Bell Atlantic Intensifies Attack on 'Cramming'

Bell Atlantic Intensifies Attack on 'Cramming'

Billing Services Suspended for 27 Suspected Offenders

December 9, 1998


Paul Miller,

NEW YORK -- Bell Atlantic this week stepped up its efforts to protect customers
from cramming by eliminating 27 telecommunications service providers from its

These 27 companies have been linked to thousands of customer complaints about
bogus charges on their phone bills. Bell Atlantic has suspended another 59
service providers since the company launched its aggressive attack on cramming
last spring.

Cramming, an unscrupulous practice that surfaced late last year, describes bogus
miscellaneous charges that are unrelated to actual telephone usage.

"The vast majority of the complaints we're getting now point to these 27 service
providers," said Fred D'Alessio, group president-consumer. "We are not going to sit idly by and allow our customers to be

The 27 suspended providers contract with eight billing aggregators that act as
clearinghouses for providers of telecommunications and related services. The
clearinghouses, in turn, contract with Bell Atlantic to provide billing services.

As a result of Bell Atlantic's actions, the clearinghouses have formed a coalition
to identify and weed out suspected crammers. Some of the member companies of
this coalition recently acted on their own to suspend an additional eight suspected

Bell Atlantic, which serves 22 million households from Maine to the Virginias,
provides billing services for a wide variety of telecommunications providers.
Many customers prefer having all of their telecommunications services on one

Bell Atlantic leads the industry in actions taken to thwart the practice of
cramming. It is the only telephone company in the nation to announce plans to
give customers the ability to limit the service providers on their bill.

Beginning early next year, customers may request that only Bell Atlantic and their
regional toll and long distance companies can put miscellaneous charges on their
bill. If customers select this option, Bell Atlantic could still bill them for the
telephone calls they make using other providers, such as "10-10" dial-around
companies, since these are not miscellaneous charges.

Other steps taken by Bell Atlantic to combat cramming include:

  • First-stop resolution -- When Bell Atlantic receives a cramming
    complaint from a customer, the company immediately removes the
    charges from the bill. This "first-stop" policy was implemented in

  • A moratorium on providing new billing services -- In May, Bell
    Atlantic declared a moratorium on the billing for any new services not
    previously approved until the company can be assured that cramming
    is under control. Bell Atlantic has historically screened proposals for
    billing new services and has reserved the right not to bill for
    objectionable services.


To avoid cramming...

  • Do not divulge personal information, such as your telephone number, credit
    card number or social security number on sweepstakes or raffle tickets. This
    information may be used for unscrupulous purposes.

  • Keep a copy of any applications you fill out. You may need to refer to it in the
    event of any disputes.

  • Do not fill out entries for contests that seem vague in nature.

  • Do not accept collect calls from people you don't know.

  • Do not return calls to unfamiliar telephone numbers.

  • Beware of faxes, e-mail, voice mail and pages requesting a return call to an
    unfamiliar number.

  • Know the location of the area code you are dialing. If you are unfamiliar with
    the area code, check the front of your Bell Atlantic white pages directory .

  • Do not place calls that have an unfamiliar dialing pattern. Local, domestic
    and international dialing is explained in the front of your Bell Atlantic white
    pages directory.

  • Pay close attention to voice prompts on a call. You may be asked to accept
    charges for the call or other services you don't want or need.

To detect cramming...

  • Review your telephone bill each month for all charges.

  • Question the telecommunications service provider (whose name and logo
    appear on the same page of the bill) about any unfamiliar charges.

  • Notify your local telephone company if you do not recognize a charge or if
    you are unable to resolve a disputed charge with the telecommunications
    service provider.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information
industry. With 42 million telephone access lines and eight million wireless
customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced
wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the
world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are
also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications
markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.