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Monday
Mar052012

Phone Cramming Leads to Verizon Settlement

PRNewsFoto/Pierce Promotions(NEW YORK) -- Telephone giant Verizon has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over "cramming," in which outside companies place charges on consumers' phone bills without their permission. The remarkable thing is that customers will be eligible for 100-percent refunds of the crammed charges. Most class-actions only achieve restitution for victims at a fraction of the true harm. Verizon has not admitted fault in the matter, despite agreeing to the settlement.

Even better, in the future, Verizon will only put outside charges on new customers' bills if they opt in -- meaning they have given permission for this to happen. And who would opt in? Just be on the lookout, consumers, because often choices like this are buried in fine print or stated in baffling "legalese." And it's unclear whether existing customers will be given a choice, so calling Verizon or going online to inquire may not be a bad idea.

Cramming charges are usually small billings of less than a dollar made on landline phone bills by outside companies that provide -- or pretend to provide -- services such as horoscopes, weather reports or auxiliary voicemail boxes. The key to this deception is that the charges are so small and phone bills are so complex, that many consumers never notice and the crammers make millions a few cents at a time.

Why is this settlement is such good news? With the opt-in feature, it sets a precedent that could kill off cramming all together. Plus, both current and former customers will be able to get full refunds of the unauthorized third-party charges. If you were crammed for years on end without noticing, the pennies will add up for you just as they have for the crammers. Hopefully you'll at least get a pair of shoes, a dinner out -- or a phone bill payment -- out of it. The attorneys for the class say some consumers may have claims for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

So here's how you get your money. The settlement covers phone accounts belonging to individuals, small businesses and local governments. The time period is for billings made between April 27, 2005 through Feb. 28, 2012. You will either be able to make a "full payment claim" -- presumably by providing detailed proof -- or a "flat payment claim" for $40 with fewer hoops to jump through. Once the settlement receives final approval from the judge, the forms will be available here. The deadline is Nov. 15 of this year. If you'd like more information, you can contact the settlement administrator at www.verizonthirdpartybillingsettlement.com or call 1-877-772-6219.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio