At an event hosted on Monday by the Center for American Progress, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said he would circulate a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in advance of the agency’s July open meeting that would “explore new ways to empower consumers and protect Americans against cramming and mystery fees” that appear on their phone service bills. Cramming—the illegal placement of unauthorized charges on phone bills—is already prohibited under the FCC’s rules and is estimated by the FCC to affect upwards of 20 million U.S. customers each year. (Surveys show, however, that as little as five percent of consumers impacted by cramming are aware of such charges.) Although Genachowski did not offer specific details on the NPRM, he indicated that the cramming initiative forms a part of the FCC’s larger consumer empowerment agenda, which also encompasses ongoing agency proceedings on wireless “bill shock” (launched last October) and truth-in-billing (begun in 2009). Emphasizing that the proposed rules will focus on “transparency and smart disclosure,” Genachowski cited the example of a St. Louis, Missouri woman who was charged for 25 months of long distance service that she neither authorized nor used. Noting that, just last week, the FCC proposed $11.7 million in fines against four telcos accused of cramming violations, Genachowski proclaimed, “we all want to send a clear message: if you charge consumers unauthorized fees, you will be discovered and you will be punished.” In reply, an AT&T spokesman pointed to a 72% drop in cramming complaints against his company last year as he declared: “we are committed to continuing to work to identify ways to further decrease the number of consumers impacted by unauthorized third-party charges.”