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Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to approve a Report and Order on “Slamming and Cramming Rules.” The Order extends existing FCC rules that protect consumers using traditional telephone service from unauthorized changes in their long-distance telephone provider (“slamming”) or including unauthorized charges on a customer’s telephone bill (“cramming”).
Critically, the Order rejected requests by consumer advocates to extend these protections to digital telephone services such as voice over IP (VOIP). Because digital services are increasingly the norm even for landline services, with the number of traditional legacy service subscribers dropping on an annual basis as telephone companies phase out their legacy voice networks, the actual impact of the Order is extremely limited.
Public Knowledge contends that the FCC should have extended the slamming and cramming rules to cover all telephone service regardless of technology used in order to genuinely help consumers. That the FCC also approved in this meeting an Order to accelerate the phase-out of traditional legacy telephone networks and reduce consumer protections during the transition highlights the extremely limited nature of the protections extended today.
The following can be attributed to Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for, and should not find themselves fighting their phone company over unauthorized charges or unasked for changes in service. Credit to the Commission for extending the slamming and cramming rules to provide additional protections to the tens of millions of Americans who continue to subscribe to traditional copper-line voice service.
“But the refusal of the Commission to extend these protections to all voice service subscribers seriously undermines the value of today’s action. It is particularly ironic that the Commission adopts this very limited relief at the same time that it is adopting an Order to encourage telephone companies to eliminate these legacy networks by reducing the protections to customers when providers terminate their legacy telephone service.
“Consumers don’t feel any better when they are ripped off by shiny new digital telephone service rather than legacy analog service. Consumers deserve protection no matter what technology they use to make phone calls. It is therefore extremely disappointing that the Commission refused to extend the slamming and cramming rules to cover digital services as well as traditional analog services.”