AG Announces Breakthrough in Fight Against Phone Bill Cramming

Three major mobile phone carriers agree to stop commercial “premium text messages,” the source of most cramming complaints

BALTIMORE (November 21, 2013)—In what could be a major breakthrough in the fight against mobile phone bill cramming, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today announced that three of the nation’s largest mobile phone carriers - AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile - will no longer charge their customers for commercial Premium Short Messaging Services, also known as PSMS, or “premium text messages.” PSMS accounts for the majority of third-party charges on cell phone bills and for the overwhelming majority of cramming complaints. Cramming is the appearance of unauthorized third-party charges on mobile telephone bills.

“This is a positive development for all cell phone users in Maryland and across the nation,” said Attorney General Gansler. “There is still much more work to be done and our office will continue to pursue additional industry reforms to reduce the incidents of phone bill cramming.”

Cramming on cell phones and landlines is estimated to cost American consumers approximately $2 billion per year. While the use of PSMS is a major contributor to the number of mobile phone bill cramming complaints, it is also used in many legitimate ways, such as charitable giving. For example, the mobile phone user may, when asked, text a specific number to contribute a certain amount of money to a particular charitable effort. The dollar amount will then appear on the user’s monthly phone bill.

Attorney General Gansler urges all mobile phone consumers to review the charges that appear on their monthly bills to make sure all charges are legitimate. Consumers who believe their mobile phone bills contain improper or unauthorized charges may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662 or toll-free at 888-743-0023. Consumers may also file a complaint online by visiting:

AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile are the second, third and fourth largest providers of mobile telephone services nationwide. Two of the carriers have confirmed they will continue to allow charitable donations to be billed via PSMS.

Attorney General Gansler, joined by the attorneys general from 45 other states, has been engaged in discussions aimed at stopping the practice of mobile cramming. These discussions have been led by Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

Source: Office of Attorney General Gansler

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