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Check Monthly Bills for Hidden Charges

September 7, 2011
Plain English Version

Start looking at all your monthly bills for charges you do not know about. Credit cards are not the only bills to review. You should review your phone, cable and even your hotel bills.

On your landline bills, you may see charges that say, “voicemail, “service charge” or “other fees.” On cellphone bills, charges may be for services you did not download. Subscription charges may appear each month for what you thought was a single purchase. Watch out for weather alerts or ringtones you did not order.

A study said that phone companies pass along more than $2 billion a year in third-party charges. The practice is called “cramming” and it costs customers an average of $18 a month.

AT&T and Verizon Communications said they remove charges when customers complain. They also allow landline customers to block third-party charges. Verizon Wireless and Vodafone Group, says customers can block premium text services and must agree twice when they subscribe to be sure the decision is not an accident.

Comcast and DirecTV Group offer Showtime and other premium services free for up to six months. Then charge customers $10 or more a month. The companies say customers are told about the promotions when they sign up and it is up to them to cancel.

Hotels sometimes bill for health clubs and office services even when you do not use them.

When you see a charge on your bill that you did not expect be sure to notify the company. You can also report problems to the FCC at FCC.gov/comlaints.

The Wall Street Journal


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