The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners is expected to consider three telecommunications-related resolutions at its annual meeting November 17 – 20, 2013. The resolutions address slamming, surveillance programs, and federalism. The draft resolutions will not become official NARUC policy until they are approved by the NARUC Board. See NARUC Draft Resolutions here.
Slamming (Unfair Marketing Practices)
This resolution would urge the FCC to update its slamming rules to include interconnected VoIP providers and to address so-called sleuth slamming. (Sleuth slamming attempts to subvert the third party verification process by calling a customer and telling s/he they are being switched to a “sister company” of the current provider or asked if they would like to save money. A “yes” response is then recorded and used as assent to an otherwise unapproved carrier change.)
The resolution would urge the FCC to update the current rules and regulations on slamming by (1) requiring third-party verification to include mandatory recording of prior contacts with the customer which anticipate a verification call and attempt to pre-empt its intent, as well as any contact in which customers are solicited for consent to changes in services or providers, (2) applying slamming rules uniformly to all voice services including traditional wireline, interconnected and over-the-top VoIP, and wireless; and (3) requiring prominent publication of the number(s) the customer may call for assistance by the FCC and/or State agency. It also asks the FCC to require wireline, VoIP, and wireless service providers to report billing complaint trends and spikes driven by activity of specific third-party vendors to appropriate federal and State entities, including the FCC, Federal Trade Commission, and State public utility commissions, consumer advocates, and Attorneys General
This resolution would adopt the Federalism Task Force’s White Paper on Cooperative Federalism and Telecom in the 21st Century and states that “changes to the underlying structure of the network or the technology used to carry information do not change the need for reliable, robust, affordable, and ubiquitous communications services that are universally available and reasonably comparable regardless of location.”
The resolution would urge that any federal legislation focus on cooperative federalism and recognize several specific factors. The factors include: (1) a recognition that while competition provides a key means for disciplining the market, “where competition is not sufficient to offer consumers adequate, safe, high quality service choices, regulation may be needed as a backstop;” (2) a recognition that States “remain vital partners” to ensure that customer needs are met in a changing technological environment, are well positioned to respond quickly to consumer concerns, are in a unique position to provide on-the-ground expertise, and should continue to serve as fact-finders and, where appropriate, adjudicators. The resolution also urges the FCC to use Federal-State Joint Boards and other forms of State and federal coordination.
This resolution addresses surveillance programs being conducted by the National Security Agency and reports that none of the companies that handed over communications metadata in bulk to the National Security Agency ever challenged the agency on its data requests. It “censures the actions of network providers which have supplied data, call and/or text records, Internet data, voice communications, correspondence and materials maintained by those providers on behalf of their customers engaged in the use of social media, without even a pro forma challenge to the federal government’s demand for access, and while actually profiting from such acts.” It also calls on the FCC to “require any provider unwilling to make at least a good faith effort to protect any and all customers of its services from unadjudicated, unilateral attacks on their privacy in a duly constituted court of law” to disclose to all their customers that they should have no expectation of privacy and that the provider cannot guarantee “that agencies of the Federal government will be prevented from hacking into providers’ systems to obtain customers’ data.” It suggests that the disclosures be made in “plain language by written communication in at least 12 point type not less than semiannually.”
Need to refresh your information on Preferred Carrier Change Requirements about “slamming?” See our sample publication below.
Can’t determine what regulations apply to interconnected VoIP? Download a sample of our publication here.