ON HOLD: Billing or Bilking (Revisited)?
I finally heard from ILD Teleservices, the company that billed me for an 800-number voicemail service I had never asked for. It agreed to credit me the full amount of the fraudulent charges. So why am I still angry?
Here’s why: ILD didn’t put up a fight. Didn’t even claim its charges were legitimate. Why should it? ILD’s business is helping other companies — in my case, a shadowy outfit called American eVoice — place charges on people’s home phone bills. On ILD’s website, it claims to gross more than $100 million a year from its “bill forwarding services” and brags about “maximizing collection rates.”
Some extraordinarily high percentage of its bills are for services nobody ordered. (If you don’t believe me, Google “ILD”; you’ll find countless stories about what the industry calls “cramming” — and I call stealing.) It’s a no-lose proposition for ILD. Some people never notice the fraudulent charges on their phone bills. Of those who do notice, some don’t bother to complain. Of those who do complain, some don’t get around to sending the faxes ILD requires before issuing refunds. Nice work if you can get it.
The solution would be for local phone companies to stop passing along these charges. But, under FCC rules, local phone companies are required to provide “third-party billing,” supposedly as a convenience to people who order products and services but don’t have credit cards. As a Verizon spokesman told me, “We legally have the obligation to put charges on a Verizon bill. We cannot deny them.” Sadly, he was telling me the truth.
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