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FTC Steaming Over Streaming Video 'Cramming'

The Federal Trade Commission was busy on the broadband front
Tuesday, seeking over $50 million in restitution from a third-party billing
company it says charged for streaming video and other "enhanced
service" fees placed on consumers' phone bills without their knowledge. It
also settled with Myspace Monday over online privacy policy issues.

The FTC alleges in seeking a civil contempt ruling against
Billing Services Group (BSG), that it placed charges on nearly 1.2 million
phone lines on behalf of a serial "crammer" (someone who places
unauthorized charges on phone bills). Per previous court orders, said the FTC,
BSG cannot facilitate that cramming and "deny responsibility for the harm
they made possible."

The FTC says BSG billed over a quarter of a million
consumers for a streaming video service, but that only 23 movies were streamed,
some of which were by the crammers' employees. In total, between 2006 and 2010,
said the FTC, "BSG illegally billed consumers for nine crammed 'enhanced
services,' including three voicemail services, one streaming video service, two
identity theft protection services, two directory assistance services, and one
job skills training service."

The FTC says BSG's actions violated a 1999 settlement with
the FTC that "prohibits unauthorized billing, misrepresentations to
consumers, and billing for vendors who fail to clearly disclose the terms of
their services."

A BSG spokesperson was not available for comment at press