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Understanding Your Phone Bill


When you get a phone bill, read it. To make sense of what some of the charges are on both landline and wireless bills, the Federal Communications Commission offers a Guide to Understanding Your Telephone Bill. Verify any third-party billing charges that may appear, and look out for signs of slamming and cramming - which are illegal in Oregon.

Third party billing. Since the deregulation of the telecommunications industry there has been a growth in complaints regarding erroneous charges on telephone bills. This is because your phone company can act as a “third party service biller” meaning that other companies or organizations can request payment from you by adding a charge to your telephone bill.

Third party billing has changed many things. For example, in the aftermath of a natural disaster, relief organizations are able to raise millions of dollars almost instantly by collecting thousands of small donations from consumers via text messaging. However some companies abuse this new method of collecting payment because phone companies are not required to verify the legitimacy of the requested charge.

Cramming. The placement of charges on your phone bill for services you never requested, authorized, or received is called “cramming”. These charges may range from as little as $1.99 to as much as $19.99 per month. Crammers count on you not reading your bill carefully, so you never notice the few dollars they take from you each month.

How can you protect yourself from cramming?

  • Read your bill each month, and treat it like a credit card bill.
  • Be alert for suspicious charges on your phone bill like “activation”, “service fee”, or “membership” from companies you do not recognize.
  • Take action: All phone bills include a toll-free number you can call to question or dispute a charge.

Slamming occurs when your local or long-distance service is switched to another company without your authorization.

If you have been the victim of slamming:

  • Call the slamming company and tell them to switch you back. Under federal rules, you do not have to pay them for the first 30 days of service.
  • Call the company you were switched away from and tell them you did not authorize the change. Ask them to reinstate your previous calling plan and remove any switching charges from your bill.
  • File a complaint online with the Oregon Public Utilities Commission or call 800-522-2404.

To stop unauthorized telemarketing calls, put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If you receive unauthorized marketing calls after that, please Report a Violation of the Do Not Call List.

Applicable State Law:

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