June 24, 2013
Kansas City, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster announced today he has reached settlements with three separate businesses alleged to have caused unauthorized charges to consumers’ telephone bills, a practice known as "cramming." As part of the settlements, the three businesses have paid full refunds to Missouri consumers totaling $296,391.18. The businesses are permanently barred from placing any future charges on consumers' phone bills.
"Cramming has affected thousands of Missouri consumers today we send a message that this practice will not be tolerated," Koster said. "Our office will continue to pursue companies that break Missouri’s laws and take advantage of consumers through deceptive advertising or other means."
Koster filed lawsuits against the companies in March 2012. Specifics of the settlements include:
Coast to Coast Voice, LLC, of Concord, New Hampshire, paid $35,302.79 in refunds to customers in Missouri who did not consent to the $14.95 monthly charge from the company, purportedly for voicemail and internet fax services. The company will also provide $18,265.39 in restitution to the state, which will be forwarded to consumers who could not be refunded through their telephone bills.
Koster said telecommunication crammers often obtain consumers’ information online through sweepstakes, drawings, and free offers or trials to lure consumers to submit their name, address, phone number, and birth date. The company uses the personal information to enroll consumers in third-party content provider products or services billed monthly through the consumer's telephone bill without first obtaining consent. Charges are masked so that it is difficult to learn why the charges appear.
The Attorney General encourages consumers to check their monthly phone bills for any suspicious charges. Consumers should contact their local exchange carrier if they detect any unauthorized charges. Consumers can also request their carriers to block any third-party charges to prevent cramming from occurring.
Missourians who have incurred unauthorized charges on their landline telephone bills since January 1, 2005, may be eligible for a refund by filing a claim with the settlement administrator in the Nwabueze v. AT&T class action settlement or the Moore v. Verizon class action settlement. Contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or online for more information or to file a consumer complaint.