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Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin LLC
WASHINGTON, September 15, 2016 – The Federal Communications Commission today announced $11 million in fines against three related long distance carriers for “cramming” unauthorized charges onto consumer telephone bills, “slamming” consumers by switching their preferred phone carriers without authorization, deceptive marketing, and violating the FCC’s truth-in-billing rules. The companies, Central Telecom Long Distance, Consumer Telcom, and U.S. Telecom Long Distance, are run as one operation by Data Integration Systems, Inc. The FCC is committed to combating abusive practices that result in telephone consumers paying for services they never requested or received and expending significant time and effort to seek to reverse the unauthorized charges and services.
“This isn’t rocket science: no consumer should be charged for phone services that they canceled or never requested in the first place,” said Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc. “Today’s fines make clear that we will aggressively prosecute those who ‘slam,’ ‘cram,’ or otherwise abuse consumers by unlawfully charging them for services they didn’t want or request.” During this investigation, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau reviewed over 260 consumer complaints about the three California-based companies. Many of the complaints were submitted by or on behalf of consumers who had neither heard of the companies nor intended to sign up for their services.
Operating as a single enterprise, the companies’ telemarketers falsely claimed that they were calling on behalf of consumers’ real telephone carriers about a change in existing service. The companies then misused consumers’ answers to switch their long distance carriers to one of the companies. When customers realized what had occurred and returned to their preferred carriers, these companies continued to charge consumers a recurring monthly fee. The companies also failed to clearly and plainly describe the charges included in their customer bills, as required by the FCC’s rules.