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FCC implements a 'clear ban' on surprise phone bill charges

It also bars surprise phone company changes.
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Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The FCC has been willing to tackle surprise phone bill charges for a long time, but now it's more explicitly forbidding the practice. The regulator has approved rules that include a "clear ban" on cramming, or slapping customers with unauthorized charges on phone bills. The activity was already illegal, the FCC said -- this mainly "reaffirms" the agency's authority to crack down on bad behavior.

There are also new rules clamping down on slamming, or switching a customer's phone company through deceptive means. If a company misleads you during a sale call, that fibbing will "invalidate" any permission you gave, the FCC said. Moreover, any phone companies that abuse third-party verification for switches will lose that process for five years and have to use alternative methods. In other words, a company that regularly tries tricking people into changing networks could find itself at a disadvantage.

This being the deregulation-happy Pai-era FCC, there are some looser rules, too. The Commission has eliminated a requirement that phone companies using third-party verification have to get your permission for every service being sold. It's a "time-consuming" demand that can "confuse" customers, according to the regulatory body. There's a degree of truth to that, but it does increase the chances that you might unwittingly greenlight a service.

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