The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Regulatory Bulletin.
Slamming and Cramming
The FCC recently announced fines totaling over $11 million dollars against two carriers for slamming and cramming.
In a Forfeiture Order, the FCC fined GPSPS, Inc., an Atlanta, GA telephone company, $9,065,000 for changing the carriers of 65 consumers without their authorization, placing unauthorized or “crammed” charges for its long distance service on consumers’ bills, and fabricating audio recordings. This is the same monetary penalty proposed in the earlier Notice of Apparent Liability For Forfeiture. See the Regulatory Mix dated 3/3/15. The fabricated recordings were provided to the FCC and state regulatory officials as “proof” that the consumers had authorized its service. In his statement accompanying the Order, Commissioner Ajit Pai noted that the FCC’s existing rules “weren’t enough” to protect consumers and suggested that the FCC open a proceeding to revise its slamming rules to make preferred carriers freezes the default designation, rather than an option.
In a separate matter, the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent Liability For Forfeiture against Long Distance Consolidated Billing Company and proposed to fine it $2,400,000 for submitting requests to switch consumers’ preferred regional toll carriers without their authorization, placing unauthorized charges on their bills, and deceptively marketing its services. The FCC reviewed over 70 complaints filed against the company at the FCC, the Better Business Bureau, state regulatory agencies, and directly with the company. Consumers repeatedly complained that LDCB switched their regional toll service providers without their authorization. In some cases, consumers stated that LDCB’s telemarketer pretended to be employed by the consumer’s own telephone carrier. The investigation also showed that LDCB placed charges for its service on consumers’ local telephone bills without their authorization.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the “Clean Power Plan Final Rule” for states to follow in developing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units (EGUs). Specifically, the EPA is establishing:
1) carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates representing the best system of emission reduction (BSER) for two subcategories of existing fossil fuel-fired EGUs – fossil fuel-fired electric utility steam generating units and stationary combustion turbines,
2) state-specific CO2 goals reflecting the CO2 emission performance rates, and
3) guidelines for the development, submittal, and implementation of state plans that establish emission standards or other measures to implement the CO2 emission performance rates, which may be accomplished by meeting the state goals.
The rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The PUC announced that it will “thoroughly evaluate” the impact on both Pennsylvania’s utilities and consumers of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan unveiled August 3, 2015. “These new EPA rules impact numerous stakeholders – including government agencies and regulators; power generators and utilities; and consumers and businesses,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “As part of the Commission’s responsibility to ensure safe, reliable and affordable utility service, we will carefully examine the potential impact of these new EPA rules on the utility market in Pennsylvania. We are happy to see the revisions to the original proposal, including the ‘safety valve’ feature, which will help to prevent power disruptions.”