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CenturyLink Slamming Order

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Released: July 31, 2014
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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1117

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of

)

)

CenturyLink

)

IC No. 13-S003662

)

Complaint Regarding

)

Unauthorized Change of

)

Subscriber’s Telecommunications Carrier

)

ORDER

Adopted: July 31, 2014

Released: July 31, 2014

By the Deputy Chief, Consumer Policy Division, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau:

1.

In this Order, we consider the complaint filed by Complainant1 alleging that

CenturyLink changed Complainant’s telecommunications service provider without obtaining

authorization and verification from Complainant in violation of the Commission’s rules.2

We

conclude that CenturyLink’s actions did result in an unauthorized change in Complainant’s

telecommunications service provider and we grant Complainant’s complaint.

2.

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).3 Section 258 prohibits the practice of

1

Informal Complaint No. IC 13-S003662, filed August 14, 2013.

2

See 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.1100 – 64.1190.

3

47 U.S.C. § 258(a); Telecommunications Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-104, 110 Stat. 56 (1996);

Implementation of the Subscriber Carrier Selection Changes Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996;

Policies and Rules Concerning Unauthorized Changes of Consumers’ Long Distance Carriers, CC Docket No.

94-129, Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, 14 FCC Rcd 1508 (1998)

(Section 258 Order), stayed in part, MCI WorldCom v. FCC, No. 99-1125 (D.C. Cir. May 18, 1999); First Order

on Reconsideration, 15 FCC Rcd 8158 (2000); stay lifted, MCI WorldCom v. FCC, No. 99-1125 (D.C. Cir. June

27, 2000); Third Report and Order and Second Order on Reconsideration, 15 FCC Rcd 15996 (2000), Errata, DA

No. 00-2163 (rel. Sept. 25, 2000), Erratum, DA No. 00-2192 (rel. Oct. 4, 2000), Order, FCC 01-67 (rel. Feb. 22,

2001); Third Order on Reconsideration and Second Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making, 18 FCC Rcd 5099

(2003); Order, 18 FCC Rcd 10997 (2003); Fourth Report and Order, 23 FCC Rcd 493 (2008). Prior to the

adoption of Section 258, the Commission had taken various steps to address the slamming problem. See, e.g.,

Policies and Rules Concerning Unauthorized Changes of Consumers' Long Distance Carriers, CC Docket No. 94-

129, Report and Order, 10 FCC Rcd 9560 (1995), stayed in part, 11 FCC Rcd 856 (1995); Policies and Rules

Concerning Changing Long Distance Carriers, CC Docket No. 91-64, 7 FCC Rcd 1038 (1992), reconsideration

denied, 8 FCC Rcd 3215 (1993); Investigation of Access and Divestiture Related Tariffs, CC Docket No. 83-1145,

Phase I, 101 F.C.C.2d 911, 101 F.C.C.2d 935, reconsideration denied, 102 F.C.C.2d 503 (1985).

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1117

“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.4

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.5

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.6

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.7

3.

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.8

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.9 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.10

4.

We received Complainant’s complaint on August 14, 2013, alleging that

Complainant’s telecommunications service provider had been changed to CenturyLink without

Complainant’s authorization. Pursuant to Sections 1.719 and 64.1150 of our rules,11

4

47 U.S.C. § 258(a).

5

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1120.

6

47 U.S.C. § 258(a).

7

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1120(c). Section 64.1130 details the requirements for letter of agency form

and content for written or electronically signed authorizations. 47 C.F.R. § 64.1130.

8

See 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.1140, 64.1160. Any charges imposed by the unauthorized carrier on the

subscriber for service provided after this 30-day period shall be paid by the subscriber to the authorized carrier at

the rates the subscriber was paying to the authorized carrier at the time of the unauthorized change. Id.

9

See 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.1140, 64.1170.

10

See 47 U.S.C. § 503.

11

47 C.F.R. § 1.719 (Commission procedure for informal complaints filed pursuant to Section 258

of the Act); 47 C.F.R. § 64.1150 (procedures for resolution of unauthorized changes in preferred carrier).

2

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1117

we served Sprint Nextel Corporation (Sprint) on August 29, 2013, and Sprint responded on

September 24, 2013.12

Based on Sprint’s response and pursuant to Sections 1.719 and 64.1150

of our rules,13 we notified CenturyLink, Complainant’s local exchange carrier (LEC), of the

complaint and CenturyLink responded on December 30, 2013.14

CenturyLink states that a switch

to CenturyLink Long Distance occurred March 11, 2013. However, a third party verification

(TPV) was not provided with its response as required by our rules.15

It appears that CenturyLink

also switched Complainant’s long distance service to Sprint in error. We find that CenturyLink

has failed to produce clear and convincing evidence that Complainant authorized a carrier

change.16

Therefore, we find that CenturyLink’s actions resulted in an unauthorized change in

Complainant’s telecommunications service provider and we discuss CenturyLink’s liability

below.17

5.

CenturyLink must secure the removal of the unauthorized 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.18

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 CenturyLink may not pursue any collection against Complainant for

those charges.19

Any charges imposed by CenturyLink on the subscriber for service provided

after this 30-day period shall be paid by the subscriber to CenturyLink at the rates the subscriber

was paying to the authorized carrier at the time of the unauthorized change.20

CenturyLink must

also switch the subscriber to the desired carrier at no cost to the subscriber.21

12

Sprint’s response to Informal Complaint No. IC 13-S003662, received September 24, 2013.

13

47 C.F.R. § 1.719 (Commission procedure for informal complaints filed pursuant to Section 258

of the Act); 47 C.F.R. § 64.1150 (procedures for resolution of unauthorized changes in preferred carrier).

14

CenturyLink’s response to Informal Complaint No. IC 13-S003662, received December 30,

2013.

15

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1120(c)(3)(iii); Implementation of the Subscriber Carrier Selection Changes

Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996; Policies and Rules Concerning Unauthorized Changes of

Consumer’s Long Distance Carriers, Order, 18 FCC Rcd 10997, 10999 (2003), clarifying that verification by a

LEC is required when the carrier change involves the LEC or an affiliate of the LEC.

16

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1150(d).

17

If Complainant is unsatisfied with the resolution of this complaint, Complainant may file a

formal complaint with the Commission pursuant to Section 1.721 of the Commission’s rules, 47 C.F.R. § 1.721.

Such filing will be deemed to relate back to the filing date of Complainant’s informal complaint so long as the

formal complaint is filed within 45 days from the date this order is mailed or delivered electronically to

Complainant. See 47 C.F.R. § 1.719.

18

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1160(g).

19

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1160(d).

20

See 47 C.F.R. §§ 64.1140, 64.1160.

21

See 47 C.F.R. § 64.1160.

3

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Federal Communications Commission

DA 14-1117

6.

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 by

Complainant against CenturyLink IS GRANTED.

7.

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

CenturyLink may not pursue any collection against Complainant for those charges.

8.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this Order is effective upon release.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

Nancy A. Stevenson, Deputy Chief

Consumer Policy Division

Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau

4

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