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Bogus Bills

Phony charges on your phone bill? You've been crammed!

Netpreneurs beware: Your phone bill may be extremely high this month, but not because you made too many long-distance calls to your supplier on the East Coast. It may be because a telecommunications provider is cramming you-that is, adding charges to your telephone bill for services or products you never used or requested.

Cramming isn't new. For the past several years, customers have been complaining to their phone companies about charges popping up on their phone bills for things they didn't request. A new version of cramming is on the rise, however: businesses that receive unauthorized charges for Web page design or Internet services from telecommunications providers.

According to a report published earlier this year by the General Accounting Office, 30 state public utilities commissions reported they'd received cramming complaints from small businesses.

The offices of 27 state attorneys general also reported cramming complaints from small businesses in 1999-and some of those included complaints related to Web page and Internet services.

Thankfully, the states are taking action. The Office of the Attorney General in Arkansas, for example, filed a lawsuit against a company in 1999 for routinely billing some businesses $24.99 per month for unauthorized Web page design services. The attorneys general in North Carolina and North Dakota have also begun tracking Internet-related cramming as a separate category, due to the large number of complaints received about such abuse.

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Bogus Bills.

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