OAN Services and Ideal Savings Now, Ideal Voicemail, AccessVM, etc.
I was surprised to see a $14.95 charge suddenly appear on my February 2010 phone bill. I checked and it also has been billed since December 2009. According to the bill, it was billed through OAN Services on behalf of Ideal Savings Now. They said my wife had signed up for the service at www.ussamples.com. That's pretty odd since my Ideal Savings Now seems to have only a call center that you call which services calls for at least 7 different voicemail companies (and at least 50 companies in total according to one of the phone reps I talked to). The call center would not give me the physical address or phone number for Ideal Savings Now, nor the name of any person in management at Ideal Savings Now.
When I did google searches I found that I was hardly alone; there are many complaints about OAN Services and Ideal Savings Now (for example, see Take a close look at your phone bill). In fact, it is so bad, that if you type in those names, such as "Ideal Savings Now" (in quotes), you get complaint after complaint. Compare that to what you get if you type in any other company name of your choosing.
IMPORTANT: If you feel you are being unfairly billed, call the numbers listed on your phone bill (in the third party section) to reverse the charges. They have a big incentive to reverse the charge because if they don't and you have to do it through your carrier (e.g., AT&T), the carrier will charge them an "extra" chargeback fee of $100 or more (it varies by carrier). So that's why these companies are so eager to reverse your charges. For example, if a crammer has to refund 2% of all revenue and pay 4% of revenue to maintain a 24x7 call center, the crammer will still make 94% of the original billings.
If you feel you have been crammed, you should report it to the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en because the FTC relies on these reports for determining which cases to pursue. It does make some difference.
In the Farr cramming case (which was run out of Farr's jail cell and rang up over $34M in illegal charges), the FTC got BSG Clearing (which is the company behind OAN Services) to pay $1.9M.
BSG told me that they have a 100 point checklist before signing up a billing company (like Ideal), and that they have improved their fraud detection since the Farr case. However, when I called the OAN Services number on March 16, 2010 to report that the Ideal Savings Now charges were not authorized, I was immediately transferred to the Ideal Savings Now call center by the computer. Therefore, BSG is not capturing fraud complaints. All they would know is the charge got reversed.
I have suggested to Kelli Cubeta, General Counsel, that BSG should do a sample audit of the Ideal Savings now customer base by picking 10 accounts at random and finding out how many of them activated their accounts and/or used the $100 in coupons.
I further suggested that BSG send a verification email to 1% of "new" signups to confirm that the customer authorized the charge and monitor how many people respond that they never made the charge compared to the number of people that confirm that they signed up. This seems like a very simple things all third party billers could do to protect themselves. The FTC should require such monitoring in any settlement agreement. It doesn't even have to be 1% of the customers. They could just pick a random sample of 100 new signups for each customer and send a verification email to them.
Secondly, it would be nice if BSG would allow you to block all third party billing by putting your phone number on a stop list. AT&T can do this as well (if you talk to a phone rep who has the latest information).
I wanted to check out how BSG is doing in complying with the court order that the FTC negotiated with them that was signed January 18, 2008. Under section V of that order, they have to do a random sample of billed telephone numbers and require the vendor to provide evidence that express authorization was obtained for each phone number. They also have to comply with requests from FTC Counsel (Section VIII).
I don't have access to the call records. But I do have a BSG customer list so I can only get a rough idea of compliance.
I picked the first 10 customers from a BSG customer list from October 2008 which is well after that court order was agreed to. I found that if the company existed, there were cramming complaints, in some cases, lots of them.