crammingThree companies in three states have agreed to pay consumers back for what amounts to years of unwanted, unauthorized charges on their local phone bills, a practice commonly called "cramming." In some cases, the charges had nothing to do with using the phone.

The companies agreed to refund a total of nearly $250,000 to more than 1,700 Vermont customers and businesses, and to each pay $10,000 in fines to the state.

Between 2005 and 2010, customers found charges on their bills for voice mail services about which they were not notified, and online business-directory listings for which they did not know they were paying, according to the office of William Sorrell, Vermont's attorney general.MyiProducts, of Indiana, charged more than $78,000 to at least 1,300 Vermont consumers for voicemail. More Local Reach, of Florida, and YPD Corporation, of Georgia, collectively tallied up more than $142,000 in charges to more than 400 Vermont businesses for directory listings.

Consumers found the billings on their statements listed under the name of an aggregator: Enhanced Billing Services, of Texas. Problem was, Sorrell's office said in a statement, none of the three businesses at the root of the situation notified those consumers by mail that the charges would be attached to their local phone bills.

Furthermore, according to the AG's office, More Local Reach used a deceptive telemarketing script to entice business owners to sign on to Internet directories, under the pretense they were only updating existing listings.

The settlement is the first of what Sorrell hopes will be a wave of enforcement actions against "cramming," or the inclusion of unauthorized and inadequately notified charges on consumer and business telephone accounts.

"Few people anticipate being charged for non-telephone services on their local telephone bills," said Sorrell, in a statement. "We will not tolerate companies that take advantage of that."

Vermont consumers and business owners seeking more information about their local phone bills, in light of the settlements, can contact Sorrell's office at (802) 828-5507.

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