Score one for the little guy: FCC entirely backs consumer in Sprint slamming case

Summary:The meme that this FCC is highly partial to the interests of large broadband service providers and telcos has often been hammered home on these screens.While I am certainly not ready to contradict those overarching feelings, I nevertheless feel enthusiastic and obligated to tell you about those FCC decisions in which the consumer wins.

The meme that this FCC

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is highly partial to the interests of large broadband service providers and telcos has often been hammered home on these screens.

While I am certainly not ready to contradict those overarching feelings, I nevertheless feel enthusiastic and obligated to tell you about those FCC decisions in which the consumer wins.

One of those just crossed my disk this morning.

In rather strong language ("it is ordered," "absolution," etc.) the FCC has just come down on the side of a consumer in a forced carrier change ("slamming") case.

Joy rules.

As the FCC said in their order:

In this Order, we consider the complaint alleging that Sprint Communications Company, L.P. (Sprint) changed Complainant’s telecommunications service provider without obtaining authorization and verification from Complainant in violation of the Commission’s rules. We conclude that Sprint’s actions did result in an unauthorized change in Complainant’s telecommunications service provider and we grant Complainant’s complaint.

The next section of this ruling indicates the statutes that the FCC cited as the reason for this decision:

In December 1998, the Commission released the Section 258 Order in which it adopted rules to implement Section 258 of the Communications Act of 1934 (Act), as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (1996 Act). Section 258 prohibits the practice of “slamming,” the submission or execution of an unauthorized change in a subscriber’s selection of a provider of telephone exchange service or telephone toll service.

In the Section 258 Order, the Commission adopted aggressive new rules designed to take the profit out of slamming, broadened the scope of the slamming rules to encompass all carriers, and modified its existing requirements for the authorization and verification of preferred carrier changes.

The rules require, among other things, that a carrier receive individual subscriber consent before a carrier change may occur.

Pursuant to Section 258, carriers are absolutely barred from changing a customer's preferred local or long distance carrier without first complying with one of the Commission's verification procedures. Specifically, a carrier must: (1) obtain the subscriber's written or electronically signed authorization in a format that meets the requirements of Section 64.1130; (2) obtain confirmation from the subscriber via a toll-free number provided exclusively for the purpose of confirming orders electronically; or (3) utilize an independent third party to verify the subscriber's order.

If you want to read on about the FCC's siding with the consumer in this case, well, then, just make with the "click-y."

The Commission also has adopted liability rules. These rules require the carrier to absolve the subscriber where the subscriber has not paid his or her bill. In that context, if the subscriber has not already paid charges to the unauthorized carrier, the subscriber is absolved of liability for charges imposed by the unauthorized carrier for service provided during the first 30 days after the unauthorized change. Where the subscriber has paid charges to the unauthorized carrier, the Commission’s rules require that the unauthorized carrier pay 150% of those charges to the authorized carrier, and the authorized carrier shall refund or credit to the subscriber 50% of all charges paid by the subscriber to the unauthorized carrier. Carriers should note that our actions in this order do not preclude the Commission from taking additional action, if warranted, pursuant to Section 503 of the Act.

We received Complainant’s complaint on September 4, 2007, alleging that Complainant’s telecommunications service provider had been changed to Sprint without Complainant’s authorization. Pursuant to Sections 1.719 and 64.1150 of our rules, we notified Sprint of the complaint and Sprint responded on October 19, 2007. Sprint stated that the change in service was initiated by Complainant’s local exchange carrier (LEC) and provided a Customer Account Record Exchange (CARE) record from the LEC as proof. The CARE record provided by Sprint, however, does not show that the LEC initiated a switch to Sprint. The CARE record contains code 2302, which “indicates that the end user’s billing address has changed.” We find that Sprint has failed to produce clear and convincing evidence that Complainant authorized a carrier change. Therefore, we find that Sprint’s actions resulted in an unauthorized change in Complainant’s telecommunications service provider and we discuss Sprint’s liability below.

Sprint must remove all charges incurred for service provided to Complainant for the first thirty days after the alleged unauthorized change in accordance with the Commission’s liability rules. We have determined that Complainant is entitled to absolution for the charges incurred during the first thirty days after the unauthorized change occurred and that neither Complainant’s authorized carrier nor Sprint may pursue any collection against Complainant for those charges. Any charges imposed by Sprint on the subscriber for service provided after this 30-day period shall be paid by the subscriber to their authorized carrier at the rates the subscriber was paying to their authorized carrier at the time of the unauthorized change. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 258 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 258, and Sections 0.141, 0.361 and 1.719 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.141, 0.361, 1.719, the complaint filed against Sprint Communications Company, L.P. IS GRANTED.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, pursuant to Section 64.1170(d) of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. § 64.1170(d), Complainant is entitled to absolution for the charges incurred during the first thirty days after the unauthorized change occurred and neither Complainant’s authorized carrier nor Sprint may pursue any collection against Complainant for those charges.

Touche!

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government : US, Mobility

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