Attorney General Chris Koster today announced that three major wireless carriers – AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – will end their practice of allowing certain third-party charges to be included on mobile phone bills. The three carriers will no longer charge consumers for "Premium Short Messaging Services" or premium text messages. These PSMS charges account for a majority of consumer complaints about a process called "cramming."
Missouri and forty-four other states have been in discussions with major carriers aimed at stopping the practice of mobile cramming. Cramming on mobile phones can begin when a consumer receives an unsolicited text message offering the consumer to reply for some purpose, such as entering a contest. By replying, the consumer often unknowingly allows his or her cell phone number to become enrolled in some type of "service," such as a music-streaming service, a ringtone purchase, or a horoscope or celebrity gossip service. The monthly charge for that "service" is then included on the consumer's cell phone bill by the consumer's mobile carrier.
"Carriers have allowed third parties to use mobile billing to charge for their services– services most consumers did not want and may not have even noticed," Koster said. "It is time for this practice to stop. We will continue to work with other carriers to encourage them to take the same step that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have agreed to take."
Koster noted that eliminating these types of premium text messages will stop the majority of third-party charges on cell phone bills. Cramming on cell phones and landlines is estimated to cost Americans $2 billion per year.
Koster said the Attorneys General are working with mobile carriers to continue to allow some third-party messages such as those used to donate to legitimate charities.