Lawsuits filed by the Missouri Attorney General's office against three companies that provide phone services have been settled, and their customers in Missouri will receive nearly $300,000 in refunds.
The companies were accused of engaging in a practice called "cramming." Joe Bindbeutel, chief of the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, says cramming occurs when a phone company levies unauthorized charges onto its customers' monthly bills.
"Those statements are often not very well described on the bill," Bindbeutel said. "Consumers that don't go over their bill very carefully may pay them without realizing what services they are supposedly paying for."
Bindbeutel says Coast to Coast Voice LLC, Familycontact911.com LLC, and Green Certification LLC all deliberately crammed their phone customers with unauthorized charges, and that they also failed to provide services they had promised.
"Be they enhanced ability to communicate with family members, or environmentally sustainable business practices and advice – these services were essentially whole cloth, and the bills were simply fraudulent from the start," Bindbeutel said.
Bindbeutel advises consumers to carefully review their monthly bills, and to exercise caution when providing personal information, as some companies will in turn give it to third-party marketers.
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