Rockefeller: Wireless Carriers' Decision to End "Cramming" Puts Consumers First

November 22, 2013

Feature Image: Oversight&InvestigationsWASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV issued the following statement today after it was announced this week that AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint made the decision to stop “cramming” or placing third-party charges for Premium Short Messaging Services – also known as PSMS or premium text messages – on customers’ wireless telephone bills.

“I’m glad to see AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint take matters in their own hands to protect their wireless customers from cramming. For too long consumers have had to deal with bogus and unfair charges that linger in the shadows of phone bills, and are often impossible to reverse even if a customer realizes they’ve been crammed,” Rockefeller said. “The largest wireless carriers are putting customers first with this decision, and in turn, they’re taking a major step forward toward eliminating this problem. I strongly urge all other carriers to follow their lead.”  

In 2011, the Commerce Committee completed a year-long investigation into cramming on landline telephone bills, which showed that third-party billing through wireline telephone bills was a $2 billion a year industry. The report showed that, between 2006 and 2011, telephone companies billed more than $10 billion in third-party charges and that a large percentage of these charges appeared to be wholly unauthorized and a result of cramming. In June 2013, Chairman Rockefeller, along with Senators Klobuchar and Blumenthal, introduced the Fair Telephone Billing Act of 2013 that would put an end to cramming on wireline telephone bills.

Following the landline investigation, it became clear that cramming had migrated to wireless telephone bills, leading Chairman Rockefeller to open an investigation into wireless cramming. Since that time, he has sought detailed information from the four major wireless carriers – AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint – and several billing aggregators to understand the full extent of cramming on wireless bills and best determine appropriate policies for protecting consumers against abuses in this context. 

“I have been examining cramming on wireless bills and have been troubled by what I have seen. Despite repeated assertions from industry that cramming cannot happen on wireless bills due to the many voluntary protections, such as the ‘double opt-in’ process, evidence has continued to mount that third-party content providers are finding ways to circumvent these protections,” Rockefeller added.