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Communications Crime The Almighty Buck

Phone Customers Pay $2B Yearly In Bogus Fees 220

Posted by samzenpus
from the fine-print-on-the-fine-print dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "CNN reports that a one-year study by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee shows about $2 billion a year in 'mystery fees' show up on the landline phone bills of Americans. Known as cramming, the extra charges include:long distance service, subscriptions for Internet-related services, access to restricted websites, entertainment services with a 900 area code, collect calls, and club memberships. The Commerce Committee's report says phone companies receive a small fee — often just a dollar or two — for allowing charges from third-party vendors to appear on their bills but due to the large number of customers the charges eventually add up. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told the panel people are unaware their phone numbers can be charged almost like a credit card and her investigations indicate customers are not even getting services in return. 'My office has yet to see a legitimate third-party charge on a bill,' says Madigan, who added most customers don't detect the charges on their bills. Senator Jay Rockefeller says Congress needs to pass legislation to protect customers from unauthorized third-party charges on their phone bills because the telephone industry has failed to prevent the practice. 'It's pretty obvious at this point that voluntary guidelines aren't solving this problem,' says Rockefeller. 'It's time for us to take a new look at this problem and find a way to solve it once and for all.'"
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Phone Customers Pay $2B Yearly In Bogus Fees

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  • How is this not theft, and why aren't people prosecuted for it using existing legislation?

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      Not only theft - wire fraud.
    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:20AM (#36761748)
      It is not theft because large corporations profit from it. At least that is the best explanation I can derive from observing the US justice system.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:45AM (#36762074)

        No, it's not theft because the last two times (2005 and 2010) legislation to stop it came up, key Republicans (like Boehner) were paid off by the phone companies to keep it from coming to the floor.

        Now, if it had been PELOSI who quashed the bills during the brief time the Democrats held the Congress, then the Republicans would be screaming bloody murder. But they'd rather this sit quietly under the rug and be forgotten about, because it's their "rape the consumer" agenda running as usual.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Incorrect... If it had been Pelosi, she would be paid off by the phone companies, or otherwise given an offer she can't refuse. It is pointless to vilify an individual person or party. The authority itself is corrupt

      • It is not theft because large corporations profit from it. At least that is the best explanation I can derive from observing the US justice system.

        From a business view it is a "victimless" problem. The Telephone company gets free money.. A $1 of a $3 fee is HUGE!! and they just charge the "service" back (less the fee,of course) when the customer actually protests.

        The law that makes Credit Card companies pay attention is the $50 customer liability rule. They legally have to hold the charge immediately. The BIGGER difference is that the Credit Card company PAID somebody that money. So when people put illegal credit charges and run with the money they ow

    • by flappinbooger (574405) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:31AM (#36762582) Homepage
      I have had some experience with this, and what happens is there will be a phone call made to the customer, may times a business, (the mark, as it were) and they will ask something like "do you not want your phone number listing to not be not removed from the universal listing service?" or some such bogus question, the person says something either yes or no.

      The theiving company then makes a record that the mark company has agreed to have the service, since they actually made contact with them, then they do whatever procedure is needed to add the 3rd party charges to the bill.

      There is no law that says 3rd party charges are illegal as long as the "customer" actually "agrees" to the charge. Sometimes there are even recordings of the conversation. A fast talking call center employee usually gets a low paid phone answerer at the company, and they don't know about the scams, don't know to say no to anything. Sometimes even saying "no" really means "yes, start charging me" because of how they word the question.

      Many times the people paying the bill aren't the owner, and they only look at the final amount.

      It is possible to remove the charges by calling the 3rd party company and saying the person who they talked to didn't have authority to make the agreement, and sometimes you can even get a refund of much of the money back to the start of the charges being on the bill.

      The key thing to realize is that it IS legal, it is 99.99999% bogus, everyone knows it (except most of the customers, apparently) and they let it continue. I heard that a while back there was a large amount of fines laid out on these 3rd party companies, sort of a gesture by the powers that be. Yet it continues.
      • Oh, another thing - if you call the number of the 3rd party charger, and talk with authority, and demand a full refund of all the charges, many times they will give you the refund - even send you a check.

