To Stop Cellphone Cramming, Don't Let It Start
By DAVID SEGAL April 7, 2012
THE Haggler's last column apparently caused a lot of readers to take a close look at their cellphone bills, and many made a disturbing discovery: they had been crammed.
To recap, cramming is the unsavory act of tacking an unrequested service fee to a phone bill. It's been a land-line scheme for years and now appears to be full-on scourge in the mobile phone world. Customers find themselves enrolled, without their consent, in a short-message service, or SMS, which delivers texts on celebrity gossip, dating and other kinds of invaluable information. The monthly fees - often in the $9 range - as well as the service come from third-party providers, which is a generic term for what are, in many instances, very shadowy companies that behave very badly.
In our last episode, a woman discovered that a Georgia-based company called Wise Media had crammed a $9.99 charge to her cellphone bill in recent months. Her carrier, AT&T, promptly refunded the charges, which turns out to be standard operating procedure, and may go a long way toward explaining why the outrage about cellphone cramming has not yet exploded like cartoon dynamite.
A handful of readers wrote last week to describe their own cramming and refund experiences. One crammee, Harry Wall of Larchmont, N.Y., found that two of five cellphones on his AT&T family plan had charges from Wise Media.