Ever looked at your phone bill and wondered why it’s higher than usual even though you never went over your minutes, texts or data? Many times hidden charges and other fees unnecessarily wrack up the phone bills of millions around the US, and some times this sort of thing can be a deceptive practice. That’s the definition of cramming as labeled by the FCC, and phone bill cramming is something that has plagued the industry for years. Recently we’ve seen the FCC partner with the Federal Trade Commission, or the FTC in the US, and fined AT&T $105 million who in turn sent back a cool $80 million to its customers over deceptive cramming charges.
Now Sprint could be the latest in the FCC’s hunt for deceptive practices and it looks like a $105 million fine might be slapped down on them for the same kinds of things. Basically this encompasses those $9.99 fees that generally pop up on your phone bill for things like ringtone, wallpaper and other phone customizations in subscription fees. The problem here is that the wireless companies aren’t just sitting back and watching, they are taking a piece of the pie, usually somewhere around 30% of these charges at the end of the day. Right now these charges are alleged and given to The National Journal by an FCC insider who spoke on the basis of anonymity about the fine. Right now Sprint is declining to comment on it since there’s no public filing and nothing is official yet anyway.
Sprint and AT&T aren’t the only ones to have these proposed fines looked at or actually applied either. We’ve recently seen T-Mobile go into settlement talks with the FTC over the same kinds of charges. Back in November the FCC and FTC have recommended that carrier billing be stopped completely for third parties, aiding in the prevention of these fines in the first place. At this point it’s up to the carriers to help police this situation in order to prevent further fines by the FCC, as the FCC’s chairman Tom Wheeler estimates that around 20 million people each year are the victims of cramming.