FCC Moves to Curb Unauthorized Carrier Switches, Bill Charges

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By Ayanna Alexander

The Federal Communications Commission July 13 proposed new rules to cut down on the unofficial switching of phone subscribers to new carriers, as well as unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills.

The commission voted 3-0 to issue a proposal targeting the practices, known respectively as slamming and cramming.

“We will set a firmer legal foundation that will aid in going after anyone who engages in these unlawful practices,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “No more unfair and illegal surprises

According to a draft of the proposal issued before the commission acted, the agency received nearly 8,000 complaints about the practices in 2015 and 2016. The elderly, small businesses, and recent immigrants are often targeted, the commission said in a release.

Both practices are already illegal, but the FCC is proposing changes to its standards for what constitutes consent for paid services and carrier switches. The commission is proposing to ban misrepresentations on sales calls, and to require carriers to freeze their customers’ choice of providers by default, rather than simply giving customers the option to do so, according to its draft proposal.

The FCC is also considering requiring phone carriers to double check with consumers before switching their carriers, as well as possibly preventing carriers from putting third-party charges on consumers’ bills without their express consent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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