        Why? Because a) they make so much freakin money they don't care b) hardly anyone calls c) they don't want to get "in trouble" by not providing "good customer service" because they are trying real hard to stay JUST on the legal side of the line. JUST.

        I heard of a company that had been paying for "web host
      • and this is exactly why I use an answering machine to screen my calls along with Caller ID. If I don't know the number, I let the machine answer it. If they don't leave a message, then it's not important to them.

        • Where I live, caller ID on a land line costs $100 per year. How should I justify this to others in my household?
          • by Golddess (1361003)
            Skip the caller ID portion of GP's proposed system and just use the answering machine / voice mail?
        • and this is exactly why I use an answering machine to screen my calls along with Caller ID. If I don't know the number, I let the machine answer it. If they don't leave a message, then it's not important to them.

          They seem to prey on businesses, where they have to answer the phone, don't look to close at utility bills like the phone, and are present during the day.

          This is totally "buyer be ware" but the interesting thing is TFA apparently says they've NEVER SEEN a legit 3rd party charge. Why does this continue if it is 100% abused? Just in case some day someone has a legit 3rd party charge? Can anyone point out a legit 3rd party charge?

        • Exactly, about the only thing you can do when you get a call like that is stop them mid-sentence, politely say "no thank you", "goodbye" and then HANG UP. dont listen to the whole speech, don't say anything else.. Just "click... Booooo"

          They prey on keeping you talking long enough to "trap" you. Don't give them a chance. You don't have to be rude or mean, just hang up.

  • by longbot (789962) <longbottle @ g m ail.com> on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:06AM (#36761092) Homepage
    Does this seem lower than expected to anyone else, or is that just my own experience?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by w_dragon (1802458)
      I was kinda thinking that half of that was probably me alone. I should ask them to give it back.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      What really pisses me off about this shit is it is preying on those weakest and least likely to understand they are getting ripped off...old folks. It is the grandma and grandpa out there with landlines, the little old lady that can't read her bill with her coke bottle glasses anyway whom they are screwing over. It is disgusting.

      Between this and the truly obscene profiteering that we saw in the earlier article on providing broadband to rural areas (which are also full of the poor and the elderly) it just sh

      • by sycorob (180615)

        What really pisses me off about this shit is it is preying on those weakest and least likely to understand they are getting ripped off...old folks. It is the grandma and grandpa out there with landlines, the little old lady that can't read her bill with her coke bottle glasses anyway whom they are screwing over.

        Yup. Like the woman who paid $10/month for DECADES for one of those old black rotary phones? http://www.mergermonster.com/?m=2&s=111&id=106 [mergermonster.com]

  • You can stop them (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:07AM (#36761098) Homepage

    You call the phone company and demand they block all third party charges. They will hem and haw about how your life will suck without them. also with that block all fee phone number exchanges... yes they can do that as well. I got further and block all international calling as well. If I want to talk to Gunther in Germany, I'll use Skype or a calling card that is massively cheaper.

    Honestly they need to default to all this crap being blocked and you have to call to enable it.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:11AM (#36761128)

      Honestly they need to default to all this crap being blocked and you have to call to enable it.

      What, and miss out on $2B a year? Phone companies (like many other companies) know that many people are just too damned lazy to go over their bill every month. And of those who do check, there's a percentage who are too lazy to actually do anything about it. While it is absolutely wrong for them to do this, when did ethics ever win against profit?

      • Agreed. They need their corporations disolved for having violated their charters.

        • Just nationalize them. The infrastructure is too important to be left to for-profit organizations. And for those of you who ask, "Well, do you want the [implied evil] guvmint running them?" Not really, but at least I have a modicum of control over that entity. I have none over the corporation. And, before you ask, "What are you, a socialist?" I didn't used to be, but the growing scourge of corpratism has sort of forced me into it.

