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Regulatory Activities – Telephone – Current Issues

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Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

NASUCA Files Comments Seeking Reforms to Address Long-standing Problem of Telephone “Cramming”

In 2011 the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee staff completed a year-long investigation into telephone cramming. The conclusion: cramming is a problem of “massive” proportions involving the placement of billions of dollars of unauthorized charges on consumer phone bills.

The FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in July 2011 soliciting comments on ways to address the cramming problem. NASUCA submitted comments on October 24 and December 5 urging the FCC to take specific actions to protect consumers from third-party billing scams on landline phone bills. Specifically, NASUCA has recommended a ban, with limited exceptions, on 3rd party billing on landline phone bills, a default block on 3rd-party billings on other types of phone bills and a ban on inadequate forms of authentication. In addition, NASUCA expressed its full support for both federal and state enforcement action to address the cramming problems. See NASUCA’s comments at www.nasuca.org.

FCC Announces Settlement with Verizon Wireless over Data Usage Overcharges

The FCC announced on October 28, 2010 that it has entered into a record settlement with Verizon Wireless regarding "mystery fees" charges to customers over the past few years.  Verizon Wireless has agreed to pay a minimum of $52.8 million to about 15 million customers who were wrongfully charged fees for data usage.  These overcharges occurred from November 2007 to the present day.  The company must also pay a record $25 million to the FCC to settle the investigation.  In addition to the penalty and refunds, the Company has agreed to immediate refunds or credits to 15 million customers, and a process to consider other customer requests for refunds, a commitment to offer data blocks on request, improved customer service, and improved monitoring and accountability initiatives.  For more information, see FCC press release, Verizon Settlement. 

FCC CG Dockets 10-207 and 09-158-- Empowering Consumer to Avoid Bill Shock

On October 14, 2010, the FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) to address problems of "bill shock" for wireless phone customers.  The Commission's Bill Shock Survey confirmed that many wireless phone customers experience unexpected increases in monthly bills and that these increases are not related to service plan changes.  A number of consumer groups, including the National Association of State Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) and the Montgomery County (Maryland) Office of Consumer Protection, confirmed the problem of bill shock in comments filed with the FCC.  To help consumers avoid significant increases in monthly bills, the FCC has proposed new rules to require wireless carriers to issue alerts to customers when they are in danger of incurring additional charges for exceeding usage limits or for international calls and roaming charges.