Anti-Cramming Bill Proposed for VoIP

The Fair Telephone Billing Act of 2012 (S 3291), introduced this month, would prohibit VoIP providers from permitting third-party billing unless the charge was specifically for a phone-related service.

Currently, many VoIP customers are unwittingly billed for unauthorized services, which can range from voice-mail to site design services. Known as 'cramming', the practice is often only discovered through a close examination of phone bills — something crammers know that people often don't have the time to do.

The bill was drafted after research by the Senate Committee on Commerce revealed that "cramming is a problem of massive proportions and has affected millions of telephone users, costing them billions of dollars in unauthorized third-party charges over the past decade."

The bill's authors point out that the problems experienced by VoIP customers mirror the cramming plague afflicting landline carrier customers throughout the 1990s. The findings portion of the bill also notes that:

  • Millions of customers have switched to VoIP
  • VoIP is often used as a primary line
  • VoIP customers deserve the same protections as POTS customers
  • Most third-party billing companies are illegal

West Virginia Senator John Jay Rockefeller's bill excludes bundled services and a handful of other charges from certified vendors, or services that the customer has approved.