This is just an FYI to other Verizon customers and a plea for help in keeping this from happening in the future.
For the past year, and who knows how long prior to that, Verizon has been billing me on behalf of another company, ESBI. ESBI was in turn billing Verizon on behalf of two other companies, myinfoguard and unitedtel. Each of these companies was then in turn billing those companies for two other companies providing services neither received nor requested by myself.
When contacting Verizon, I was instructed to call the 800 number listed on my bill to inquire about these services. I also placed a block on my phone to keep unauthorized billing from occurring in the future. Upon calling ESBI, I was then instructed to call myinfoguard and unitedtel directly. Upon calling unitedtel I was able to cancel any further billing, but was not allowed to ask for a refund of all money they've accrued from my phone bill.
It was after this that I decided action was needed. I have since filed a complaint with the FTC for all three companies directly responsible for billing Verizon and in return my phone bill. And it is here that I ask for your help in making sure these companies can no longer get away with this type of scam.
The FTC and FCC refer to this type of billing practice as "cramming". Companies can put charges on your phone bill in hopes that the confusion of your phone bill will hide the fact that you're being billed for something you never authorized. Often times they will charge small amounts to further hide what's happening (amounts of $2.99 or $3.99). The FTC and FCC have made that practice illegal since no service was ever authorized.
However, more should be done. It should be illegal to "piggy-back" bills on top of bills, or bill one company who's already billing you for a different service. To my knowledge this practice is common only to phones, and since phone bills are already chock full of charges that can often be confusing and misleading, can easily go unnoticed. Verizon, or any other company, should not be allowed to bill you for a service unrelated to the services they themselves provide. All companies providing you with a service should be required to bill you directly. By doing so, no charges can be made to any bill you receive that could be overlooked or made without your permission.
If you head to the FTC website, you can file a complaint for any such activity. The address is https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
It would also be beneficial for everyone, effected by this practice or not, to write your congressman or state representative asking that legislation be put in place to block this practice in the future. Not specifically legal action type legislation, but actually blocking the practice of "piggy-backing" bills. Explain the problem and suggest the solution would be that all companies billing for services rendered should be required to bill their customers directly to avoid confusion and illegal charges.
And spread the word. The more people who get involved in putting this to an end, the quicker we can rest assured that we won't be scammed out of our money with such a nefarious billing practice.
In the mean time, the best way to protect yourself from this happening to you is to call Verizon and ask that a block be put on your account for any third party billing. Also examine your phone bill carefully and look for names of companies you don't recognize. You can call Verizon's billing department and ask them to explain what each of these charges are if you're unsure of what they mean. By doing so, you may save yourself quite a bit of money over an extended amount of time.
Thank you in advance for any consideration you give this. Remember that alone you might not do much, but together as a collective we can put an end to this type of business practice.