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US Senate bill targets VoIP, landline bill cramming

Most third-party charges are charges for the interconnected VoIP and wireline telephone services were banned, under federal law aimed at shielding consumers from hard-to-detect bogus charges on consumer and business phone bills. By the unlawful practice of cramming, third-party vendors put unauthorized charges - often for undesirable and unused services monthly telephone bills.

The proposed Fair Telephone Billing Act - S.3291--seeks to require Voice over IP (VoIP) service providers and wireline phone companies to block third-party charges unless the charge is for a phone -related services.

The measure, introduced recently by Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller IV (DW.Va.), provides exemptions for third-party charges for collect calls and bundled services such as satellite television services sold to the phone.

"Authorized charges on telephone bills has been plagued by phone customers for years," Rockefeller said in a statement. "In a couple of exceptions, there is simply no justification for allowing third-party billing wireline phone bills to continue."

Some of the largest landline carriers in the country announced measures to stop the placement of third-party charges on phone bills. In the past month, amid pressure from the Rockefeller and other federal officials, AT&T, CenturyLink Inc and Verizon announced they enforce the anti-cramming of the initiative.

Although the proposed law will not affect the Rockefeller wireless company, if enacted, the legislation would direct the Federal Communications Commission to operate the Federal Trade Commission to promulgate rules to protect wireless consumers from cramming and ensure payment of crammed charges.

Tribute to the VoIP / landline protection in the bill, the New York-based consumer advocacy group Union reiterated its call for similar anti-cramming protection for wireless phone users.

"This law is more necessary steps to stop predatory skills and ensure that consumers are only charged for the services they are approved," the advice of policy non-profit organization, Parul Desai, said the in a statement. "Wireless phone users deserve the same protections as wireline and VoIP customers, especially as more consumers are moving away from landlines and toward wireless technology."

Rockefeller introduced the Fair Billing Act Phone following a year-long investigation by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which he chairs.

The Senate Commerce Committee in July 2011 staff report said cramming phone company is putting $ 10 billion in third-party charges to customers landline phone bills in the past five years.

Unscrupulous companies typically hidden charges are crammed by listing them in vague, misleading or deceptive descriptions such as "monthly fee" a "subscription fee," officials said. The FCC has estimated that 15 to 20 million Americans are victims of cramming every year.

The Rockefeller of the proposal following the FCC adoption, in April, an anti-cramming rule (docket No. CG. 11-116) which requires landline providers to notify consumers about the option to block third-party charges.