Many people receive unwanted calls at one time or another—even though their telephone number is on the Do Not Call Registry. These calls can be difficult to stop because the scam artists placing them are often engaged in criminal enterprises designed to steal people’s money and have no regard for the law. As a result, they are not dissuaded by the fact that a person’s telephone number is on the Do Not Call Registry. Our webpage on unwanted calls, which has additional resources for people dealing with this problem, is available here.
Landline telephone bills can be dense and confusing. The terms used by telephone companies—phrases like “customer line charge,” “interstate access charge,” and “universal connectivity fee,” among others—can be puzzling. Moreover, telephone subscribers are sometimes billed incorrectly or for services they did want or receive. Our flyer on telephone bills, available here, has more information on how to decipher your telephone bill and tips on how to make sure it is accurate.
Most people are unaware that their phone bill can sometimes be used like a credit card, allowing third-party companies to place charges on the bill for unrelated services or merchandise. Crammed charges are often buried in the fine print of a phone bill, priced as small amounts and appearing as innocuous-sounding names, such as “telephone services” or “long distance minutes,” to fly under the radar and avoid detection. If you notify your landline phone company that an unauthorized charge from a third party was included on your bill, the phone company must remove the charge. Your phone company must also credit your account for any amounts you paid for the unauthorized charges in the last six months, unless the third party that put the charges on your phone bill can produce within 14 days evidence that you “expressly authorized” the charges. For more information on this practice and your rights if you have been crammed, click here.
Most people now use cell phones. Identifying a cell phone and service plan that best suits your needs can be difficult. We have prepared a brochure with guidelines and tips for purchasing cell phone service. To view this brochure, click here.
Slamming occurs when your long distance or local service provider is switched to another company without your knowledge or permission. Many people do not know that they were slammed until they get a phone bill from a different company, often charging higher rates. If you have been slammed, contact your local phone company and ask them to switch you back to your preferred company. You should also request that any switching fees be refunded to you. Click here for more information on this practice and your rights if you have been slammed.
Phone Service Discount Programs.
Minnesota’s Telephone Assistance Plan and the federal government’s Lifeline program provide monthly discounts for one cell phone or telephone line per household. To qualify for these programs, residents must meet eligibility guidelines. Click here for more information about the Telephone Assistance Plan. Additional information on the Lifeline program can be found on the Federal Communications Commission’s website here.
If you have a question or experience a problem related to your telephone service or bill, we want to hear from you. You may call us at (651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787, or submit a Consumer Assistance Request Form or Fraud Report Form to:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 or (800) 657-3787
TTY: (651) 297-7206 or TTY: (800) 366-4812
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office offers the following materials, which are designed to provide information to Minnesota citizens about telephone related topics:
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”) is the state agency with authority to regulate landline telephone service and administer the Telephone Assistance Plan and Lifeline programs. For more information or to file a complaint, contact the MPUC as follows:
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
121 Seventh Place East, Suite 350
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-7124 or (800) 657-3782
Federal Communications Commission.
The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has the authority to enforce federal laws regulating caller ID spoofing and autodialed and prerecorded message calls. The FCC also has the authority to take action against companies engaged in cramming and slamming. For more information or to file a complaint, contact the FCC as follows:
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20554
Federal Trade Commission.
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) is the federal agency that has authority to take action against deceptive, fraudulent and unfair business practices in the marketplace. It also has authority to enforce federal laws regulating autodialed and prerecorded message calls, enforce violations of the National Do Not Registry, and take action against companies engaged in cramming. For more information or to file a complaint, contact the FTC as follows:
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580