Vt. AG Pushes to End Extra Charges on Cell Bills

Montpelier — Vermont said Thursday it’s leading 45 states in an effort to end the unauthorized third-party charges that appear on cellphone customers’ bills.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell said telecommunications companies AT&T Mobility, Sprint and T-Mobile will no longer charge customers for premium text messages, which account for the majority of third-party charges on cellphones and for the overwhelming majority of complaints about the practice, known as “cramming.”

The Federal Trade Commission defines cramming as when a company adds to a phone bill a charge for a service the customer didn’t order.

Sorrell said he was hopeful other carriers would soon follow the lead of the three companies he mentioned.

“We are pleased that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have decided to stop the flow of money from the pockets of ordinary people to the bank accounts of scam artists,” he said.

Premium texts are part of messaging services offered by third-party providers for extra charges, such as voting during television reality shows or weather alerts.

They have some benefits, such as for charitable giving, but they’re a major contributor to the cramming problem, Sorrell said.

Cramming on cellphones and landlines nationally costs customers an estimated $2 billion a year, the attorney general’s office said.