U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who grilled phone company executives last year on behalf of a Springfield, Mo. employer, released the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new rules to combat dishonest billing practices:
"Families and small businesses in Missouri aren't interested in throwing their money away on hidden fees. I'm glad to see our fight against these dishonest practices is showing some results, but there's more work to do and I won't rest until I'm confident Missouri's consumers are being treated fairly."
The rules approved today by the FCC are aimed at "cramming," in which telephone service providers and third parties bury charges in consumers' bills for services the customers did not use or did not even request. The rules would give consumers information on how to block the hidden fees and file a complaint and would require phone companies to list third-party charges in a separate section on bills.
McCaskill used a 2011 Senate hearing to blast practices like cramming, highlighting the case of O'Reilly Auto Parts, a major employer based in Springfield, Mo. Over the past several years, O'Reilly has been forced to hire additional staff members dedicated solely to examining the company's phone bills to root out and contest unauthorized charges. The company has found hundreds of thousands of dollars charged to their accounts over the last ten years for unauthorized fees and services.
"Whether the consumer is an individual or corporation, we view the practice of cramming as unethical and fraudulent," wrote Jeanene Ashler, Director of Telecommunications for O'Reilly, in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee. A copy of the letter is available on McCaskill's website, HERE.
According to a Senate Committee report, unauthorized phone charges cost Americans approximately $2 billion every year.