      • by w_dragon (1802458) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:02AM (#36761578)
        Thing is, if it's just a buck or two per month it's really not worth my time to wait on hold for an hour to get it fixed. Especially since I'll have to wait, get escalated, wait again, get denied and ask for a supervisor, wait again, and then maybe get my $2 back. I can find better ways to get that money in that time.
      • by Amouth (879122)

        and when the charge is a single line item on a ~80 page phone bill even people who do review them miss them.. At work i had to put together a cheat sheet/lesson plan so that the book keeper could review our bill for correct charges. (what to look for where)..

        it's crazy that they get away with this crap - but hey the government lets them because they pay the people who are in office.

        its not a bribe - its business as usual.

        • by Entrope (68843)

          I call shenanigans. How many people get 80-page bills for their (home) land lines? My bill for a combined voice/data/television package (from the incumbent phone carrier) is about five pages long each month, and a lot of that is legally-required boilerplate notices and disclaimers. Half of the rest is formatting to make it easier to follow the content.

          • by Amouth (879122)

            you must not get detailed call logs - i get one line item per call both in and out..

            make note that this problem does not apply to just "land lines" it applies to all phones .. they can do direct bills to a cell phone just as easy. (and yes my land line gets detailed call history in the bill.. it's amazing how many call/hangups there are during the day, and that bill is around 10 pages. (5 pages front and back)

            by no means do they try to make it or format it to be easy to read for the average person.

            • you must not get detailed call logs - i get one line item per call both in and out

              Where I live (United States), services that do not result in a charge do not produce a log item. On a land line, these include incoming calls (except collect calls), local calls, and calls to toll-free numbers.

              • by Amouth (879122)

                i too am in the US.. and AT&T has always sent me detailed call logs.

                • If you get a bill from AT&T, and your ILEC isn't the Baby Bell formerly known as SBC, you're making long distance calls. Those are metered, and those are itemized. Or perhaps you're paying extra for a service tier that has printed call logs.
    • by Anrego (830717) *

      Same reason they don't prevent you from going over data caps. They _could_ just cut you off.. or send a notice, or warning, or something.. but why would it be in their interest to do so.

      This probably requires legislation to happen.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        It's based on the "honestly" of the company. and people need to have the balls to call them out. People need to publicall call companies DISHONEST when they do things like that.

        • by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:26AM (#36761252)

          People need to publicall call companies DISHONEST when they do things like that.

          They do. All the time!

          Problem is it changes nothing. A few lucky people can live without a phone (or a credit card, or internet, or whatever competition-limited utility you want to talk about) but most have little choice but to bend over and take it.

          The president of my ISP could come to my house and piss on my shoes .. and I'd probably keep my subscription. They are the only provider .. and I kinda need internet to live.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          So you say "You sir are a bunch of liars and thieves!" and then hand them your money and this proves....what exactly? Do you think you'll make their CEO cry as they cash your check?

          Thanks to the wonders of unrestrained bribery most of us have NO choice when it comes to services like this, and how many could live without their phone? What if a relative is hurt and you are the next of kin listed? you gonna say "well i'm sorry I wasn't there to approve that surgery but I had to show da man who's boss!"?

          My cabl

        • Companies[1] aren't honest. Nor are they dishonest. Saying they are is just anthropomorphization. The fact that a company "exists" at all is just a convenient legal fiction. It's like calling a rock that fell on you malicious. Of course, the point of the fiction is primarily to remove responsibility (and thus, liability) from individuals. Don't blame the rock, blame the guy that pushed it.

          Removing the legal personhood of corporations and making—at the least—the directors of a company perso

    • Re:You can stop them (Score:4, Informative)

      by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:28AM (#36761258)

      You call the phone company and demand they block all third party charges. They will hem and haw about how your life will suck without them. also with that block all fee phone number exchanges... yes they can do that as well. I got further and block all international calling as well. If I want to talk to Gunther in Germany, I'll use Skype or a calling card that is massively cheaper.

      Honestly they need to default to all this crap being blocked and you have to call to enable it.

      You call the phone company and demand they block all third party charges. They will hem and haw about how your life will suck without them. also with that block all fee phone number exchanges... yes they can do that as well. I got further and block all international calling as well.

      What he said.

