Attorney General Bill McCollum News Release
|May 15, 2007
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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AT&T Agreement will Protect Florida Consumers from Cramming
~ Attorney General McCollum commends responsible business practices ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Floridians will now benefit from a consumer protection initiative set up by AT&T Florida, Attorney General Bill McCollum announced today. Under an agreement signed with the Attorney General, the company has developed an early warning system to identify third-party companies that may attempt to place unauthorized charges on phone bills, enabling AT&T Florida to protect its customers from the illegal practice. The agreement follows the recent nationwide settlement with Email Discount Network (EDN), a company that charged more than 250,000 consumers nationwide a monthly fee for shopping coupons and discounts the company advertised on the internet.
“When businesses take responsible, proactive steps to protect their customers from unfair or potentially deceptive practices, consumers not only receive protection but also the reassurance that their best interests are at heart,” said Attorney General McCollum. “I am pleased with the resolution reached to safeguard Floridians.”
The settlement states that AT&T Florida will require billing and collection clearinghouses and merchants to forward all consumer complaints referencing “cramming” to AT&T. If 50 complaints within the 10-state AT&T southeast region reference the same company over a month-long period, AT&T will take action against the company to protect telephone consumers. These actions may include the requirement that the company accused of cramming send out written notices to all new Florida subscribers notifying them of their service subscription; the date the charges will begin to appear on their AT&T Florida bill; the amount of the charges; and how the consumer may cancel the service subscription. If cramming continues, AT&T may cease doing business with the merchant.
The case involving AT&T was initiated last September when the Attorney General's Office filed a lawsuit against EDN, alleging that the company’s websites failed to clearly disclose that the shopping coupons and discounts the company advertised on the internet were not free. Additionally, it was not made clear that customers who submitted personal information to the company would be charged unless they contacted EDN to cancel the charges. In conjunction with the EDN lawsuit, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of Public Counsel filed a joint petition before the Florida Public Service Commission against BellSouth, Verizon and Embarq seeking to protect Florida consumers from these deceptive practices.
The agreement with BellSouth’s successor, AT&T Florida, will substantially increase the level of protection afforded AT&T customers in Florida against cramming, which occurs when unauthorized charges appear on phone bills. Attorney General McCollum also cautioned consumers to examine their bills carefully because extra charges are often difficult to distinguish and consumers who are victimized by this practice are often unaware that the extra charges are being placed on their phone bills.
A copy of the agreement with AT&T is available here.