The Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules which should make it harder for phone companies and ISPs to take advantage of customers using dishonest sales techniques. In particular, the new rules take aim at the practices known as “slamming” and “cramming.”
Cramming occurs when phone companies add unauthorized charges to your bill at the end of the month. Among mobile carriers, these extra fees often take the form of device insurance, extra features, or bill credits that never actually materialize, despite repeated promises from sales reps. These sorts of practices are most commonly found among wireless franchise stores where sales associates work on commission and are sometimes not even employed by the company they claim to be representing. Among ISPs and cable providers, this can often take the form of switching customers to bundles without their express consent.
The FCC’s statement says that its new rules will ensure that there is “a clear ban on misrepresentations made during sales calls.” The organization has also increased the protections available to consumers who have fallen victims to such dishonest practices.
Slamming refers to dishonest tactics designed to trick unwary customers into switching to a different service provider. Under the new rules, if a salesperson is found to have been dishonest or deceptive when obtaining a customer’s permission to switch services, the customer’s consent will be revoked. Furthermore, if carriers are found to have misled third-party verification services, their access to such services will be revoked for several years. According to the FCC, unethical companies will even go so far as to call customers and ask them questions unrelated to their service and then edit those answers in a manner meant to deceive third-party verification services.
Technically speaking, these practices are already against the law, but the FCC is hoping that these new rules and guidelines will make it easier to enforce existing regulations and provide better safeguards for consumers.
Given the FCC’s successful efforts in repealing net neutrality, it is good to see the organization taking a stance that could provide real benefits to consumers. This is assuming, of course, that these new regulations are appropriately enforced.