Verizon sales practices investigated by Howard County consumer officials

The Howard County Office of Consumer Protection has warned residents to keep a detailed account of services and charges after signing up for telephone, television and Internet access after receiving complaints about unauthorized services appearing on Verizon bills.

Consumers said they had to spend hours on the phone to get the charges removed.

Howard County's warning comes just days after the Federal Commerce Commission voted to seek comment on proposed rules to prevent "cramming" --- the unauthorized placement of charges on a customer's bill, as the Associated Press defined it.

The rules would require companies to make the third-party billing more distinct (in a separate part of the bill). They're also considering whether to allow customers to block third-party billing and whether to charge for that service.

The FCC offers on its website a handy explanation of fees on a sample landline phone bill and an explanation of wireless telephone bill charges, which help shed some light on those mysterious line items.

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