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July 17, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 12:51pm


By CBR Staff Writer

One side effect of the US Telecommunications Act of 1996 has been spreading of a telecoms practice known as slamming out of the long-distance market and into the local market as well. Now, following thousands of consumer complaints, the FCC has proposed to strengthen rules to prevent US telcom companies from switch consumers to their services without their express approval. The technique of winning customers over to changing their carrier without the consumers knowledge is termed slamming, and according to the commission says it receives more complaints about slamming than any other telephone-related topic, more than 16,000 in 1996 alone. Now the FCC is looking to add to existing procedures used to verify long distance carrier changes; saying it will examine whether unauthorized carriers should be liable for any premiums, such as frequent flier miles, that slammed consumers would have received from their authorized carriers; and whether slammed consumers should be liable for any unpaid charges assessed by unauthorized carriers. Any new plan would tighten company procedures for verifying changes in a customer’s local and long-distance serviceand over rules adopted in 1995. Prior to the Telecommunications Act, slamming was confined primarily to the long-distance business. Win the profliferation of options and varying charges the american telecoms operators are constantly looking for ways to win over uses from their rivals. Last year, phone customers changed long-distance carriers 50 million times last year. According to the FCC, it is smaller companies using outside sales forces garnered more complaints than well-established telecoms companies. Over the past two years it has taken enforcement action against 15 companies for slamming violations, assessing more than $1 million in forfeitures and consent decrees, with approximately $500,000 in additional penalties pending. Among the types of schemes cited: consumers unknowingly signing up for a new carrier by entering a sweepstakes, or customers having their service switched through a phony signature on a document.

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