TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – Attorney General Char…

TALLAHASSEE – LAWFUEL – Legal News Network – Attorney General Charlie Crist today sued an internet
service company for improperly tacking unauthorized charges onto consumers’
phone bills. Crist also joined Florida’s Public Counsel Harold McLean in
filing a petition with the Public Service Commission demanding that
Verizon, BellSouth and Embarq be held responsible for charges placed on
phone bills and calling for full reimbursement for affected consumers.

Crist’s Economic Crimes Division launched an investigation this May
after charges for Plantation-based Email Discount Network, LLC, an online
shopping service, appeared on phone bills from several different telephone
carriers. The $12.95 and $14.95 charges are examples of “cramming,” a
billing practice that charges for extra services without the customer’s
knowledge.

According to records reviewed by Crist’s office, at least 70
customers have been billed for the charges every month for a year. Florida
consumers may have lost a combined total of nearly $200,000 to the company.
Investigators estimate that more than 258,000 customers were charged
nationwide, including more than 20,000 Floridians. Other internet service
companies with the same owners as Email Discount Network are still under
investigation and could have more than a million affected customers.

“Phone companies shouldn’t bill consumers for services they never
agreed to pay for,” said Crist. “We will continue to protect our consumers
from any company that might try to take advantage of them and hold those
companies accountable.”

Investigators with Crist’s office spoke to victims of the scam, none
of whom were aware of signing up for the service. Email Discount Network
charged many consumers after they signed up to receive coupons or took
online surveys. The company failed to clearly inform the consumers that
this would result in charges on their phone bills. Some of the victims did
not even have computers, or were out of town when they supposedly signed
up. In light of this scam, Crist encouraged consumers to carefully read
their phone bills to catch repeated charges before they add up to large
sums of lost money.

In their petition filed with the Public Service, Crist and McLean
assert that under Florida law, phone companies should not have included the
charges from Email Discount Network. The petition also calls for complete
reimbursement for any affected Floridians.

A copy of the petition filed with the Public Service Commission is
available at:
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/JFAO-6U3MJM/$file/EDNPetition.pdf

A copy of the lawsuit filed against Email Discount Network is
available at:
http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/JFAO-6U3MJB/$file/EDNComplaint.pdf

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