Telephone customers are having trouble deciphering their bills and detecting unauthorized charges on them, but federal regulators took the first step Thursday toward changing that.

The Federal Communications Commission in a 5-0 vote offered proposals that not only aim to make bills easier to understand but also intend to keep people from falling prey to the latest telecommunications scam: cramming.That's when phantom charges from third parties pop up on phone bills for services or products never used or requested. The problem has mushroomed in the past year and is bilking consumers out of millions of dollars.

"Phone bills are too confusing: It's as simple as that," FCC Chairman Bill Kennard said. "Consumers are angry, and it is creating opportunities for fraud and abuse."

Generally, the proposals would have phone companies reorganize bills to flag new charges and provide clear descriptions of all charges and detailed information about how to contest them. A final plan could be adopted early next year.