You May Be Eligible for a Refund
Under the terms of a recent settlement with
the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) involving unauthorized charges on
telephone bills, some consumers may be eligible for a refund. The charges
may have been for website design, voice mail, club memberships, hospital
phone rental, other "enhanced" services, or 900 number services that were
"crammed" onto phone bills.
As part of the settlement, Enhanced Services Billing, Inc. (ESBI) and
Billing Concepts, Inc. (BCI) have agreed to send notices to consumers whom
they bill. The notice may be in the form of a phone bill insert, a message
on the phone bill itself, or a separate letter. ESBI and BCI also have
agreed to set up a toll-free number, 1-800-555-ESBI, that consumers can call
to find out the terms and conditions for refunds.
The FTC advises consumers to review their phone bills carefully, both for
unauthorized charges and for a notice about the possibility of a refund.
Who: According to the FTC, you are entitled to a refund if you
have received or do receive a phone bill containing unauthorized charges,
other than 900-numbers, between August 9, 2001 and February 9, 2002. You can
ask for a refund of current and past charges, up to a total of 12 months
What: Some of these charges are one-time fees; others appear on
your bill month after month. The charges may be listed under ESBI or some
other company name or abbreviation, or as a 900-number charge.
Where: These unauthorized charges may appear on the same page of
the bill that contains the notice; on a separate billing page that has the
initials "ESBI" or the name, "Enhanced Services Billing, Inc.," at the top;
or elsewhere on your phone bill.
How: To claim a refund, call ESBI toll-free at 1-800-555-ESBI;
send an email to www.billview.com; or
write to ESBI at P.O. Box 29206, San Antonio, Texas 78229-0206. No
particular wording is necessary to request a refund for four months of
charges. Consumers seeking refunds greater than four months also must mail
copies of their telephone bills containing the unauthorized charges to ESBI
at P.O. Box 29206, San Antonio, Texas 78229.
When: The deadline for requesting refunds is March 9, 2002.
About 900-Number Charges
The terms and conditions for disputing 900-number charges are
different than for other charges. If you find an error on your bill, follow
the instructions on your statement about whom to call or write to dispute
the charge. In most cases, it will be your local or long-distance telephone
company, but it could be the 900-number company or an independent firm that
provides billing services for that company.
You must notify the company listed on your bill within 60 days from the
date the first statement containing the error was sent. The company must
acknowledge your notice in writing within 40 days unless it has resolved the
dispute by that time. And within two billing cycles, but not longer than 90
days, the company must correct the billing error and notify you of the
correction, or investigate the matter and correct the error or explain the
reason for not doing so.
The FTC works for the consumer to
prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the
marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and
avoid them. To file a
complaint or to get free information
on consumer issues, visit
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The
FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a
secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FOR THE CONSUMER