What is slamming?
Consumers have the right to choose any telephone company for local, regional toll and long distance service. "Slamming" occurs when a company changes your telephone service provider without your knowledge or consent.
What is being done to prevent slamming?
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently adopted new rules that further protect consumers from slamming. The new rules were designed to provide an incentive for consumers to examine their telephone bill every month and to make slamming unprofitable. The new rules apply to slamming violations that occurred on or after November 28, 2000.
- The Maryland Public Service Commission has elected to take the primary responsibility for resolving Maryland consumers' slamming complaints as of November 28, 2000. The FCC will continue to investigate slamming complaints that occurred prior to November 28, 2000.
- The Maryland Public Service Commission will track and record all slamming complaints. The Commission will regularly file information with the FCC that details slamming activity in Maryland to facilitate joint enforcement activities.
What can I do to protect myself from telephone slamming?
- Read your telephone bill every month. Make sure your phone company is listed properly.
- Call 1 (700) 555-4141 to verify your primary long distance carrier responsible for handling your interstate and international calls. Consumers may call 1+(Area Code) 700-4141 to verify the long distance carrier handling the calls in their regional calling area.
- Read the fine print on everything. This includes any checks, offers for calling cards, sweepstakes or other promotional offerings.
- Be cautious when you receive a call from a telemarketer inquiring about your local and/or long distance service provider. If you receive a call from a telemarketer asking you to change telephone service providers, just hang up if you are happy with your current service provider. Some telemarketers may use deceptive means to confuse consumers. Be suspicious and try to avoid answering "yes" and "no" to questions. Also never verify your name, spouse's name, date of birth and social security number unless you intend to switch service to a new company.
- Call your local telephone company and request a Preferred Interchange Carrier (PIC) freeze on your telephone line. The freeze will help prevent an electronic change to your long distance service provider.
What should I do if I was slammed?
If you think that your long distance service was slammed you should:
- Report the incident to your local telephone carrier immediately and let them know that you did not authorize any changes to your telephone service. Request that they switch you back to your original long distance provider and make sure that they do not charge you the switching fees. Request that they place a PIC freeze on your telephone service. For more information about the PIC free visit the local phone company's website at: http://www.bellatlantic.com/security/fraud/slamming.htm.
- Contact the telephone company that slammed you and request that they investigate the matter and correct the problem. Tell them that you will not pay for the first 30 days of service unless they can prove that they obtained proper approval to change your service.
- Call your original long distance carrier and explain that another company, without your authorization, changed your service. Request that they switch you back at no charge and re-establish your service with the same calling plan that you had before. Do not expect your local telephone company to do this for you. It is very important that you are re-established on a calling plan. If you do not do this, you will most likely be billed non-subscriber rates from your original phone company.
What are my rights if I was slammed?
If you were slammed, and you have NOT paid the bill of the carrier who slammed you:
- You do not have to pay for service for up to 30 days after being slammed to the slamming company.
- You must pay any charges for service beyond 30 days to your authorized company, but at that company's rates, not the slammer's rates.
If you HAVE paid your phone bill and later discover that you have been slammed:
- The slamming company must pay your authorized company 150% of the charges it received from you.
- Out of this amount, your authorized company will then reimburse you 50% of the charges you paid to the slammer.
- For example, if you were charged $100 by the slamming company, that company will have to give your authorized company $150, and you will receive $50 as a reimbursement.
With these rules, the FCC has taken the profit out of slamming and protected consumers from illegal charges.
How do I file a complaint?
First, file the complaint with the company responsible for the bill. If your slamming complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should file the complaint with the appropriate government agency noted below:
If the slamming violation occurred before November 28, 2000, you should file your complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Information Bureau, 445 12th Street S.W., Washington, DC 20554 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For any slamming violation that occurred after November 28, 2000, please send your written complaint to the Maryland Public Service Commission at:
Office of External Relations
6 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21202-6806
or use the Online Complaint Form:
At a minimum please include the following information with your complaint:
- Your name and address
- Your telephone number
- Name of the phone company which slammed you
- Name of the phone company which you authorized to provide your phone service
- Copies of phone bills containing the charges which you dispute
- Indicate whether you have paid any of the disputed charges.