Bell Atlantic Launches New Attack on 'Cramming;'
Customers Can Limit Which Providers Appear on Bill
First Company to Give Customers Such Control
July 22, 1998
NEW YORK -- Bell Atlantic today became the first telecommunications
company in the country to unveil plans to allow its customers to limit the
service providers whose charges are carried on their Bell Atlantic telephone
bill. The move is the latest in a series of bold initiatives by Bell Atlantic to
thwart the growing practice of "cramming," or the inclusion of bogus
charges on telephone bills.
"Our customers want and deserve control over their phone bills. We intend
to give them just that," said James G. Cullen, president and CEO of Bell
Atlantic's Telecom Group.
Bell Atlantic now bills its customers for telephone calls and for other
miscellaneous charges submitted by any company with which it has a billing
contract. Beginning in several months, customers will be able to notify Bell
Atlantic that they want to be billed for the miscellaneous charges only of
certain service providers -- namely, Bell Atlantic itself and the customer's
pre-selected providers of regional toll and long distance services. If
customers elect this option, Bell Atlantic could still bill them for the
telephone calls they make using other providers, since these are not
Many customers appreciate getting all their telecommunications charges on
one bill. To meet that requirement, Bell Atlantic provides billing services to
a wide variety of telecommunications providers.
Bell Atlantic is recognized as an industry leader in attacking the cramming
problem. Earlier this month the company changed its policy for the
handling of cramming inquiries. In the past, when customers called the
company to complain about a charge for a service that was not used or
authorized, they were instructed to call the service provider that originated
Today, however, the matter can be resolved with a single phone call to Bell
Atlantic. If the charge is suspected to be associated with cramming, Bell
Atlantic will take it off the bill immediately.
Other recent steps taken by the company include:
Termination of billing services for certain providers -- Bell Atlantic has,
to date, served formal notice on seven billing aggregators (companies that
act as clearinghouses for providers of telecommunications and related
services) that it would no longer bill for their services unless they cure
problems caused by at least 35 telecommunications providers who are
generating cramming complaints from customers. Bell Atlantic has also
demanded that these aggregators implement more stringent procedures to
screen the marketing practices of the telecommunications service providers
who use them as a clearinghouse.
A moratorium on providing new billing services -- In May Bell Atlantic
declared a moratorium on the billing of any new services not previously
approved until it 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.
A recent Bell Atlantic study revealed that customer complaints about
cramming have escalated. So far this year, the company has received
roughly 8,000 cramming complaints prompting this strong action by Bell
Bell Atlantic -- formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and NYNEX --
is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry.
With more than 41 million telephone access lines and 6.7 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