Have you been “crammed” by your telephone carrier billing you for a product or service without your permission? Have you been “slammed” by a company changing your long distance carrier without your permission? Have you been deceived into buying a telephone service based on incomplete information or misleading advertising? Unfortunately, there are companies and individuals who engage in all of these kinds of deceptive and fraudulent practices, and the FCC receives a steady stream of complaints as a result.
The main vehicle the FCC has to address deception and fraud in the telecommunications marketplace is Section 201(b) of the Communications Act. This provision states that “[a]ll charges, practices, classifications, and regulations” by telephone companies “shall be just and reasonable,” and that “any such charge, practice, classification, or regulation that is unjust and unreasonable” is unlawful. (Section 258 of the Communications Act and Sections 64.1110-64.1190 of the Commission’s rules also prohibit slamming.) The Commission can assess a forfeiture penalty against companies and individuals who violate Section 201(b) or any other rule the agency enforces, and the penalties can be as high as $150,000 for each violation by a telephone carrier, and up to $1,500,000 for a continuing violation.
The FCC has been active in enforcing the law against these kinds of deceptive and fraudulent practices. In 2010, it imposed a $1.4 million forfeiture against a “slammer,” and in 2011 it imposed nearly $12 million in forfeitures against four “crammers” and $25 million in forfeitures against deceptive marketers and providers of prepaid telephone cards. The FCC has also released enforcement advisories on these topics to warn potential violators about the legal requirements and consequences of violations, as well as to educate consumers about the existence of these practices.
If you’ve experienced deception or fraud in connection with telecommunications services, the FCC wants to hear from you. File a complaint to tell us what happened.