      To which I would add: tell your phone company that you won't pay any bogus 3rd party charges currently (or ever appearing) on the bill. You're happy to pay their part, but the check won't include the stuff that was crammed on. They'll threaten you that your phone could get cut off, but they won't really do it. Why would they give up $50 bucks a month just to collect 3 dollars for some other guy?

      I worked for a while with a 3rd party collect call operator. The company had billing agreements with lots of local carriers. But when push came to shove, the carriers would tell us to go do our own dirty work collecting from the unwilling. They wouldn't go the mat for us even for legitimate charges that the customer disputed. [Don't worry, all you contracts-are-sacred guys, our little company was free to send its own bill in that case -- having the telco collect it was just a convenience, not the exclusive means of collecting the debt.]

      NB The above technique won't work if it's the telco itself that crammed the charges on -- or if they've got a big enough stake in it. If it's their money the will come after it.

    • Mom did a story a few years back about a family that had blocked International calling and then the phone company just went ahead and unblocked it the next month. Apparently they did mention it in a tiny line item on the bill. So they don't notice this and their kid goes and downloads an "Internet Dialer" that dials an international number and racks up a $10,000 phone bill, which the phone company was planning on holding them to last I heard.
    • Honestly they need to default to all this crap being blocked and you have to call to enable it.

      You may think that, but the average consumer would find that enraging.

      The same laziness that leads people to not check their bills, causes people to get irate when they have to jump through extra hoops to get something activated.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:09AM (#36761118) Homepage

    Every time I turn around it seems like there's a new way to game the easy systems in place for every-day-modern-life. The credit game has no security -- it relies of trusting lots and lots of strangers with "secret numbers" and bits of information that, when used, is "you." The phone bills have no security either. And all the while, we see fraud over and over and over again with almost no punishment or pursuit of the perpetrators while the enablers of all of this persist in using the system because the benefits them are apparently outweighing the problems or them... not the problems for the customers, but for them... they don't care about the customers.

    • by Anrego (830717) * on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:22AM (#36761226)

      There are two critical problems at work here in my opinion:

      The first is that "free market will decide" tends not to work on stuff with huge barriers for entry and almost universally required. A few lucky people can say "screw credit cards, I'm only going to use cash" or can live without a phone ... but most don't have the option. They have to pick one provider from the available options, all of which mostly offer the same "bend over" treatment. You need legislation for this kind of stuff.

      The next is that a huge number of users prefer convenience over all else. Personally I think it should be an absolute hassle to use my credit card. It should involve one time passwords, independent transaction authorization, various identity checks, passwords, etc. Most users would balk at this however... they want to hand their plastic over and be on with their day.

      • by tepples (727027)

        "free market will decide" tends not to work on stuff with huge barriers for entry and almost universally required. [...] You need legislation for this kind of stuff.

        Unless it was legislation that created the "huge barriers for entry" in the first place.

      • There are two critical problems at work here in my opinion:

        The first is that "free market will decide" tends not to work on stuff with huge barriers for entry and almost universally required. A few lucky people can say "screw credit cards, I'm only going to use cash" or can live without a phone ... but most don't have the option. They have to pick one provider from the available options, all of which mostly offer the same "bend over" treatment. You need legislation for this kind of stuff.

        I'm completely for

    • If the financial services industry taught us anything, it's that fraud is perfectly legal (and even rewarded) if it's large enough...

  • What about mobiles?

    My dad was hit with a bunch (3-4) of $10/mo charges for 'flirting tips' and other garbage. He has -no- idea how he got on them. We didn't catch them quickly, and T-Mobile would only refund the last 3-4 months worth. I think he got on them by putting his phone number into sites online. Specifically, online dating sites. (But possibly porn. Why did you have to tell me that, dad?)

    We ended up blocking all SMS on his phone to prevent it from happening again. At least, we think that will

    • by Amouth (879122)

      just wait.. next time they send a usage policy and/or terms of usage update to you - call back you will find that your "blocks" have been removed and you will need to re add them.

      at least that is what AT&T does.. and considering they are buying T-Mobile i would expect the same to be happening.

  • OK disclaimer first: I'm not American.

    So I may be getting this totally wrong.

    First of all: why are this "mystery" charges?

    If you make an international call, you know you're doing it, and you know you'll be billed for it.

