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Federal Communications Commission
1919 - M Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
Fax-On-Demand 202 / 418-2830
Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

July 22, 1998


The nation's local phone companies, working with the FCC, today announced new voluntary best practices guidelines to combat cramming practices on customer telephone bills. "Cramming" refers to the inclusion on consumers' local telephone bills of unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges.

Industry development of the best practices guidelines followed a meeting convened by FCC Chairman William Kennard on May 20, 1998, with representatives of the local exchange companies where he challenged them to find a solution to the cramming problem.

The industry completed the guidelines in only two months after the May meeting called by Chairman Kennard. Had traditional regulatory rulemaking processes been used, the project would have taken much longer to complete.

The guidelines include procedures for comprehensive advance screening of products being charged to local telephone bills, telephone company scrutiny of service providers, verification of end user approval of services being charged to their bills, customer dispute resolution procedures, and other recommendations for preventing and eliminating cramming.

In addition to the efforts of local carriers, billing clearinghouses and services providers are also developing their own guidelines to fight the cramming problem.

These voluntary industry guidelines should go a long way towards weeding out the bad actors in the telecommunications industry by cutting off access to billing services to those engaged in unfair or deceptive marketing, and providing consumers the ability to recognize and challenge improper charges before they make any payment.

The FCC has processed on average more than 300 complaints each month from consumers claiming to have been crammed, ranking it with slamming as one of the single largest sources of consumer complaints received by the Commission.

In addition to the guidelines, the FCC has also undertaken initiatives to educate consumers about the importance of closely reviewing their telephone bills and to help them actually understand these bills.

A copy of the full text of the voluntary anti-cramming best practices guidelines are available on the FCC's Internet Home Page at: http://www.fcc.gov.


News media contact: Audrey Spivack or David Fiske at (202) 418-0500

Common Carrier Bureau contacts: Glenn Reynolds at (202) 418-0965