The FCC voted unanimously Friday to require wireline
carriers to provide consumers more information on third-party charges on their
bills, but did not put the same requirement on cable VoIP providers or wireless
The new rules require phone companies to notify subs
"at the point of sale, on each bill, and on their websites" of their
option to block third-party charges, like e-faxes, from their bills.
It also makes it clear that third-party charges must be
separated from a landline phone company's charges on bills and asks whether it
should require carriers get consumers opt-in consent for third-party charges.
It will also seek comment on applying those to wireless. FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski said that if those comments demonstrate a problem,
"we will act." He said the FCC will also vet comments on how costly
and how effective implementation of the new requirements would be.
He gave a shout-out to Suddenlink as one of the companies
(AT&T and Verizon were the others) that had already taken steps to crack
down on cramming, and urged others to follow suit.
Consumers Union pushed the FCC to follow up with wireless.
"Any step taken to expand consumer protections against
cramming is a welcome one. However, more consumers are moving away from
landlines towards wireless and VoIP services that aren't guaranteed the same
protections to combat unauthorized third party billing," said Parul P. Desai,
policy counsel for Consumers Union, in a statement. "The same cramming abuses
that happen on landlines can easily happen to wireless and VoIP customers. In
order to crack down on these unauthorized charges, the FCC needs to consider
stronger protections that apply to wireless."