    If you receive a collect call, you're given the option to accept or refuse it (this is something I've never used myself; my sister used it a few times calling my parents from abroad where she had to use public phones), and I basically can not imagine this service to be used much.

    If they

    • by cvtan (752695)
      In my case, a $12.95 monthly charge just showed up on my phone bill (land line). There are so many odd items on the bill, it's hard to notice another one. The charge was from a place called CompuFix who I had never contacted and never heard of. Phone companies are required by law to allow third party charges even if they are bogus. They make money on things like this so they have no incentive to stop it. They would have continued to charge us $12.95 per month for services never received. We had to cal
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        In my case, a $12.95 monthly charge just showed up on my phone bill (land line). There are so many odd items on the bill, it's hard to notice another one.

        That amount is more than I pay for my two business fixed lines. Yes that's together. So that's a pretty big sum for a phone bill to appear.

        Secondly, "so many odd charges"... you go through the bill once, and tick what you don't know what it is. And make a call to the phone company for explanation. That's what I do with my credit card bill. It's not that hard, it just requires you to care about your money. If you let such sums just stand, sorry to say, but you obviously don't care enough.

        • by Amouth (879122)

          In my case, a $12.95 monthly charge just showed up on my phone bill (land line). There are so many odd items on the bill, it's hard to notice another one.

          That amount is more than I pay for my two business fixed lines. Yes that's together. So that's a pretty big sum for a phone bill to appear.

          Secondly, "so many odd charges"... you go through the bill once, and tick what you don't know what it is. And make a call to the phone company for explanation. That's what I do with my credit card bill. It's not that hard, it just requires you to care about your money. If you let such sums just stand, sorry to say, but you obviously don't care enough.

          sorry i don't know where you live - but around here the cheapest fixed POTS line is 31$ a month (local calling only).. and for something that is a frame based is >300$ a month for the local loop, cheapest monthly cell phone is ~35$ a month.. the bill in front of me is >80 pages long in a 5x8.5 size with ~8pt font on it.. it takes me ~2h to review that bill and i fully understand it.

          flip over to your grandmother with her local loop line and long distance - maybe even dsl on that one bill it is still

          • by xaxa (988988)

            Here [imgur.com] is a British landline phone + ADSL bill (though the ADSL isn't explicitly mentioned, it's part of the "Max Unlimited Plus Free Weekend Part II" package). It's complete, apart from the page containing two lines saying payment will be taken from my account automatically on a particular day unless I tell them not to, before some other day. The whole thing was four sides of A4.

            It's a little old, as I don't have a phone line any more. We didn't use the phone much, so the call detail isn't very long, but it'

            • by Amouth (879122)

              to be fair you said $12 not £12 which is (currently) ~$19.38

              still that is damn cheap compared to lines here in the US.

        • by cvtan (752695)
          I obviously don't, but luckily my wife the accountant does care. The bogus charge was caught the first time it appeared. After being with this phone company for 40 years, you tend not to look at the bill too closely (I least I don't). Now they will get the evil eye every month.
    • Because most people don't even look at the itemized portion of their bill, they just pay it. I have on a few occasions purchased a service online using my phone bill (it has been a few years, so I don't remember what). I did it because I did not have a credit card at the time. I have, also, had a few "mystery" charges turn up. When I called the telephone company and challenged them,they immediately took them off of my bill (and told me they would flag that vendor for abuse of the system). Of course, it does
      • by jank1887 (815982) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:49AM (#36761450)

        Most people don't look at their bills at all. Why? Paperless billing. My bank, credit card company, utility company, mobile, internet, TV and phone company all want me to switch to paperless billing. A few credit cards actually gave you a credit for going paperless. I know from personal experience that when I get the email notice of a new statement, I peek at the dollar value. if it looks about right I rarely click through to the actual statement. I guarantee you a lot of people don't even go this far.

