FTC targets outfits that crammed $70M onto phone bills

American eVoice, Emerica Media Corp.; FoneRight, Inc.; Global Voice others allegedly others charged in cramming charges on phone bills

The Federal Trade Commission today said it asked a U.S. district court to stop operations of American eVoice, Ltd., eight other companies, whom the agency says stuffed some  $70 million in bogus charges on consumers' phone bills.

The FTC said the companies charged for services the consumers never ordered, did not authorize, and often did not know they had. The complaint also alleges that American eVoice defendants transferred the proceeds from their illegal cramming operation to a purported non-profit, Bibliologic, Ltd.

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The FTC said hundreds of consumers complained that charges from $9.95 to $24.95 per month appeared out of the blue on their phone bills without their authorization.  The FTC also alleged that defendants told phone companies and third party "billing aggregators" that the consumers had authorized the charges by filling out forms on the internet.  Since January 2008, according to the complaint, the defendants have billed consumers for more than $70 million.

The complaint names as defendants Steven Sann; Terry Lane (aka Terry Sann); Nathan Sann; Robert Braach; American eVoice, Ltd.; Emerica Media Corp.; FoneRight, Inc.; Global Voice Mail, Ltd.; HearYou2, Inc.; Network Assurance, Inc.; SecuratDat, Inc.; Techmax Solutions, Inc.; and Voice Mail Professionals, Inc. The complaint also names Bibliologic, Ltd. as a relief defendant.

 The American eVoice case is potential bigger than one ongoing FTC cramming case filed last May.  There the FTC said it was seeking a civil court contempt ruling against the largest third-party billing vendor in the U.S., alleging that it placed more than $70 million in unauthorized charges on telephone bills in violation of a previous court order.  The FTC is seeking to recover $52.6 million from Billing Services Group, but BSG denied the agency's charges, saying the FTC is targeting the wrong company. The FTC is seeking to recover the amount that the agency alleges the company billed consumers and failed to refund.

The FTC accused BSG of cramming unauthorized charges on nearly 1.2 million telephone lines on behalf of a serial crammer.  BSG defended itself by saying it provides legitimate third-party billing services for telephone customers and vendors. Alternate Billing and related companies were among its customers from 2006 to 2010, the FTC alleged.

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