Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) is sponsoring legislation to keep unwanted charges off of consumers’ phone bills.  The legislation, supported by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, would go a long way toward ending the phone scam known as “cramming.”  Cramming occurs when a third party company places an unwanted charge on a customers’ phone bill.

“When most people look at their phone bills, they assume they're getting billed for the calls they make and the services they purchase—they don’t think to look for extra costs added by third-party companies,” Koehler said.  “Illinois consumers lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to these scams.  We need to put a stop to them.”

Cramming charges can range from $9.95 to $45 per month.  They often appear on bills as seemingly legitimate services, like email, voicemail, or identification-theft prevention.  They also are not limited to residential phone customers—businesses, churches, non-profit groups, and even government organizations have been the victims of cramming.  Crammers often trick consumers into “signing up” for their services during telemarketing calls.  In other cases, they use outright lies to add the charges to customers’ bills.  In many cases, they don’t even provide legitimate products or services.

The General Assembly has tried to take on cramming before by requiring telemarketers to clearly and fully disclose the terms of any agreements and to get express consent before appending any charges to customers’ phone bills.  However, the attorney general’s recent investigations have discovered that cramming is still a significant problem.

Koehler’s legislation, House Bill 5211, prohibits third-party billing altogether.  It allows for limited exemptions for charities, operator-assisted dialing, and companies that have contractual business relationships with the telephone company.

“Cramming is a simple, if pervasive, problem,” Koehler said.  “Companies are billing people for services they don’t want and that may not even actually exist.  We need a simple solution.  Prohibiting third-party charges on telephone bills should end cramming once and for all.”

Koehler’s plan has passed the Senate Commerce Committee and will now be considered by the full chamber.

Category: Press Releases


Category: Press Releases

Senator Dave Koehler attended a Fulton County Ag round table along with other lawmakers and agriculture leaders in Fulton county to discuss issues facing farmers in Central Illinois.  The panelists spoke on a variety of topics important to the agriculture needs of Illinois farmers, and discussed what could be done in Springfield to address these issues.

Senator Koehler also discussed Senate Bill 3176, a bill he is sponsoring which would help agri-business in controlling natural gas costs.  He stressed the importance of farmers, agri-business leaders, and county officials in working together to bring reform that boths meets the needs of farmers and the safety concerns of the county.

Panelists also discussed the importance of technoloy for rural areas.  In order to stay competitive, farmers need as much access to technology as urban areas.  Young farmers in Western Illinois know how to use technology, but the lack of access is an important issue that needs to be addressed. 

Senator Koehler stressed the importance of education for promoting the needs of farmers.  The farm bureau's Adopt a Legislator program teaches lawmakers the importance of Agriculture to Illinois and what specific needs the industry needs to continue to thrive.

"Agriculture is complex and the more we support it, the better we will understand it ” said Senator Koehler.

Category: News

Dear Friends,

If you’ve been following media reports about the state budget, you’ve probably heard a lot about state employee pensions.  You’re probably going to hear even more this spring.  Employee pensions are a complicated, emotional topic, so there will probably be a lot of facts, rumors, and accusations in the press.  I want to take this opportunity to explain—in detail—why you should care about employee pensions and why the issue is so complicated.

What are pensions?

Pensions are a kind of retirement fund.  Illinois has a defined benefit pension system.  When workers retire, they receive a fixed pay check—whether they live two years or twenty.  Both workers and the state pay into Illinois’ pension funds.  The workers pay a fixed percentage of their income.  The state pays the rest of the money needed to pay for the workers’ retirements.  This amount is calculated based on anticipated retirement dates, life expectancy, the state’s expected return on its investments, and a variety of other factors.

Who can collect pensions?

The people who can collect Illinois state pensions are the teachers who work in our schools, the professors at Illinois’ public universities, the Department of Transportation employees who maintain our highways, the Illinois State Police officers who protect our communities, the Department of Agriculture employees who inspect our food to make sure it’s safe, the DCFS employees who protect abandoned and abused children, and more.  For many of these people, their pension will be their only retirement income in that they don’t qualify for Social Security.

Read more ...

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