        • Even with itemized paper bills, many people don't look at what they are being billed for. Of course, if you don't look at the itemized portion of the bill, don't complain when mystery charges turn up. Even without anyone doing anything evil, incorrect charges will occasionally turn up because someone made a data entry error.
          I understand why you do what you do. I know approximately what each of my bills should be and if it is close to that I just glance over the itemized portion to make sure there isn't so
        • by I'm not really here (1304615) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:05AM (#36762280)

          On top of paperless billing is "automatic payments" for your "convenience" (it's really for their convenience). So, mystery charges are added to a bill, you get an email with your itemized bill telling you "thank you for your payment" and good luck trying to get the company to refund that money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      US landlines aren't a simple billing exercise. First you need a local carrier, this is say $30/month for "free local calls". Then you need a national carriers (could be the same company), this requires a monthly subscription too. Then you need, yes, you guessed it, an international carrier. There's a default to pick up the national and internationals, but the rates can be very high. Miss dial and that unconnected call can cost $4. Once you navigate this setup you get banged with umpteen levels of taxes and

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      FTFA:
      "When third-party vendors are contacted they claim the charges were authorized by customers and they often say they have audio recordings of the customer giving the OK, Madigan said...However, when her office obtained audio recordings, the voices turned out not to belong to the consumers who were billed, she said. "
      "Eppley said she called the third-party company and was told Eppley's company had OK'd the charges and there was an audio recording to back that up. Eppley asked to hear it but the company n

    • by BZ (40346) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:56AM (#36761532)

      1) This whole article is in fact about the fact that it's a fraud. That's what makes them "mysterious" and "illegitimate": they're bills for services that were never provided.

      2) A typical US phone bill that does not have any of these charges on it (so just a normal bill) has a dozen or more line items with names designed to be as obscure as possible. Not only that, but in many cases these change from month to month (both the total bill amount and the exact itemization). As a result, it's actually easy to miss a $1 charge that shouldn't be there unless you're _very_ carefully reading the bill every month. Which most people don't.

      3) For reasons that are beyond me, many people have their phone bills set up to auto-pay (basically have the phone company just withdraw the money from the user's bank account). So in that case there is no cheque being written. The payment just happens; you get sent a bill (or an e-mail that you can look at the bill online, if the phone company's incessant attempts to get you to go paperless succeeded).

      So the deck is stacked against people noticing the problem. If they _do_ notice it, they have to decide whether they want to spend several hours on the phone trying to get rid of the charge or just pay it and move on. I bet in many cases people do the latter.

    • by ledow (319597)

      In a country that lets telcos CHARGE the receiver for receiving every SMS (solicited or not), anything's possible. Hell, sometimes they charge the person for receiving a phone call as well, even if it's an ordinary, domestic phone call and they never asked to be rung.

      The US, collectively, are a bunch of people who do what corporations tell them to.

  • "...It's time for us to take a new look at this problem and find a way to solve it once and for all."

    Uh, you want to solve the problem of effective capitalism (a.k.a. greed and corruption) "once and for all"? Uhhh, yeah...good luck with that shit.

    And asking Congress to step in? Congress should probably pick up a mirror first and wipe that kettle black off their face. I guarantee the average American is far more concerned with the trillions wasted by our Government and Congress than they are about an extra $10 on the phone bill.

    Oh, and let's not forget about this. We're so focused on telcos and yet he

  • by Mark4ST (249650) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:36AM (#36761348) Homepage
    Call your phone company and ask them to separate the extra charges from your phone bill. That way, the (perhaps) evil company will have to bill you independently of your phone bill. Often, they won't bother because they now know that you're the kind of person that doesn't mindlessly pay some mystery charge on your phone bill. I did this when I received a huge and clearly exploitative charge for receiving a collect call. This was several months ago and I have yet to hear back from the company that now has to send me a bill independently of the phone company.
  • I was told free markets solve everything. That you don't need government regulation to police corporations because people will simply stop doing business with them if they don't get the service/product they want.

    I can't imagine that corporations would put profit over customer service. This must be a mistake.

  • Compufix put a $12.95 charge on my phone bill even though I never used their "services". I had these charges blocked from my phone by calling the phone company. Blocking numbers creates an additional charge. Suppose I want to call Compufix to complain to them. They will want to know my name and phone number which I don't want bogus companies to have. Arrgh! I used to think evildoers would be caught and prosecuted, but I no longer think that.
  • by kmdrtako (1971832) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @07:59AM (#36761544)

    But I suppose Comcast is, for all practical purposes, a telco too.

