From: The Honorable Janice D. Schakowsky
Sent By:
matt.hayward@mail.house.gov

Date: 6/20/2016

Deadline for original cosponsors:
COB Thursday, June 23, 2016

Current sponsors: Schakowsky, Gene Green, Grijalva

Supported by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, and National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)

Dear Colleague,

This week, I will be introducing the Protect Consumers from Phony Phone Charges Act, and I invite you to be an original cosponsor. This bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to complete a rulemaking to stop phone companies from placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills, also known as “cramming.”

What is cramming?

Cramming is when a company places unauthorized fees or charges on a customer’s phone bill. While charges are listed on the phone bill, the charges may not be from the phone company. Phone companies have allowed third parties to “cram” charges on their customer’s
bill for wireless, landline, or bundled services. This practice has allowed scammers to charge consumers’ payment cards and bank accounts. Consumers may not even realize the third-party charges are there. Their bills may list vague or seemingly innocuous line
items such as “monthly fee” or “service charge.” The FCC estimates that cramming has harmed tens of millions of Americans.

Current protections

The FCC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, and state attorneys general reached settlements totaling $353 million with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon in 2014 and 2015 for allowing cramming on wireless bills. As part of those
settlements, the four companies are now under consent decrees that require consent from and disclosure to consumers for third-party charges on their wireless bills.

However, major protections under those consent decrees with wireless companies are time-limited. Landline customers are only protected by voluntary actions. Consumers need strong, ongoing protection regardless of whether they have wireless, landine, or bundled
phone services.

Protect Consumers from Phony Phone Charges Act

This bill would require the FCC to complete a formal rulemaking within two years to protect consumers from cramming. This rulemaking would build on the existing consent decrees by providing ongoing protection across wireless, landline, and bundled services.
In May, the Senate Commerce Committee adopted a similar provision offered by Sen. Blumenthal on a voice vote.

If you have questions or would like to be an original cosponsor, please contact Matt Hayward in my office at
matt.hayward@mail.house.gov or 5-2111.

Sincerely,

JAN SCHAKOWSKY