JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced consumer fraud lawsuits against six telephone cramming companies on Wednesday for allegedly placing unauthorized charges on the telephone bills of thousands of consumers.

Coast to Coast Voice of Concord, N.H., Green Certification of Miami, Family Contact 911 of Clearwater, Fla., SBO Online of Los Angeles, Odyssey Communications of Tenafly, N.J., and ID Life Guards Inc. of Glendale, Calif., allegedly charged consumers for services and products they did not purchase, want or use.

"Telephone cramming costs Missouri consumers tens of thousands of dollars each year and something must be done to stop this abuse," Koster said. "Disregard for the consumer protection laws and regulations of the state of Missouri will not be tolerated."

Telephone cramming is when companies charge for services or products through a person's telephone bill, frequently without the person's authorization or knowledge. Crammed services and products can include environmentally friendly business services, streaming radio, small business services, emergency contact calling or texting, identity theft production, grocery coupons, internet faxing and toll-free voicemail.

Because a consumer's telephone bill can operate similarly to a credit card, companies can charge consumers monthly for services that aren't related to their telephone subscription. The crammer will repeatedly bill the consumer through his or her telephone bill, even when the consumer did not actually sign up for the service purportedly provided by the crammer.

The charges typically appear on the last page of the consumer's bill in the enhanced services section or in the name of the billing aggregator, causing consumers to not realize that they are being charged or to think that they are being charged by their telephone provider. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were unknowingly charged to consumers in Missouri in 2010 and 2011.

Consumers in Missouri, who were allegedly charged for the services of the six defendants Koster sued, complained that they had never visited the defendants' websites, never registered for or ordered the defendants' services or products, and would never use such services or products.

Koster's lawsuit is seeking a permanent injunction against the defendants to stop the allegedly unfair practices, as well as restitution and for the companies to return the allegedly unlawfully charged money to consumers in Missouri.

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