    I buy broadband only from Comcast, and at a discount too from a reseller.

    One month my bill doubled -- they started charging me for CableTV. Call them up, ask them why CableTV is on the bill. Wait for them to look up my records, then the lie that "someone at your address authorized the add on." I tell them "nope, I'm the only one at this address with the authority to do that, and I did not, so take it off, I'm not using it, I'm not paying for it." Next lie was "oh, we'll send someone out, you'll have to be at home for the service call." My response: "How did it get added without an installer coming out? You didn't need someone here to add it, you don't need anyone here to delete it."

    My wife and kids are finally trained too. Verizon sales droid walking the neighborhood rings the doorbell when I'm not home, tries to sell my wife or kids, I forget who, on FIOS. Nope, they told the rep, you block port 80. The sales droid had no idea what that meant.

  • Wow, talk about a terrifying thing for a prominent senator to say:

    It's time for us to take a new look at this problem and find a way to solve it once and for all.

  • That's nothing... most companies are so inept they never change their PBXs default password. Someone logs in over the weekend and starts routing calls to Europe all weekend. I've seen bills over $100k, it happens EVERY weekend and nothing can be done to refund the money. It's great when the CEO finally gets involved all calls the phone company complaining and they get to tell him "The admin password for your PBX was: 1111" and then he gets to go off an fire people.
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      "The admin password for your PBX was: 1111" and then he gets to go off an fire people.

      And the new guy doesn't know the password so he doesn't change it either.

  • the other side (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Got family that works for a big phone company. Not a fan of the company mind you. Just wanted to give a shot at telling you what they told me about this whole mess.

    Under the telecom act of 1996, the big phone companies at least, ATT, the 2 others, they're kinda between a rock and a hard place. The law requires that if some of these little piddly shit regional guys give them a signed LOA saying the customer wants a service, the phone company is REQUIRED BY LAW to push the billing through. Further, they are F

  • by sgt scrub (869860) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <muitnias>> on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:43AM (#36762030)

    I blame direct withdraw for people not noticing it. Verizon tagged an addition $6 on my first bill for not allowing them to take money directly from my account. It is in the fine print. Needless to say I told them to go fuck themselves and nix'd the account. Every bill I pay gets looked at while I write the check so I notice everything and have a solid paper trial of my own. Unfortunately, more corporations are pushing this. IMHO so they are protected from the pissed off customer that refuses to pay the extra month and mysterious extra charges on the last bill after telling them to fuck off.

  • They know exactly what they are doing. It's like throttling internet access. I am now living in an area outside conventional broadband. All I have is my verizon android. I have already discovered that my occasional video watching (news sites, youtube, etc) and my mild surfing habits are too much for my 2 GB tethering service. Sure, I could go up to 5 GB but that would add another $30. I think if I call and complain I would be labled a bandwidth abuser and told to go to... Really I don't abuse the inte
  • "Solve" It? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:27AM (#36762544) Homepage Journal
    I think I just figured out the solution to America's budget problem! We'll just cram $14 trillion onto next month's phone bill!
  • I've never had this problem with my landline. Odd charges crammed on my cell phones? Now that's another story. Just last month, a recurring ringtone download subscription showed up on my wife's phone bill. She doesn't even have a phone that can get data.
  • There's far too much emphasis on rolling in fees as a source of revenue growth instead of raising prices to account for the needed revenue.

    I'd like to see some kind of regulation that would prohibit adding fees to the cost of a service unless the fees represented a charge for a service that was optional and supplied and delivered by the same company providing the primary purchased service.

    The only loophole would be if you agreed in writing, in an agreement seperate from any other service agreement, to allow

  • AT&T and Verizon is known as the "dividend king", paying out 5%+ annual yield (w.r.t. share price) to its investors. May be it is time to load up xD.

  • Congress needs to pass legislation to protect customers from unauthorized third-party charges

    Congress NEEDS to get their shit together. I am of the opinion that America can no longer afford Congress' protection.

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