Sorrell said.

    Cramming on cellphones and land lines nationally costs customers an estimated $2 billion a year, the attorney general’s office said.

    AT&T and T-Mobile confirmed they’ll keep allowing charitable donations to be billed via premium text messages, formally called commercial premium short messaging services, or PSMS, said the Washington state attorney general’s office. Sprint couldn’t confirm if it will do so, the office said.

    Another telecommunications company, Verizon Wireless, said it didn’t agree with all of the Vermont attorney general’s allegations but respected his efforts.

    “For years, Verizon has been vigilant in protecting our customers from bad actors,” spokesman William B. Petersen said in an emailed statement.

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