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Cramming is

[a] practice in which customers are billed for enhanced features such as voice mail, caller ID and call waiting that they have not ordered.[1]
the inclusion in consumers' telephone bills of unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charges.[2]


Telephone companies can cram consumers by adding unauthorized charges for telephone-related services, such as call messaging. Cramming can also involve third-party vendors who offer products and services that are unrelated to telephone services, such as live or recorded information about the stock market, sports, or products; chat lines and dating services; club memberships; and Internet Web page design.

Cramming takes advantage of the fact that many consumers do not know that third-party charges can appear on their phone bills; do not notice the charges, which are often buried in the bill under vague terms such as "usage charges" or "monthly service charges" or other terms that suggest a connection to the carrier; or, in the case of consumers with prepaid plans, do not receive a bill at all. Cramming occurs when consumers are signed up and billed for third-party services by merchants, either without any affirmative action by the consumers or after the consumer takes some affirmative act (such as clicking on a mobile webpage or providing a mobile phone number) without understanding that a charge to a mobile phone account will result. Consumers who receive a monthly bill for their mobile accounts frequently overlook the charges and pay their phone bills in full. Many consumers may also use auto bill-pay or paperless billing, and/or have family plans that cost a hundred or more dollars each month, making them less likely to notice small charges on their bills. And some prepaid mobile phone consumers do not receive a bill at all — crammed charges are simply deducted from their prepaid balance.

Consumers who believe that they have been victims of cramming can report incidents to their telephone company, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), their state public utilities commission, and/or their state attorney general.

Federal Trade Commission[]

Cramming is prohibited by Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act as both a deceptive and unfair practice.[3]


  1. FCC, Glossary of Telecommunications Terms.
  2. Telecommunications: Update on State-Level Cramming Complaints and Enforcement Actions, at 3.
  3. See, e.g., Federal Trade Commission v. Corp., 745 F.Supp.2d 975, 1003, 1005 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (full-text), aff'd, 2012 WL 1065543 (9th Cir. Mar. 30, 2012).


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