Madigan: Ban phone 'cramming'

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday called on the Federal Communications Commission to ban all third-party billing on local telephone bills.

Madigan, along with attorneys general in Nevada and Vermont, filed comments with the FCC, which is weighing how to detect and prevent phone "cramming,” the practice of putting charges on a telephone bill for unauthorized services.

In 2009, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that requires third-party vendors to disclose all charges that will appear on a consumer’s phone bill. But phone cramming still continues, according to the filing.

Madigan said consumers increasingly report online frauds after submitting their phone number for online prize drawings, surveys or free recipes.

The attorney general’s office has filed 30 lawsuits against third-party billing companies. In one lawsuit, a company billed more than 9,800 Illinois consumers for credit repair services -- including the dial-a-story telephone line maintained by Lincoln Library, the city’s public library.

Nancy Huntley, director of  Lincoln Library, said the Friends of Lincoln Library, a nonprofit support group receives the bill for the story line. Huntley said she contacted the treasurer of the Friends of Lincoln Library on Monday after learning about the credit repair charge. She said the charge probably looked routine.